Mirror Mirror - 2019

Game Review - Detroit: Become Human

By Jennifer Allen

Cast: Bryan Dechart, Jessie Williams, Valorie Curry, Clancy Brown, Audrey Boutani, Evan Parke, Minka Kelly, Neil Newborn, Gabrielle Hersh, Simbi Kali, and Lance Hendrikson
Music Composers: Nima Fakhrara (Connor), John Paesano (Markus), and Philip Sheppard (Kara)
Writer & Director: David Cage
Publisher: Quantic Dream SA
Platform: Sony PlayStation 4

“Your heart is troubled. A part of shadow and a part of light… Which will prevail?" ~ Lucy

If you're a kid of the 80's like me, you've undoubtedly either experienced the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, or at least have heard of them. I read countless amounts of these and loved the fact that I got to pick the consequences of my protagonist as the story went along.

When I heard about this new game that is basically a Choose Your Own Adventure book in digital form, I jumped at the chance to try it out. First I watched a couple of YouTubers play it just to see what the hype was about and just how widespread the story could become. Then I got the game to try out for myself. As of writing this review I'm in the middle of my 4th play through and still enjoying every minute of it.

Detroit: Become Human takes place in the near future of 2038 where AI has become common in the form of androids. They look human except for a small LED light on their right temple and specific clothing to distinguish them from regular people. These androids have become the new “blue collar" workforce in the United States as maids, caregivers, food servers, construction workers, and so forth. Because of this, the US has a staggering 37 percent unemployment rate which has no doubt caused a bit of resentment as these “machines" have taken away those particular jobs from the regular populace. Suddenly in 2038, certain androids begin to show free will and become “Deviants."

The game follows three particular androids and their journey over the course of six days. Valorie Curry plays Kara; a maid who becomes Deviant to protect a little girl named Alice. Jessie Williams is Markus; a home caregiver who is suddenly thrust into becoming the Leader of the ever growing Deviant population in Detroit. Bryan Dechart is Connor; a prototype detective sent to investigate the Deviant phenomena and discover why it's happening at such a staggering rate.

Depending on the choices you make during each Chapter, each of these three characters can end up in myriad situations including their own deaths. No character is safe, including the secondary characters that help flesh out the story for the three main protagonists. Two standout characters are also probably the most famous from the cast in general. Lance Hendrikson (most known as the android, Bishop from Aliens), plays Carl Manfred; an invalid painter whom Markus is caring for at the beginning of the story. Clancy Brown (known for both his film and voice work) is Lt. Hank Anderson; a grizzled police detective who is paired up with Connor to investigate Deviants, and who seems to have a particular grudge against androids in general.

“What about you, Connor? You look human, you sound human, but what are you really?" ~ Hank Anderson

The game is completely rendered with motion capture, so the characters on screen resemble the actors performing them for the most part. This technology helps elevate the storytelling as you can see every little twitch and nuance as each character responds to various choices. Watching Connor's face changes are probably the most dramatic as he starts out as an almost naïve machine who is “designed to accomplish a task" and has the most capacity to change depending on your choices. Kara's story has a little less flexibility but is also the most intimate and heartfelt. Markus as the eventual Deviant leader can also handle the revolution peacefully or not, and reacts accordingly to each path.

“This world doesn't like those who are different, Markus. Don't let anyone tell you who you should be." ~ Carl Manfred

The game's story is an amalgamation of Sci-Fi and racial oppression in recent history. It is most heavily influenced by the Civil Rights movement, Nazi Germany, and India's independence. Androids are placed in a special compartment at the back of buses. They wear special clothing that is similar to how Jews were singled out during the Third Reich. Many references can, however, be a bit heavy-handed. For example Markus is a very transparent mixture of Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, Jesus Christ and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There are also a couple of plot threads that go nowhere and a plot twist or two that has no real payoff. It's a bit clique in certain places, but the overall concept does have enough sweet, tender moments to balance out the clunky parts.

The game overall has 99 different endings, which (luckily) you can track by means of a flowchart after completing each Chapter. This way you can see just how many different possibilities there are for each decision you make. Some of these decisions show an unlock icon which means it can be important in a later scene. As previously mentioned each character can die in multiple ways so your story for each can be long or short depending on what you do.

If you don't have a PlayStation 4, you can instead start with YouTube play through videos like I did. In fact, Bryan Dechart who portrays Connor has his own streaming channel and has played through it at least twice. If you do have a PlayStation or are thinking about purchasing one, it's a good game to start with since it's more about the story and dialogue than it is about combat. You at most only have to deal with dialogue choices, directional movement, and some quick clicks for combat.

So if you're looking for a good game where you get to create the story as you progress, enjoy amazing graphics, and experience powerfully emotional interactions in a plausible science fiction setting, try out Detroit: Become Human. It does have some mature themes, but overall it can be a fully worthwhile experience to try at least once or twice.


Jennifer Allen works at Saathee and is also a Podcaster, Blogger, Photographer & Graphic Artist.