The biggest problem with the hands-on demo for Detroit: Become Human at PAX East is that it’s far too short. So then, what’s the smallest problem? There isn’t one. While I’m sure at launch there will be quirks that bother some people, the demo shown at PlayStation’s booth gives you just a taste of the gameplay mechanics held within Quantic Dream’s latest piece to know that this is something special.
The available playthrough takes you anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes to complete, likely longer if you’re cunning enough to find every nook and cranny that can be explored. You play the role of an android who is investigating an active crime scene for clues. Walking around the apartment you first encounter a fish that has escaped its tank and it’s flopping around, well, like a fish out of water (get it)! You can bypass the fish or investigate it. If you look closer you’re given the option to leave it alone (like a monster) or to help save it and put it back in the tank. While we didn’t see evidence in this demo, we were told by staff that this seemingly random encounter and others like it will impact the narrative of your story. This suggests that even the smallest actions or inactions will change the course of your game.
After you’ve done the right and just thing of saving the fish (as established, failure to do so makes you a bonafide monster) you progress into the meat of the demo. There are clues hidden everywhere to guide you into discovering what happened at the scene of the crime. Looking at a victim’s body will tell you that there are four clues to be found on them. Each clue explains who that person was, how exactly they died, and if you unlock all clues it gives you the ability to replay the scene leading up to the moment of their passing. Within that scene are even more clues! Sweeping the camera up and down, side to side, running the scene backwards and forwards any number of ways will show you new elements. Failing to due diligence here will mean you miss some elements. Detroit: Become Human won’t punish you for missing things, but the most efficient outcome slowly slips away with the more you fail to catch.
The clues that you find can guide you to more details, but they also impact the probability that you’ll have a favorable outcome, The probability percentage is a literal UI box that pops up and updates with some frequency. It increases when you find something that progresses the investigation and decreases if you miss something important, take too long, or choose a poor dialogue option. It’s an interesting mechanic that serves to make you more conscience of your choices. Seeing the impact in real time gives your reactions more weight unlike in previous Quantic Dream titles where you may not see a pay off until you’ve been playing for an hour.
Visually, the game is stunning. The facial expressions alone deserve a separate mention because the quality is on another level. The demo we played was light on voice acting, but the level of emotion delivered in a high stress moment has made us excited to see what the rest of the title holds. We won’t spoil the demo available for those who have yet to play this PAX East weekend, but we encourage everyone to give Detroit: Become Human a second look if they enjoy games where your actions have meaningful consequences.
Are video games art? Detroit: Become Human is certainly going to make it difficult for naysayers to find their ground, Quantic Dream has crafted something worthy of both your living room and a museum. Detroit: Become Human is set for release on May 25th exclusively on the PlayStation 4. For more on Detroit: Become Human and PAX East coverage, stay tuned to Mammoth Gamers!