‘Detroit: Become Human’ Tests Your Humanity by Making You an Android: E3 2017 Preview
For years, writers have struggled with the idea of artificial intelligence growing into something that is more than the sum of a bunch of circuits. Science fiction is filled with tales of robots wanting to be more than their coding, and the concept has filtered down from the likes of Pinocchio to Blade Runner to I, Robot and more. In all that time, we've rarely been given an opportunity to step into those robotic shoes ourselves, and that's where Quantic Dream's Detroit: Become Human starts to get interesting.
Our demo picked up at the start of Detroit: Become Human's story, with android cop negotiator Connor being tasked with talking down a potentially defective android who'd taken a child hostage. The scene begins as most police dramas would, with a crying mother, armored cops waiting for their chance to strike, a commanding officer fed up with the situation, and a lone gunman in charge of a volatile situation. Connor arrives to try and deescalate the situation, but tensions are high as a few cops have been wounded or killed already, and the girl's father was also slain.
As you walk through the high-rise apartment, the clues of chaos are everywhere. There's a shattered fish tank with a flopping fish on the ground, blood spatter, smashed video screens and other detritus to observe. Almost everything you come across can be interacted with, though not everything you interact with will help Connor take stock of the situation. What Quantic has created in this scene is an entire narrative for you to discover through the clues in order to understand just how this android went rogue.
Objects and information you can interact with have little icons that pop up as you approach, but if you're ever not sure of where to go or what to look at, Detroit features a tool called the Mind Palace. By holding one of the shoulder triggers, you enter a new vision mode that highlights important pieces in a given room, and reminds you of your objectives. It's vaguely similar to Detective Vision from the Batman: Arkham series, only you don't use it to spot threats in this situation.
Using the Mind Palace, we're able to pick up information from the young girl's room to find that her captor was her guardian android, and that they were very close. Searching the house even further reveals that her parents were looking into replacing the current "nanny" android with a newer model. As Connor uncovers information, we're given a reading of how likely we are to talk this situation down and save the girl. You could just go out and rush the negotiations without learning anything about the situation, but you're likely going to get everyone hurt. The more time you invest in looking at the whole scene and what unfolded that fateful evening, the more likely you are to have a great chance at not only saving the girl, but bringing the android in for reprogramming.
There are multiple ways for the situation to play out, and given that this is just the first scenario of Detroit: Become Human's overall narrative, it will have a lasting impact across the rest of the game. Do you empathize with the defective nanny? Will you view him as a rogue element that brings danger to all other androids? Can you lie your way through being on his side, and then eliminate him before he does further harm? Would you sacrifice yourself to save the girl? Part of the world's overarching story hones in on the idea that not every human is happy androids are so prominent, and they're definitely not happy some are revolting against the idea of being servants with no autonomy. How you choose to live will directly impact the various other roles you'll step into across the rest of Detroit's story.
How Connor, an android seemingly content with his role, will fit into the larger story of bucking against the system remains to be seen. What we do know is that Detroit: Become Human has some lofty narrative goals, and what we've seen so far illustrates that Quantic Dream has a strong handle on what it wants to say. It's also a stunningly gorgeous game, and that's no light compliment in this current era. There's no release date in sight just yet, but the more we see of Detroit: Become Human, the more interested we get, and hopefully we won't have to wait much longer to see if androids really do dream of electric sheep.
Detroit: Become Human will be available exclusively on the PlayStation 4. There is no current release date.
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