I played the demo for Detroit: Become Human last night. It’s only probably a 20 minute demo (and I’m being generous) so it’s just a small sliver of the entire game, which reviews peg at around 10 hours of gameplay for the main playthrough, with additional time spent on making different choices in order to see all the other narrative threads and endings.
Now, I’ve never played any of the other Quantic Dreams games, but I do know they’re more “cinematic experiences” than true “video games.” So I went into the demo expecting to see some Telltale-type quick event choices which will push the narrative to different paths. I sort of got that, and a quick bit of googling informed me that there were 6 possible endings to the demo scene, so I decided I’d just see where I’d end up by playing the game normally, without walkthrough help.
The demo places the player in the control of Connor, apparently a state-of-the-art android who is specifically designed to be a liaison between humans and robots when shit goes down. You’re plopped into a tense situation. A caregiver android went rogue and has taken his 8-year-old charge hostage, and Connor has to deal with it.
First the good. The dang game is gorgeous. I think it’s one of the best looking games I’ve played on my PS4, and my PS4 is a second generation model, but the game still looks amazing on a 5-year-old console.
But everything else besides the prettiness of the game falls completely flat for me. The controls are not intuitive at all. In any other AAA game, picking things up would just mean focusing the camera on the item until some sort of HUD pops in, telling you that you can now interact with the object, usually by hitting X. In Detroit, you shift the camera onto the object, and then you have to interact with it by maneuvering the right control stick. You swing the stick in a quarter sweep around either clockwise or counterclockwise. Often I couldn’t even pick up something as simple as a tablet or a photograph on the first try. This added a level of frustration to the game, and also lessened the immersion.
And there’s also the heavyhanded way the narrative deals with the main point of contention in the game. So, it’s the future. There are robots that seem nearly indistinguishable from humans apart from a constantly blinking circle on the android’s right temple. There are some rumblings of an android uprising and the three protagonists of the game are all androids in different situations in this world. But in a current political environment where some law enforcement doesn’t even believe in the humanity of others because of the color of their skin, Detroit’s story feels almost as if it’s making light of BLM. I mean, androids in sci-fi have been an allegory for race relations forever, but when media like Westworld and Humans can maneuver within the allegory, Detroit really pales in comparison.
So in the end, did I enjoy the demo? Sort of, but the shortcomings far outweighed whatever fun I had playing it. Will I buy the game? Probably not, but I’m curious enough about the story that I might seek out a Let’s Play of it on Twitch someday.