Hands-On: Detroit: Become Human

Hands-On: Detroit: Become Human

*PS Nation was invited to an event in Los Angeles, California by Sony for a hands-on preview of Detroit: Become Human. Travel and food were paid for by the studio. The game was played on PS4 Pro and 4K HDR display.

If you’re a PlayStation fan you should have heard of Detroit: Become Human by now. It’s the latest game from Quantic Dream, written and directed by David Cage. Cage’s games have never truly been about gameplay, but more heavily focused on story and the choices the player makes throughout the experience. Heavy Rain and BEYOND: Two Souls both barely scratched the surface of this type of gameplay years ago.

We have seen hints of the game since before the PS4 was even existed. Numerous hands-off demos, as well as hands-on demos, have been played and shown at trade shows for years. But just recently we finally got a release date and now the hype train is full speed ahead.

I was given the opportunity to play the first few hours and I will not spoil any of the story elements but will give my thoughts and impressions on how the game played and how the choice mechanic is used.

Detroit: Become Human takes place in the year 2038 in Detroit, Michigan. Moving just a few decades into the future gives Quantic Dream a little more freedom to tell the type of story it wants without the fear of getting called out on realism.

Human-looking androids have become a mainstay in the Detroit area. They are very lifelike assistants and appear to be as common in households as today’s smartphones are. As with any technology, there are different types or levels of androids that can be purchased or made for society by a fictitious company called Cyberlife.

As spoken or written about in many other impressions, it’s no secret that the choices you make in this game can have a huge impact on the story, even to the point where one of the main characters can die based on the choices the player makes during each encounter.

But let’s say you are very concerned about not wanting to totally screw up your experience and don’t want that added pressure, well, fear not, right when you start the game you are met with your first choice: Casual Play or Experienced Play.

Casual gives you fewer chances to lose a character and has a much heavier focus on the story. It also sounds like the gameplay mechanics are tuned down a little giving you more time to make a choice or to do a quick time event. Experienced Play means more immersive gameplay and that any mistakes made could lead to a character’s death. During my play session, I went with Experienced Play.

You play as three different androids. Connor is a law enforcement built android and he’s programmed with the ability to measure other androids’ levels of emotion. Connor, I believe, is a higher end android model that is supplied by Cyberlife to the police department.

Markus is what I would call an assistant android. His owner is a wheelchair-bound artist, and it’s his job to ensure all of his owner’s affairs are in order for him to live his day-to-day life. Markus runs errands, makes sure his owner takes his medicine, keeps track of his schedule, and does all his meal prep, just to name a few basic things. I believe Markus to be an upper tier android. Kara is a caretaker android owned by a single father in order to take care of the house and his daughter.

You are introduced to all three characters very early on in the game, within the first thirty minutes as a matter of fact. Appreciation of these androids across society is mixed. Some people love what they do, while others feel that androids have taken jobs from hardworking humans.

You start the game off playing as Connor during the hostage negotiation scene that we’ve seen on the Sony stage at multiple press conferences. You’re tasked with saving the girl who is being held hostage by the family android. The police captain, who is human, is not happy that you’re there but reluctantly lets you do what you need to do.

This is where you have your first set of choices. You can go right out on the balcony and begin to negotiate with the subject holding the girl on the edge of the roof, or you can try to collect info on what happened and why he’s behaving the way he is.

The intelligence you collect or don’t collect will have a tremendous impact on how your encounter goes and what you can or can’t say to the subject. Each question that is asked by either Connor or the subject leads the scenario in a certain direction. As an officer of the law, you can be aggressive if you want or you can be relaxed.

Upon completion of the scenario you are met with a flowchart. This shows you all the possible ways the story could have gone based on the choices you did or didn’t make. It doesn’t spoil anything for you as you have to unlock the directional path but you do get to see how many different ways it could have gone.

Just this one scenario had to have at least ten to twelve branches that went in different directions. You will see a flowchart at the end of every scenario you are presented within the game. It also appears that you’ll be able to see stats of your friends or other people on PSN and how they played the scenario out.

These flowcharts are where the replayability of the game comes in. Upon completion of any scenario, you can replay it if you choose, however, it’s recommended that you just do one organic playthrough so it tells the story the way your first choices intended it.

Detroit: Become Human controls very similarly to the TellTale games in terms of walking around an area and interacting with as many things as possible. You’ll run into some brief quick time events where you’ll need to press buttons in quick succession or jerk on the analog sticks in a certain direction to avoid something or move something. You’ll even need move the entire controller to lift something or pour a pitcher. The touch pad is even used in one of the most unusual ways I’ve ever seen.

The game looks absolutely gorgeous. You’ll spend a lot of time looking at characters’ faces as well as your own and they all look startlingly realistic all the way down to the reactions and feelings, and even the eyes. The androids look so close to lifelike but just have that extra shiny look to their skin tone. Movement in the game is smooth and all the settings and environments really left me in shock about just how good everything looks and runs.

The game taking place in Detroit is obviously a big part of the story. The team at Quantic Dream believes that if this android revolution were to really happen, that Detroit would be the true focal point for it with its large warehouses and automotive manufacturing background already in place.

I currently live in the Detroit Metro area and have spent a lot of time in the city. The developers have taken great care in getting the city correct. All the major landmarks that I saw during my play session are correct and look great.

There are a few minor changes to the skyline but all of this feels natural with the android influx and the game taking place twenty years in the future. They even got the style of some of the upper-class homes and neighborhoods correct. I can remember being at a friend’s house years ago and having brief memories of what his backyard looked like based on how the game played out its backyard.

If it isn’t already obvious, choice is a huge deal in Detroit: Become Human. During any given scenario, you’re presented with numerous ways to answer a question, to complete or not complete a side task like cleaning off an end table or finding an item in a drawer or not. But do these choices really have an impact long-term or on the story at all?

Keep in mind that I only played the first few hours, but in having conversations with about six or seven other people at the play session, we all did something different which in turn changed how the story was being told.

For example, I found an object in a drawer that another player didn’t so my final scenario was vastly different from his. This also impacted how some the NPC (non-playable characters) viewed me. This is the first time that we have seen how NPCs perceive our choices in the game.

Based on your accounts, the NPC you are with will either warm up to you or grow distant. This also has a huge impact on how certain scenarios play out with public interactions. I did run into a few areas that no matter what choices I made by the time I got to the end it only left me with one choice to make.

That’s to be expected sometimes but it did leave me with a small bit of disappointment since I felt no matter what I did I was still steered in a certain direction. The game does have a core story it wants to tell so I will hold final judgment on that until I have a full playthrough.

Lots of people want to know how many different endings the game has. This is too hard to tell with so many choices for each character. All of those different possibilities leading to the end of the game gives too many directions to get a handle on how many endings there are.

Will all three main characters make it to the end? Will any of them make it to the end? What if I choose to say no instead of yes? What does that change in the game four hours in the future? I left my play session with so many more questions than I ever had from the previous demos that I played.

I left this preview session very excited and intrigued by the full game. Talking with all of the other people at the event and finding out how different their story was playing out compared to mine also excites me just for the conversations that can be had around this game. Something as simple as “I can’t believe you didn’t open that door in the hallway at this house! How could you have missed that?” could completely change my story when compared to a friend’s story. We haven’t had that in a video game ever, at least that I can recall.

If you want to experience some of this game for yourself, a demo will be hitting the PSN store on Tuesday, April 24. You’ll be able to play the well known hostage scenario as Connor, which is the very first scene in the game.

Published by Sony Interactive Entertainment and developed by Quantic Dream, Detroit: Become Human will be released on May 25, 2018 for PlayStation 4.

* All screens used in this preview were provided by the publisher.

Written by Dave Hunt

Dave Hunt

Podcast Co-Host
Reviewer/Features Writer

Helping people in games is the most fun I have ever had.

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