Following the success of Heavy Rain in 2010 and Beyond Two Souls in 2013, it’s no surprise that Quantic Dream – helmed by director David Cage – are in the process of creating a new narrative-driven adventure. The successor to the studio’s 2010 tech demo Kara, Detroit: Become Human is a neo-noir thriller set several years in the future that tells the story of a feud between humans and androids.
The squabble between mankind and machine is nothing new, but, given the team’s previous successes in powerful storytelling and the small sample we were able to experience at EGX, Detroit is shaping up to be the most dramatic and engaging title yet to come out of the Paris-based studio.
In this demo, we assumed the role of Connor, one of the game’s three android protagonists. Connor, whose role is to help the police capture other androids that deviate from their scripted processes, had to negotiate the release of a young girl being precariously held hostage on the roof level of a grand apartment by one of these deviants.
Right from the off, players could go straight outside in an attempt talk to him, but the potential success rate – which the game kept reminding us of – was as little as 25%. Instead, exploring the environment, investigating clues and reconstructing what happened in the moments prior to Connor’s arrival on the scene would help players better understand the overall situation, and in turn, unlock conversation options for the final showdown.
Almost immediately, players were tasked with investigating a female body on the floor of the living room and scanning her for clues using the right analogue stick in conjunction with a press of triangle. Having retrieved certain evidence, players were able to piece together a visual wire-frame representation of what may have happened, with the ability to rewind and play this footage from different angles in order to ascertain exactly where vital evidence lay. Having reconstructed the first scene, it was apparent that a figure shot this woman, who dropped a tablet that slid across the room.
Upon discovering the tablet in question, players were greeted with the sales confirmation screen for the purchase of a new, upgraded android – providing the potential motive for the crime in the process.
Other areas to explore included the victim’s room, where we found out where the gun was hidden and the hostage’s room, where we discover she was listening to music and as such, didn’t hear the first gunshot. There’s also a dead police officer, who was first on the scene. After seeing his gun fly across the kitchen floor in the visual reconstruction we pieced together (and using the shoulder buttons to rewind and fast-forward the footage in slow motion), players then had the choice as to whether hand it in as evidence or take it to potentially use later.
All of the players’ actions ultimately contribute – either positively or negatively – towards their mission success probability. At this point, with our own likelihood of success standing at a little over 80%, we headed out to the roof. Despite our confidence, this does not mean any situation is a given win – players still have to read the situation unfolding around them and pick the “correct” response when talking to the deviant android. It does, however, mean that they’ll have more options to choose from in said branching conversations, which could lead to everybody getting out alive.
The choices here were intense from the get-go: we’d learnt the android’s name and so could greet him and immediately create a level of trust between the two. Firstly, he asked if we had a gun, to which Connor could either lie and keep it hidden or tell the truth and drop it. We chose to drop it in order to try and win over the confidence of the hostage taker.
Forced to approach the suspect slowly by performing slow and steady movements on the analogue stick, the player’s probability and trust levels constantly fluctuate as you get closer to the climax; this, along with the tense background music that begins to crescendo as we tread closer to the android, puts you even further on edge. Using what we’d learnt, we could choose whether to either show compassion for the situation he was in, or could also take a more direct approach and run at him – sacrificing ourselves and risking the girl’s life.
According to other players present in the demo booth, we estimate that up to six different endings – some good, some bad – were available; and that’s just for one mission. It’s refreshing to see that player agency in Detroit: Become Human isn’t only provided as an illusion of choice but that your actions and decisions have real gravity; impacting not on only the overall narrative but each chapter of the story along the way.
Sublime storytelling and voice acting aside, it’s the music and the sound effects that really make the situation feel dramatic. Like other titles from Quantic Dreams, all of the elements come together to make you feel like you’re a part of a living, breathing world – providing more engrossing immersion that even the most prolific of VR developers could only dream of. We had such high expectations for Detroit with our love of what’s come before it and we were not disappointed by Cage’s latest project. It may be a bold statement, but even from this demo we’d go as far as to say this could very well be the best work of Quantic Dreams to date – it’s just a shame we have to wait so long to find out for sure.