Quantic Dream probably doesn’t get enough respect. While the Parisian developer’s body of work can quite easily be criticised, the studio deserves credit for building big budget, blockbuster experiences that venture outside of the ordinary boundaries we expect for this industry – and creating an entirely new narrative-driven genre in the process.
But as the studio’s unique choices-focused format has been borrowed by the likes of Until Dawn and The Walking Dead, the divisive Beyond: Two Souls somewhat dropped the ball. There’s no question that Ellen Page’s performance was superb in the supernatural affair, but the writing was messy and all of those important decisions that catapulted Heavy Rain to the top of charts were largely dropped.
Detroit: Become Human is David Cage et al refocusing on what the studio does best. Having spent a good 15 minutes or so with the title, this is very much what you’d expect from a Quantic Dream game: it controls very deliberately, with static camera points scattered around each environment; gestures are used to interact with objects, while the face buttons are leveraged for different dialogue decisions.
It’s cumbersome without question, but if you’ve played one of the developer’s games before, you’ll know exactly what to expect. That’s not to say that there’s nothing new going on, of course: our demo centres on Connor, an emotionless android – and one of three primary protagonists in the game. Set in a future where robots are hired by humans, he’s come to investigate a disturbance.
It’s a very bland plot premise in our opinion – disappointingly so, when you consider the studio’s penchant for telling wholly unique tales foreign to the gaming industry – but the demo, to its credit, is superb. There’s a lot of environmental world building, as you exit a lift and enter a tense hostage scenario fraught with panic and anxiety.
The over-and-under is that an android named Daniel is about to be replaced by his owners, and he’s not taken the news very well; as you arrive on the scene, he’s standing precariously on the balcony of a very large apartment block – and he’s holding a young girl over the edge. Your job, as Connor, is to resolve the situation – and how you do so is entirely down to you.
There are two parts to the demo really: the investigation and the resolution. Searching the house can give you clues about the suspect, and these help you in your negotiations atop the roof. Of course, you can skip all of the detective work entirely if you choose – it’s up to you. All of these things play a role in how the plot unfolds.
The tension when you’re talking down Daniel is absolutely brilliant. Helicopters hover overhead while rain lashes down, and the whole scene is wonderfully orchestrated. The direction is superb, with Quantic Dream constantly cutting to the right cameras to give you perspective of the seriousness of the situation. Visually, the presentation is absolutely absurd – it’s greatest graphics ever kinda stuff.
But the most important part is how the scene can unfold in a multitude of different ways: are you able to garner the android’s trust? Can you get the kid to safety? Do you choose to empathise with the aggressor or put him out of commission? Apparently there are six different endings to the demo, and between us as an editorial team we saw three – one of which ends Connor’s story entirely.
It’s promising stuff, then. The danger with Quantic Dream is whether it can sew everything together and keep the stakes high throughout – don’t forget that even Beyond: Two Souls had some brilliant individual scenes. However, if the entire game is representative of this vertical slice, then we could be looking at a real return to form for one of the industry’s most ambitious (and divisive) developers.
Are you a fan of Quantic Dream’s unique brand of narrative gameplay? Do you like the premise behind Detroit: Become Human? Save a small child held captive by a crazed robot in the comments section below.