May 24, 2018

Detroit: Become Human - Review

As a game maker, David Cage has created some pretty divisive content, for some people, they love it and for others, it is annoying, but with his latest game here, in which direction does will the content swing?

The overarching story is that of three android, Kara, Marcus and Connor, each with their functions in the world and their own masters to obey and as you move from on part of their existence to another, things become quite complicated for them. Connor is the one you will know the most, thanks to the demo that was also released, he is an android, designed to basically be a detective and the opening part of the game, has Connor attempting to talk another android down, from killing a little girl, the scene from the demo. The choices that you make here, don’t impact a lot on the rest of the game, it’s about the only time this happens, but it still helps shape who Connor is. Kara is an android, whose purpose is to assist people around the house, basically a maid, but when she is brought back from the store, having been repaired, things don’t work out the way she expects.

Marcus is a carer android, his goal is to assist his elderly owner with living and it is this relationship that feels the most real, while Marcus is a machine, his owner Carl sees the potential for more. A touching scene early on has Carl attempt to get Marcus to paint something and after producing a perfect shot of something he saw, Carl has him try again; The results of which shock them both. This is really the core of story, what defines a machine and what defines a living being and as the story moves forward, you will discover that the line, you might think is easy to see, is harder to grasp than you thought. Each mission has multiple outcomes, for Connor, befriending someone now, can result in a completely different ending later on, or if you refuse to play the role of cop properly, people will lock you out.

This is the games strongest point, each choice you make, no matter how minor or seemingly insignificant, can have a reaction down the line you may not expect. Choosing to be violent at times can turn an ally away from you and the opposite is true, be too soft and others won’t respect you, balancing your choices is going to prove the most demanding thing in the whole game. Thankfully, each android character has a few human allies that they can work alongside with, in order to move forward, the best example of this is Connor. He works alongside Hank, a very grizzled and out of sorts Police Lieutenant, who has spent years working to get to where he got, but he has a hatred for all androids and refuses at first to work alongside one, but as the two work together, the choices I made, helped break through that hardened shell, to find out why he is that way. While Marcus and Kara have less to do with humans, they still interact with them and the results of which are interesting to say the least.

The games biggest problem is the gameplay though and considering that it is a game, gameplay is the one thing you want to get right, sadly there are more times where it is wrong or frustrating than anything else. A lot of the game comes form quick time events, which means pressing buttons, holding buttons or rotating the right stick, in order to interact with the world. When the game is in a slower moment, this system has no significant issues, the problem is the game picks up its pace quite quickly and does not slow down a lot. The issue stems from the fact that missing a button press, or simply not holding a button down long enough, can result in a completely different outcome than what you may have been hoping for. I could over look it, if there was a way to simply undo an action or two, but there is not, you can replay chapters, but that replaces all the work you may have completed after that point, so going back can give you a better outcome or a worse one.

The other issue with the game, is that it is all about choice, do you want to be an arse or someone who is compassionate, perhaps you want to shoot someone when prompted, but save the next person. Each choice you make raises and lowers how other beings perceive you and with everyone having their own agenda, it can be a balancing act at times, which makes the lack of choice at times frustrating. There are a number of times when the game refuses to move forward, should you refuse to make a choice, only for it to give you 30 seconds or less, to make a crucial choice moments later. For a game that is all about choice, when the game forces you into a decision that you don’t want to be apart of and if only gives you a single option, it is frustrating to say the least.

Control is also an issue that the game has, both camera and character, with the character control being simply pathetic. Yes, you play as an android, that I get, but why the controls have to reflect that robotic nature is beyond me, there were multiple times that I would be just off to the side of the area I needed to be in, in order to interact with whatever, I had to. The problem was that moving a single step in any direction was like trying to run underwater, the character would turn, but then would begin to walk a moment later, walking right past where I wanted to go. There were times when I would be looking around a space, only to find myself hitting invisible walls, which was made even stranger when the game would throw up random red walls, telling me I could not go places other times.

The camera was also strange, rather than giving a complete camera, it is broken into two parts, the first is that with the right stick, you can pivot the camera around from its current location, but it generally stays locked to you to some degree. In addition, pressing R1 will swap the camera from whatever view point you have, to another and while it works for the most part, there are times when the game will put it in a strange place. The problem with the camera system is that it uses the same stick as a lot of actions require, which results in you having the camera move around when you wanted to open a door; When you combine that, with the fixed points, things can become a little frustrating.

One aspect of the game that is hard to refute, is just how impressive the game looks, from the characters themselves, up to the design of the world, each element looks stunning. The world itself is perhaps the one aspect that I loved the most, Detroit as a city, still looks a lot like it does today, a lot of older brick buildings dot the cityscape, but even more so, the influx of new tech, is everywhere, showing how the old and new can still work together. The futuristic items, like cars and busses look great and are not to dissimilar from what some car companies have floated in the past, helping them feel grounded still. The characters though, which visually impressive, do suffer from a lot of animation problems, mostly when it comes to lip sync, but other things do appear from time to time. When the characters mouths are in sync with the audio, the results are wonderful, but far too often, they fall out of sync and what we end up with, is the bad Hong Kong movie dub effect and when it happens in emotionally heavy scenes, it detracts from the impact of the scene.

The games score varies, mostly in part to the different scores that play, depending on which character you are in control of at the time. With Connor, Marcus and Kara all having their own scores, from the music alone, you will always know who is on the screen, even if you are not in the room. Connor’s goes through the most evolution, thanks in part to the investigation he is working on, but Marcus’ does change as well, for Kara though, the themes stay pretty consistent from the get go. There are a few radio stations you can listen too at times, but those tunes are just your average soft jazz melodies, so nothing to special happen there.

The voice work is great, as long as you stick to the dozen or so main characters, once you get into the second tier or even third tier characters, it falls apart fast. Some performances feel more like they were given at a sound booth in a shopping mall, by the first random person the studio got their hands on. The issue with that, is they only appear when there are large crowds, and having a character give a passionate speech, only to hear some generic, yeah’s or boo’s, just feels out of place. The main characters don’t suffer from this, thankfully, but the androids do tend to start out very robotic and within moments, they lose that tone and speak like you or I would, which would not be a terrible thing, if the story took place over months, but as it happens over the course of a few days, it makes no sense.

Detroit: Become Human tells an exceptional story, with fun characters and a beautiful world to explore, but with a frustrating camera and controls that feel like moving molasses at times, it falls down. Choice is a massive part of the game and discovering how a single action could change the course of everything, the restriction of having a number of choices removed from you, undermines the games entire being.

Review copy provided by PlayStation Australia

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