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Detroit: Become Human hands-on—Starting an android revolution

by Brandon Russell | June 14, 2017June 14, 2017 7:00 am PDT

It’s a familiar story. In the not-too-distant future, androids live among humans, existing as servants designed to occupy menial and undesirable labor jobs. Then, suddenly, there’s that moment when one of the androids becomes sentient and begins to question their place in the world.

That’s the foundation of Detroit: Become Human, a brand new story-driven thriller from Quantic Dream. What’s different is the story is told entirely from the perspective of the android characters, of which there are three that players take control of.

One of these characters is named Markus, essentially an android resistance fighter who has somehow gained the ability to “convert” other androids. In other words, Markus can give them free will, making others like him more human-like.

During a demo at E3 2017, Quantic Dream showed off an extended version of the gameplay trailer (above) that debuted during Sony’s presentation on Monday. And, as promised, the story will play out very differently depending on the decisions you make, which developers say have repercussions on not just the characters, but the game’s entire world.

If you’ve ever played a Quantic Dream game—it’s the same studio behind Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls—then you know all about the studio’s emphasis on player choice. But these choices aren’t arbitrary; rather, they have a lasting affect on the overall story.

In the newest demo, Markus is seen attempting to free several androids from a downtown showroom, where they’re neatly displayed like objects. But before he and his friend North can free their “people,” the police show up, causing them to flee. End scene. But that’s not the only way it could have played out.

Quantic Dream then showed off the “right” way to play that particular segment, which involved taking out a surveillance drone, powering down a security network, and finding a truck to break through the storefront’s window. Similar to the studio’s previous games, achieving these tasks involved a lot of exploration—and an endless amount of button prompts.

Seeing the scene with Markus is much different than what we saw last year with Connor, another android who is used by the police to hunt deviant units. As you might have guessed, Markus and Connor will eventually encounter one another at some point in the story, and it’ll be up to players how that encounter plays out.

What’s really interesting is how Quantic Dream is portraying Markus as a messianic figure who leads these “saved” androids to revolt against humans. It’s up to the player what kind of leader he becomes.

For example, in the extended demo, we were given the choice to spread a message peacefully or through more violent means. Of course, we chose the violent option, which eventually results in Markus facing a point of no return: Execute a human or let him live.

What Quantic Dream does it does very well. But if you weren’t a fan of the studio’s previous titles, Detroit: Become Human doesn’t appear as though it will entice gamers to give it a shot. It certainly has a flair for the dramatic, but I wonder if titles like Until Dawn are more engaging simply due to its genre.

By telling the story from the android’s perspective, Quantic Dream is clearly attempting to cause players to look introspectively. Is this the future we’re headed toward? Should AI serve man? Interesting questions, to be sure.

Detroit: Become Human has a lot to overcome. In order to be a success, it has to tell a compelling story, one that players feel like they’ve had a real affect on. But like the androids featured in Detroit: Become Human, do players really have control over the story, or do all these so-called choices simply serve a conclusion Quantic Dream wanted us to arrive at all along?


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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