Let's set the scene for you: we're in the shoes of Markus, sitting on the back of the bus. It's not the cool back of the bus either, like a school bus, rather it's the back of the bus where citizens are segregated. Androids and humans are separated by a simple glass pane, but soon the first step will be taken to destroy that partition, and we're not talking just on the bus. This much can be revealed about the plot of Detroit: Become Human.
In our almost two hours with the game at a recent preview event we got to play through the complete opening sequence, which introduces the stories of three protagonists: the aforementioned Markus, and then Connor and Kara. These are three very different androids, and each take on different tasks in their everyday life, acting in totally distinct social contexts. Connor is an android cop for example, while Markus a hardworking everyday assistant, and Kara is more like a babysitter. This variety helps to tell a strong story from contrasting and individual points of view, touching upon impactful themes such as domestic violence, which has already stirred controversy after the Paris Games Week trailer, which you can see below.
There are two game modes in Detroit: Become Human, one of which is a casual mode where a camera gently guides the player through the story and sees fewer people killed, as Guillaume de Fondaumière, chief operating officer at developer Quantic Dream, explains. The other mode allows experienced players to take greater control over the interactive story we can experience and participate in. If you know Heavy Rain, Fahrenheit, or Beyond: Two Souls, you can look forward to more of this.
Detroit: Become Human is in the most positive sense a rather slow game in which we sometimes have to make very quick decisions. Each level, episode, and scene follows the same basic idea; we are introduced to the scene, can explore it freely, and move slowly towards the climax. This is where we usually have to talk about what happened to us and to the people and androids, which is always a matter of life and death. What's more is that very early on we can lose protagonists; one wrong decision can change everything in Detroit.
The experience is designed for discovery and analysis as we explore the scenery, talk to participants, link data, and lay out a possible path to the truth. Again and again we have to make decisions, consciously in conversation and unconsciously in what we do or don't do. The episode starring the android cop, Connor, has been known for quite some time and almost marks the end of his timeline shortly before the end of the intro. Here there are six possible endings, featuring different paths with various intersections. Who dies or survives depends on how fast we play through the level, who we talk to, which inquiries we pursue, and what we investigate, with plenty of room to miss things out. Some dialogue options are denied if something specific has not been found, for example, and you're always told how high the probability is that the android cop will complete a successful mission. What success is, however, is very much in the eye of the beholder.
While one of Detroit: Become Human's greatest strengths is the fear of consequences and of making the right choice, it also succeeds in its very impactful storylines. Feelings are evoked very strongly vi these scenarios, as the fathers among us may feel the fear of becoming like the evil junkie dad, Todd, who we serve as Kara. Seeing his daughter Alice fear her father is incredibly powerful too, and despite the furore surrounding whether these themes should be explored in games, we felt it tug at our heartstrings.