We were blown away by what was shown at Sony's E3 press conference of Detroit: Become Human, but it wasn't until we saw two full play-throughs of the scene that we realised just how dynamic the new game from Quantic Dream truly is. There are so many ways for Connor to approach the situation in the penthouse, things to do, things not to do, things to see and avoid seeing, chains of events to interfere with and to leave alone. And everything is on a timer, the longer you take the greater the risk of not being able to defuse the situation on the balcony.
"I didn't want to tell a story about AI or technology," says David Cage. "I really wanted to talk about us, about human beings, and about our past and present. Maybe about our future. I wanted to talk about our emotions, our society. And maybe about what it means to be human."
The game is set in a near future scenario, where the main difference between our lives and the ones seen in Detroit: Become Human is that androids have been introduced to take on
You will be playing as androids exclusively in Detroit: Become Human. Kara, played by Valorie Curry (The Following), was the first character revealed, and she was of course also there in the tech demo, Kara, that spawned the entire game. In fact, David Cage had not thought of expanding that demo until fan reactions swayed him to build an entire narrative around androids and Kara. The second character revealed, the one who starred in the E3 demo, is Connor (played by Bryan Dechart), who is an investigator who specialises in android related crimes. He is the most advanced prototype currently in use, and was specifically designed to help humans with crimes involving deviant androids. "He's our Blade Runner, if you want to call it that", says David Cage.
There's a bit of an escalating epidemic among the androids, as they turn against their masters much like Daniel did in the scene we all saw. Some androids have disappeared, others have become aggressive. These machines designed not to have emotions are seemingly having emotional breakdowns. Is that what the red and blue circles on the android temples indicate? A bit crude, perhaps, but then again this isn't about androids turning evil, but rather in this story mankind is the villain and androids are freedom fighters. At least that's the impression we got from the demo and talking to David Cage.
"I didn't want to tell another story where we were the good guys, and the androids and the technology would be the bad guys," explains Cage. "They have a virus and we need to destroy them before, etc. It's been done before. We know this kind of story and this is not the story I wanted to tell."
The upscale apartment is full of clues for Connor to investigate. He has some special tools at his disposal that allow him to recreate events (Batman-like). This is actually performed through use of the touch pad on the DualShock 4. For instance, you can see how the father in the family got shot by the android if you chose to take the time to approach his body. You can also piece together how the android (Daniel, you can find out his name either by asking on the balcony or by learning it from clues inside) got the gun.
The discussion with the detective in charge of the scene may seem like a pointless waste of time, but what future interaction could it influence? Do you take the gun that the cop who got shot dropped underneath the kitchen table? In doing so violating the code under which androids operate. Connor also has access to extensive databases. An example of this would be Connor scanning a family photo and learn plenty of details about the family living in the apartment. The number of things to consider and clues to pick up is mind-blowing, and if this is indeed the level of detail with which you'll be allowed to craft your story through the entirety of Detroit: Become Human, then we're in for something that we've only been dreaming about up until now.
If you press the R2 button you'll enter Connor's "mind palace". When in this mode you'll see Connor processing the information he has gathered, including a percentage chance of being able to resolve the situation successfully (without causalities). You'll also see his objectives. You can trigger this at any point and the scene is frozen so you have time to consider your options carefully. When in mind palace mode you'll also be able to easily identify objects that you can interact with in order to gather clues or people you can talk with.
Time is of the essence in this situation, maybe it won't be in every scene, but here it adds a sense of urgency. But you can choose to ignore what's going on out on the balcony and just stay inside the apartment. That's one possible resolution. If Connor takes his time, an impatient officer might try and end the situation.
Quantic Dream has featured multiple playable characters in the past. Both Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain relied heavily on this, while Beyond: Two Souls opted for a different approach. Here Quantic Dream returns to multiple playable characters, all with their own unique characteristics and abilities. We're not sure how many there will be in addition to Kara and Connor, but there will be more. And like in Heavy Rain the story will continue on, regardless of whether a character dies or not. Of course, the exact nature of what it means for an android to die is also interesting and Quantic Dream are keeping quiet on this, but we suspect there may be a twist hidden here. If you look closely at the ending where Connor gets shot by Daniel at the end of the scene his circle turns red. Maybe that's a hint of something, maybe it's just meant to indicate he's no longer functioning.
One interesting tidbit we got out of our E3 demo was that Bryan Dechart, the actor who plays Connor, was present during our demo session. All we can say is that we're not quite sure he's fully human. That's how eerily close the resemblance in appearance and voice felt to us after having seen the game. We're not going to retell the conversation between director (Cage) and actor (Dechart) here, but it was a fascinating eavesdrop into the relationship between a game creator and an actor - a relationship that is increasingly important as this industry evolves.
Detroit: Become Human doesn't make use of the same engine as Heavy Rain or Beyond: Two Souls on PS4, nor does it make use of the tech Quantic Dream created for their Sorcery demo (shown at the PS4 reveal). Instead, the studio developed a new engine to address a few key points needed in Detroit: Become Human.
"There were some elements that we wanted to push forward," says Cage. "Especially developing the sense of cinematography in the engine. Having a better management of the lighting, better integration of the character, better shadows, better what we call physically based shaders, which is the fact that all materials in the world react physically correctly to lighting. We also developed what we call physical cameras, which is the fact that the lens of the camera and the depth of field (...) react like a real camera."
The camera work is an interesting aspect of the game, and at any given point you can switch between multiple camera angles (pressing R1) to get a better view of the scene or simply play around with perspectives.
It's important to keep in mind that while crime and investigation will be the focus of Connor's efforts in Detroit: Become Human, that's not all it will contain. Presumably the other androids will have different abilities and themes to their parts of the story, much as was the case was in Heavy Rain. Maybe Connor will be tasked with tracking down Kara at some point in the story, if she has gone rogue and developed a consciousness, but that's just speculation on our part.
Needless to say we're excited for Detroit: Become Human. In many ways this seems like it could be the culmination of all the experience Quantic Dream has gathered in creating these narrative-driven adventures over more than a decade. Maybe the full potential of that first scene in Fahrenheit will finally be fulfilled - a story that truly bends and transforms through the actions of the player.