Now that I’ve played and reviewed Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, it is now time to take a look at the last of Quantic Dream’s recent PC ports. This time though, it is for a game that was originally released on the PS4 instead of the PS3, so it’s definitely gonna look better if anything.
Engaging storyline. So it should be made clear now that this is a story-focused game. There is gameplay, but the primary focus is on the storyline. Some may be put off by this, but the story is engaging enough that it works out quite well. As with Heavy Rain, the story in Detroit: Become Human is told through multiple perspectives. You’ll constantly be hopping to and from a bunch of different protagonists as their stories slowly intertwine with each other. Of course, some are better than others, but each manages to tackle a theme of its own and I quite liked how they built on each other over the course of the game into this one larger narrative.
Even disregarding that overall narrative though, the stories are just as interesting on their own. You’ve got one exploring what it means to be a human, one exploring the concept of android parenthood, and even one exploring the concept of android rights. These are some very serious themes with some equally serious real-world equivalents, but the game manages to handle them in a thoughtful manner while also making for an entertaining story experience.
Some of the best storytelling in the medium. Detroit: Become Human manages to take all of the best parts of visual novel storytelling and adapt them into a full-fledged AAA video game. This includes everything from the multiple different endings, the various branching routes, and the sheer number of choices you can make throughout the entire experience. That sounds simple on paper, but once the game starts busting out the flowcharts, then you get a real idea as to just how much weight goes into everything you do.
This becomes very apparent towards the end of the game, when seemingly trivial decisions and missed items earlier in the game suddenly have very serious effects. This can be something as small as not having picked up a knocked over photo during one of the game’s first few chapters. And of course, that is on top of the major decisions that you will already be making with these characters, most of which are again, shaped by the smaller decisions you’ve made along the way. It is layers upon layers of storytelling, comparable to even the most complex of visual novels. Not only does this add a ton of replayability, but it makes the story that you as the player experience feel more personal, more unique. It is much better than what the studio did with Heavy Rain and miles better than what they did with Beyond: Two Souls, both of which now seem like simple stepping stones.
Great blend of story and gameplay elements. Not only did the studio improve upon its storytelling, but they’ve also made some major improvements when it comes to gameplay. Because you are playing a bunch of different androids, there is this entire “enhanced vision” mechanic, which plays a number of different roles. It highlights stuff that can be interacted with, its used to reconstruct past events during investigations, and its even used during slow motion segments to allow the player to come up with a plan of action. It’s a nice extra layer to have on top of the base gameplay if anything.
Aside from the fact that there’s just more gameplay in general, its also expertly blended into the storyline, much more so than their last two games. It does this using a variety of different methods, whether that be the seamless camera transitions, the streamlined quick time events, or the wide cinematic camera shots during which the player is still in full control. For a game that is mostly focused on storytelling, this makes for a nice balance between being a straight-up interactive movie and a full-fledged adventure game. Of course, this is all done to maintain immersion, which, for the most part, the game does a good job at (although I will discuss some of its problems shortly).
Excellent graphics and overall visual direction. I won’t deny that the game looked great on PS4, but now that we have it on PC in its full glory, its only gotten better. A lot of this is due to the port, which introduced 4K resolution support, a doubled framerate at 60fps (which can even be unlocked using external tools), and a number of other graphical settings not present in the original release.
However, it isn’t just the port doing all the work here. A large part of why the game looks so good has to do with its visual direction as well. This is definitely a game that tries to go for that cinematic look and it’s not afraid to make that obvious. From the numerous cutscenes highlighting smaller details to the vast, open spaces with NPCs and vehicles going everywhere, there’ a lot that goes into bringing the game’s world to life. In fact, for how little time you end up spending in a lot of the environments, I was surprised with how much detail went into them. I may be in an area for maybe 5 minutes tops, but the game definitely does a lot to make sure that I won’t forget it. It’s a beautiful game across the board and it’s honestly one of the best-looking ones I’ve played in recent years.
Writing hiccups. Unfortunately, while the game may have improved in some areas compared to the studio’s past works, it still was not able to completely escape the writing issues. Again, these come in numerous forms, whether that be a small plot hole or a pacing hiccup. Regardless, they are issues and given the story-focused nature of the game, it is quite hard not to notice them. The pacing, for example, gets kinda wonky towards the end of the game, with some scenes seeing unnecessary spikes in order to quickly wrap up the game’s numerous plot points. In fact, one of the game’s major reveals during the end kinda lost its impact on me as result.
But of course, there’s more than just the pacing issues. As this is a David Cage work, you’re going to get several scenes that feel like they are being driven by plot conveniences rather than character actions. It’s the age-old “why write a meaningful ending to this scene when I can simply move on to the next by wrapping it up with some conveniently placed item or a negligent police officer”. Cage is prone to using such get out of jail free cards in his writing and Detroit: Become Human is no exception.
On top of that though, while I did find the game’s story themes to be interesting, I wasn’t the biggest fan of how heavy-handed they felt. The game obviously wants to make you feel a certain way and it does not hold itself back when doing so, throwing just about everything it has at you to get its themes across. In doing so though, it ends up causing even more issues, such as the reliance on plot conveniences I just mentioned. It’s a very blunt way to tell a story and, while it definitely delivers the message, it doesn’t do so without consequences.
Various technical issues. I may not have run into crashing issues like others are reporting, but I still had a few issues related to the game’s optimization and overall polish. Although the game ran fine at 60 fps for most of the experience, there were isolated areas where that would dip and fluctuate between 40-60, even in areas where it did not seem like a lot was going on. Granted, this is a higher-end game and is definitely harder to run smoothly, but I felt it should still be mentioned.
On the topic of controls, the studio has definitely made some improvements there, but I still found myself opting for the controller over keyboard and mouse, as the latter still felt awkward in places (it wasn’t designed for them and that shows). I also ran into the occasional bug or two, such as characters movements being out of sync with the audio and NPCs teleporting into place during some story scenes. These were limited, but again, still noteworthy.
Detroit: Become Human is an easy recommendation for fans of story-driven games. It’s not only one of the best looking games I’ve played all year, but it manages to do so with a story that is both engaging and makes use of some top-tier storytelling methods. It is a massive step up from the studio’s previous two titles in just about every department. However, it isn’t free from issue entirely, still suffering from some writing hiccups and the occasional technical issue. Regardless, I had a great time with it and would definitely recommend checking it out.
You can buy Detroit: Become Human on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.