E3 2017 Quick-Look: Detroit: Become Human

David Cage and his studio, Quantic Dream, are polarizing figures in the gaming world. Known for creating games that are more interactive film than video game, you either love the presentation and storytelling or despise it. Having a middle ground opinion here is somewhat rare.

I personally lean more on the positive side of opinion concerning Cage. Having vastly enjoyed Heavy Rain and some parts of Beyond: Two Souls, I’ve been waiting impatiently for Cage’s next title, made for the current console generation.

At E3 2016, the title was announced as Detroit: Become Human. This year, the game received a new trailer and, surprising to me, a demo on the show floor. Being that the game still doesn’t have a release date, and that narrative-heavy games often don’t lend themselves well to short demos, having a chance to go hands on with Detroit was the last thing I expected at this year’s show.

Not much has been mentioned about the game’s plot, although we do know it focuses on three human-like androids and how they interact with humans and the world around them. All three have been introduced in various trailers: Kara, a newly-created android introduced in a 2012 tech demo from Quantic Dream; Connor, a police android introduced in last year’s E3 trailer; and Markus, an android leading a rebellion against humans, introduced in this year’s E3 trailer.

The demo at this year’s show was essentially a playable version of the E3 2016 trailer. You take control of Connor, called in to stop a rogue android who has attacked his family/owners and is holding the family’s daughter hostage. The demo consists of exploring the family’s apartment for clues and background info that you can use to talk down the rogue android and save the child.

Quantic Dream is really pushing how your choices shape the story, even more than they have for previous titles. Once I gained control of Connor, I was free to confront the rogue android at anytime. Of course, I decided to spend time searching the apartment. The actual controls for controlling Connor and interacting with the environment feel exactly the same as Heavy Rain and Beyond, right down to the clunky movement. Picking up and using items is done with various analog stick motions and button presses which, outside of one or two instances, responded easily.

The most unique portion of the demo occurred when examining certain objects, such as a body on the ground. You have the option to have Connor scan the body and the environment to “reconstruct” the events that happened in the immediate vicinity, and then scroll through those events on a timeline to find more info and clues. It was never difficult – the game showed me exactly where on the timeline a clue could be found – but it added a bit more to the gameplay than just tapping buttons on objects.

Once I felt I had explored everything, it was time to confront the rogue android, standing on the edge of a building rooftop, holding a gun and his hostage. Last year’s trailer already highlighted the various outcomes this scene can have, and I was determined to get the best one possible. I listened to some of the android’s demands, such as sending away a police helicopter. I did lie a bit as well, telling him that I was unarmed, in an effort to get him to calm down.

Just when I though I had him, though, I ran across an unselectable prompt to one of his questions. It seems that, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t thorough enough in exploring the apartment to find clues to unlock this prompt. Whether this alone caused the ending I got, or a combination of my other choices, I’m unsure. However, the story culminated with the android attempting to leap off the building with his hostage, but Connor reaching them just in time to save the hostage…only to fall to his own death.

Overall, Detroit: Become Human is shaping up to be another Quantic Dream game, nothing more, nothing less. Aside from the noticeably improved graphical presentation (seriously, the game looks beautiful), everything feels very much the same as past titles from the studio. Everything will come down to the narrative, which we won’t be able to judge until the final product is released.

As it stands, if you’re a fan of Cage, I’d say be excited. More of the same isn’t bad, and it was easy to jump in already knowing the base experience. If you’re on the other side of the spectrum, though, this demo doesn’t do much that would change your mind. Detroit has my attention, but until the final release rolls around, I’ll try to keep my anticipation from rising too high.