Detroit: Become Human video game once it was released last year, the game completely flew under the radar. Fans of the game heavily praised it, but the fact that many critics felt it “missed the mark” coupled with its release on a single platform (PS4) left a lot of people out of the loop. While the game plans to expand to the PC in August of this year, many are worried that it’s “too late” for the game to gain any grounds. “They released it for one platform last year and there wasn’t even a lot of marketing behind it. They spent 2 years crafting this game and cast some big names; you’d expect with all of that work that they would have had one hell of a marketing platform. You’d also expect them to release it for all systems. It was a big mistake for them to not release it immediately for PC. That’s where the bulk of your gamers are now. It would have done much, much better if they’d been smart about it,” critics say. Despite its lackluster launch, the game remains one of Quantic Dreams’ best sellers. Sales exceeded $2 million.
However, there’s no denying the game’s worth. The stunning visuals, complex story lines (there are so many branches and different routes to take in the game), and hard hitting social justice issues make it one of the most important and interesting games that have surfaced. The fact that it blatantly tackles civil rights issues and puts in your face is incredibly important for this day and age. The game starts off by showing protesters who are less than compassionate about Androids. The gamer has the option to listen in on the anti Android propaganda and it’s heartbreaking. There is also the presence of Androids carrying signs asking for the same rights as humans. They’re chanting “we have a dream”, made infamous by Martin Luther King Jr. The divide is clear and right from the start, the gamer will feel his or her heart strings being tugged.
What’s the Detroit: Become Human game About?
Detroit: Become Human can best be described as a choose your own adventure game. It was developed by Quantic Dream then published by Sony exclusively for PlayStation 4 last year. The plot of the game centers around three different androids and plays through their stories respectively.
One of the first Androids the gamer is introduced to is Connor (voiced by Bryan Dechart). Connor works for the police department and it’s his job to track down sentient Androids. Connor is definitely valuable, but he struggles to find a place among his peers in many instances. In essence, he was created to help take out his own kind. Out of all of the three androids in the game, Connor seems to be the most “robotic.” You do have options to disobey commands, but overall he appears less sentient than the others.
Then there’s Markus who is voiced by Jesse Williams. Markus is the Android we meet in the streets when we see the protesters. He is running errands for his owner and ends up crossing paths with the anti Android group. They bully and even physically attack him until the police break it up. Markus doesn’t respond to the violence and the gamer assumes he’s not very sentient either. However when Markus arrives home and begins caring for his owner, you’re really exposed to the level of compassion and empathy that Markus is capable of. Without spoilers, he shows many signs of human qualities. He is also dedicated to freeing fellow Androids from their owners. Those that he frees may live or die depending on the gamer’s choices in dialogue.
Last is Kara (voiced by Valorie Curry) and she arguably has the saddest story. When the gamer meets her, she is being picked up by a less than compassionate man who has brought her in for repairs. When asked how she got so damaged, the man dismisses the question and says she was hit by a car. This alludes to the fact that she was beaten and possibly dismembered by her owner. Home life is rough too, not just for Kara. The owner is a father and he takes his anger out on his daughter after he gets high. Many describe her story as “difficult to sit through” because of the treatment of the child. “When I feel like they’ve gone too far with this I remind myself that it’s an important issue that we need to be aware of. For many, this is reality,” say some fans. Kara’s purpose becomes protecting the young girl.
How the Detroit: Become Human Game was Built
Detroit: Become Human is based on Kara: Quantic Dream’s 2012 demonstration in technology. The idea for a sentient Android culture came from her model and the game took off from there with Curry returning to fill the role. In order to make the game as realistic as possible, the developers visited Detroit. They spent a lot of time enveloping themselves in the culture and aspects of the city. “We wanted to make sure we got it as close to the city as possible. We wanted to stay true to Detroit’s heart and soul, but we wanted to make it futuristic at the same time. We didn’t want to lose elements that make Detroit, well, Detroit,” developers said.
As mentioned earlier, the game took 2 years to construct. The script was complicated and heady on its own. “We wanted our audience to get attached to the characters. We wanted them to feel for Androids and question their own morality. We also wanted to address social issues and bring them to the forefront of everyone’s mind. And what better way to do that to present Androids as an underprivileged race that’s been taking the brunt of everyone’s prejudices,” devs said. Artificial intelligence experts were also contacted. “We wanted to make the Detroit: Become Human as realistic as possible. Talking to AI experts really gave us a leg up in the field. They helped give birth to the three Androids in the game.” A new engine was also built for Detroit: Become Human which allowed for multiple ends and complex choice branching.
Hundreds of actors were also cast to fill roles. “We didn’t want to use the same voice actor to fill multiple roles. We wanted each person in the game to be their own unique individual.” Actors were also used to aid with the animation in order to make the characters look and move as realistically as possible.
There are Serious Consequences to Your Actions
As mentioned earlier, Detroit: Become Human features some seriously complex branching. “Even open world games can be linear and we wanted to break away from that as much as possible. We wanted our audience to really think about what they chose to say and do in game. Even small choices can have major consequences on the story. There are a lot of different paths that you can take and a lot of dialogue that gets closed off if you go a certain direction. The only way to 100% complete this game is to replay it multiple times,” developers said.
In other words, you can’t just mindlessly click on dialogue or choice options; you need to weigh each one individually. And if you’re thinking of taking the time to Google the best response, you can forget it because a lot of them are timed. This means you must not only weigh the choices, but you must make them fast. Many of them can mean the life or death of a character so you have to be careful. “The fact that other characters can die because of a poor choice on your end is very impactful. It engages me in the storyline and I feel responsible for my actions. It forces me to sit down and really evaluate the choices given to me. You don’t see that in a lot if any other games,” fans say.
The dialogue choices will also follow a number of branched webs. If you miss something or choose a specific response, you will be led down a specific path without the option of exploring the other branch. You can see the branches at the end of the “level” and for completionists, this can be overwhelming. You can also see how many other players chose the same path as you. However, the choices that would have led you to this branch as well as its dialogue/choices are locked. You won’t be able to see them.
What makes it so Thought Provoking?
The Detroit: Become Human is incredibly thought provoking. Not only must you carefully consider your dialogue and play options as they can have dire consequences on the game, but you’re also faced with whether or not to consider the Androids “real” or not. Do you give them the same rights as humans? Do they really feel like we do? The game becomes a large question of ethics and morality. Some treat their Androids very well while others not so much. As you progress through the game you find yourself forming a bond with these AIs. Thus the question springs up, do they deserve the same rights as humans? The same treatment? Essentially they’re just “plastic” with complex computer programming, but some of their actions make the gamer think otherwise. Are these empathic outbursts and human like emotions just complex computer patterns or do they really think/feel? In a survey, researchers found that a lot of people are rude/mean to their Alexa. Most users have no problem screaming profanities at her or telling her to shut up. So what makes Alexa different from the Androids? Why do we want to treat them better than we treat Alexa? Is it because they’re in a human form? The game really digs deep into the gamer’s mind, probing for answers.
Issues of race, prejudice, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and rich versus poor mentality/struggles are all present within the game. And they aren’t just content to sit back and wait for the clever eye to discover them; they’re all front and center. As mentioned earlier, Kara is a housekeeper for a drug addicted father who takes his rage out on both the Android and his daughter. The viewer is spared from the graphic images of abuse, but they are definitely implied. “It’s hard to sit through sometimes. I could feel myself getting legitimately mad at the game and yelling at the father. I grew attached to both Kara and Alice quickly. I just wanted them to be happy and healthy in a way that I hadn’t with other characters before,” says one fan.
Others zero on the issues of prejudice and civil rights. As stated earlier, there are protesters for both sides of the fence. Androids want the same rights as humans and protesters want them eradicated. “It’s hard to imagine that some odd years ago this was the norm for POC. They had no rights whatsoever and possessed the knowledge that they were treated unfairly. They couldn’t do anything about it but sit back and be prisoners. Even though things have definitely made a shift for the better, this mentality still exists today. You still see episodes and cases of racial prejudice and division. Detroit: Become Human won’t let you forget that.
Despite the fact that Detroit: Become Human was met with mostly favorable reviews from even the harshest of critics, others were quick to attack it. Many suggested that the game fell short of its message. “Sure, they do a good job of bringing this to the forefront, but it feels forced. It doesn’t feel natural and it’s hard to relate to,” say some critics. Others suggest that, “the game means well but it falls short. It’s disrespectful to put these social issues onto robots. POC aren’t robots and you achieve nothing by putting their problems on the Androids.” While the Detroit: Become Human game got a lot of praise for its setting, visuals, characters, voice actors, flowchart, narrative, and attention to detail many hated the motion controls. “They were extremely difficult and disruptive. As Kara, I want to get through the boring chores as quickly as possible so I can get back to the story. And yes, they make you actually pick up trash and clean as Kara. However the controls were too touchy in some cases and in others they were too difficult. I’d be pressing the command and nothing would happen. It became irritating.”