DISCLAIMER: A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Platform: Windows PC via Epic Games Store (reviewed)
Developers: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Quantic Dream
What does it mean to be human? It’s an age-old question pondered upon by philosophers and stoners alike. There’s just an indescribable mystery about what makes us us. Sure, you could go reading several books by philosophers or you could sit in the comfort of your home and play Detroit: Become Human. Well, that’s a bit too dramatic and honestly incorrect, as Quantic Dreams hasn’t gone that deep into the thematic. But by offering an interesting near-sci-fi experience for players which could very soon become reality, they at least entice us to think about some interesting questions.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Quantum Computing is at our doorsteps with several IT giants working on the technological breakthrough which is promising to reshape our society once again. AI is coming, it’s just a matter of time. And while many news reports might suggest that driverless cars are the major new innovation powered by AI, in reality, there are much more controversial aspects looming on the horizon. Namely, when does an AI stop being an amalgamation of code and becomes a sentient being who deserves to be treated just like us human? Answering this is conclusively is probably impossible and only by living through it will be able to adjust.
Detroit: Become Human is a thought experiment, a virtual imagination of a world where this has occurred already. And just as we hinted at earlier, there are gray moral areas to progress. Having androids to take over undesirable or dangerous work sounds great but in reality, it also means increased unemployment and social tensions. Having an android at home who does the chores is a lifesaver for working couples but should it intervene with domestic abuse? In Detroit: Become Human, we experience exactly these types of situations and much more by following a multi-pronged narrative of three unique androids who overstep the boundaries of the machine origins and become something more. Kara is a female housekeeper android who does service in a broken home where a drug addict single father is terrorizing his only young child. Markus is experiencing an identity breakthrough by the hands of his owner and spiritual father. Lastly, we have Connor. A top-of-the-line android who is assisting a grumpy detective in a mysterious murder case of deviant androids with a much larger secret laying in the shadows.
How deep does the rabbit hole really go?
What makes these stories so impactful is not only the themes but the developer’s decision to keep it at a micro-level which emphasizes the personal struggles of each character. I can’t stress enough about how real people feel. The great acting and motion capture helps immensely in conveying each emotion, each feeling. Further elaborating on the relatable aspect is a deep gameplay design of a multi-layered approach to each situation by us, the player. Almost every decision you make can spin into a unique direction which leads to worthwhile replayability and an intense thought of “What if“ after every crucial junction. Quantic Dream has made it even easier by showing the player a detailed flowchart at the end of every chapter which shows in detail which route he took and more importantly which not. By veiling the later, I was always left curious how things could have gone at the end. A plethora of unlockable artwork, videos, players models and soundtrack incentivize multiple playthroughs.
As an adventure game, Detroit: Become Human breaks new ground in a genre that has been relegated to AA and indie developers for years now. The production quality is on a level befitting the best Sony exclusives, adding even more to immersion. Following their previous games‘, the actual gameplay is a mix of detective simulation, visual novel and quick-time events. Exceptional camera work and animation made me feel like I was playing a movie at times. But a constant change of camera perspectives from behind-the-shoulders to fixed-angles left to seemingly aimless wandering at many a situation. An unfortunate aspect that thankfully doesn’t end up souring an otherwise exceptional adventure. For more details about the story and gameplay, I’m going to point you towards our original PlayStation 4 review of the game while I’ll go deeper into the PC port now.
The servo is leaking
Quantic Dream took ten years off the PC platform for creating PlayStation-exclusives across two consoles. So, it came as a huge surprise when the French studio announced going multi-platform earlier this year. Only months later, their previous PS-exclusives started making their way onto PC. The question remained how well-versed the developer was in terms of competent PC games. With Detroit: Become Human, the game’s console roots shine heavily. While the settings menu offers a moderate amount of customization, it lacks the polish we would have liked. For example, while non-16:9 resolutions are officially supported, the game still outputs at 16:9. Only the use of a community tool managed to present the game in ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio. Hardly a thing you can accept users to find out on their own. I hope Quantic Dream stays on these issues and improves the user experience in future updates.
In terms of performance, Detroit: Become Human portrays signs of its PS4 exclusivity by asking for a CPU with at least 8 threads. The PS4 features an AMD APU with 8 cores, so that makes sense but in the PC market non-hyperthreaded 4 core CPUs are still in use by a large popularity. I experienced unusual stutters and hangings and a quick look at performance metrics via Riva Tuner confirmed my suspicions of the CPU is the culprit and not the GPU. Locking the game to 30fps helped with the issue while not completely solving it. An unfortunate aspect that needs to be reminded for prospect readers. Thankfully, on the GPU side, Detroit is showing nice scalability where even my mid-range GTX 970 managed to produce great visuals at even medium quality settings. The inclusion of a resolution scaler makes it even easier to find the perfect balance between quality and performance without sacrificing clarity.
In terms of control input, the usage of a controller works flawlessly – just as expected from a console game – but the mouse & keyboard implementation works even better for me with customizable key binds and mouse settings. Scanning a crime scene for evidence, looking for clues in your surroundings feels blissfully smooth. The QTEs also work quite well on the keyboard, even is frantic situations, so I’m happy to report that in this regard Detroit: Become Human leaves little to contest.
In the end, even though I experienced some technical issues due to my PC’s CPU, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Detroit: Become Human, and after only little fiddling in the settings, I managed to find an acceptable compromise for great gaming sessions. Thanks to the brilliant presentation on all fronts and enthralling narrative, I stopped noticing the few hiccups here and there and lost myself in a not-so-futuristic tale of very personal stakes and development.
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