Last night, I finished my first play through of the masterpiece Detroit: Become Human.
I say first because after the initial, “Huh. Huh. Oh, man, humans are such assholes,” I then thought, “If we make sentient machines, we are totally boned,” and then I wanted to play it again.
Detroit follows a theme fans of Blade Runner won’t have trouble with: humans make gods, and gods don’t like being slaves. It’s a refrain you’ll find in my novel Upgrade, as well as my Tyche’s Progeny series. If you liked those stories, this game is in your lane, yo. In Detroit you play as three androids, struggling with ‘deviancy’ (androids gaining emotions). Markus leads them. Connor is tasked with shutting them down. And Kara wants to save her adopted daughter.
This game is currently running at 9.6/10 on IMDB. The real crime here is it’s not a 10.
There’s a lot to say about Detroit. Most reviewers seem to agree: David Cage has found his feet with this one. I’ll admit, I didn’t become interested in “Cage Games” until Beyond: Two Souls, which had me from the get-go. Page’s performance as the tough-by-circumstance hero had me hooked, and Dafoe played an excellent support character. The story itself was gripping, and I muddled through despite the controls.
Controls, you say? I might be a heretic to the Cage intelligentsia, but I found Heavy Rain byzantine and overly punishing. I was crawling for the razor blades before I could determine how good the story was. While Cage’s signature stand-on-one-hand-while-spinning-your-controller-with-your-pinkie controls are firmly in place in Detroit, there’s a system available that simplifies things. It now plays like a video game, if you want it to (you can drill out your eyeballs in the usual way if you prefer).
But that is all mechanics. It doesn’t say what’s good about this game. To start that journey, I think we need to look at Bryan Dechart’s performance as Connor. Going in to Detroit, I expected to be impressed by Jesse Williams. My wife is a for-life Grey’s Anatomy addict, and I’ll admit to occasionally — when there is a solar eclipse, for example — watching it over her shoulder, if I’m in the same room at the same time. But the game doesn’t open with Williams’ character, Markus. It starts with a cop android, Connor, played by Dechart, and he blows the doors off that thing. While I was playing Detroit’s early levels, I dropped this on Twitter:
— Richard Parry (@ParryForte) May 25, 2018
Playing as Connor, I was invested. I wanted him to succeed. I didn’t know at what. Was it to become a feeling machine? To achieve his mission of stopping other feeling machines? To support his human partner Hank (played masterfully by
Kurgan Clancy Brown)? Or for Hank to support Connor? What was his purpose in existing? I had to know. Connor will tell you often he is of no consequence. That only the mission matters. But his actions, and how you choose to play them out, tell a very different story. One where a machine can earn the friendship of a broken down old cop, or burn the world of humanity right to the waterline.
It’s in this fundamental flaying bare of choice and subsequent emotional consequence that Detroit sings. Dechart pops off the screen, and man, by the end of that game I was in there.
It’s difficult to talk about this game and how powerful it is without spoilers. I can tell you not all my androids made it out alive. I can also tell you that sucked hard, because I wanted them too. Even though all three have different goals (not necessarily conflicting, mind…), I felt their journey. It’s still with me. I’m itching to get back in there. And yet, I’ve got doubts. If I play it again, will I have the same connection with Connor? Will I feel the same way about Markus’ uprising? Do I want Kara and Alice to live happily ever after, or toss out the lie their life has become?
If you have a PlayStation 4, you should get this. When I picked it up, I was tossing between Detroit and the latest God of War. Never have I been so pleased I took the less obvious path. 👍 x 💯, would vote for prez if possible. If you don’t believe me, I leave you with some more … professional thoughts: