Detroit is a game of choice, yet as simple as that sounds there is much more going on behind the scenes. When I thought I had wrapped up my first playthrough there was still time for one of the main characters to fail at the final hurdle because of decisions I had made throughout the whole game. As unfair as this may sound to some people it makes you appreciate the craftsmanship and thought that has gone into this project and only encourages further playthroughs.
Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls are David Cage’s other games and each one has their own fanbase, Detroit falls firmly into the Heavy Rain category with three characters that have their own storylines that can become heavily intertwined depending on the multitude of decisions you make along the route. All three are androids and must contend with the awakening and sentience of their kind in near-future Detroit. You have Kara a domestic assistant android just returned to a domestically abusive home, Markus, the care assistant for a famous artist with a junkie son and the most intriguing, Connor, a prototype detective android assigned to an android hating alcoholic cop.
From these descriptions you can see the one flaw with Detroit, It is generic at the outset. No doubt the first few hours will become tedious to some people expecting more action. Despite this, there is a moment when Markus storyline kicks into gear and electrifies the remainder of the game. Without spoilers, it was one of the most well-paced and striking sections I have played in recent gaming. As soon as this happens the game opens up and your choices begin to matter.
The gameplay itself is minimalistic with button presses and controller prompts appearing when your character has actions to perform, dialogue choices are much more obvious as they are assigned to buttons and appear in list format on the screen. When an action scene does kick off the QTE prompts can come at you quickly but missing one does not always spell disaster. You are more likely to get in trouble from your poor choices than your lack of reflexes or dexterity.
The real difficulty with these games with multiple characters is putting yourself in the characters position rather than your own. If you play the game using your own moral compass you will end up with three characters who merge into the same kind of person and this will make the story less intriguing when you get to the latter stages. This is where the character of Connor comes in and cleverly saves the game.
Connor the detective android is the true choice in this game as none of his decisions are clear-cut. In progression, you learn that the androids that are becoming self-aware are called deviants and he is the deviant hunter. Your choices either lean towards a normal human morality therefore deviant or a cold machine lacking in empathy which means you are fulfilling humankind wishes. It is a complex conundrum at the heart of the game and it never lets up as you progress further. Kara and especially Markus have their moments yet Connor’s storyline is what really makes a difference to the player. Every time you do what you think is the right thing he becomes more and more deviant and depending on your choices with Markus this is either a good or bad thing.
Kara is much less complex. Her goal is to protect a small girl called Alice and get her across the border to Canada where they can pretend to live their lives as normal humans. The decisions Connor and Markus take seem to leave Kara the victim of their actions rather than master of her own fate yet still she has a few stand-out sections. Markus and what he becomes serve as the action piece of the game and he has the most binary choices. Needless to say, a choice with Markus is usually fatal for a character in the game and should be thought out carefully.
Along with the graphical overhaul, the main upgrade in this latest Cage game is the flowchart system. This has divided the community but I feel it shows just how many options are open to you as the player. At the end of each chapter, you can see how close to getting 100% you were. It involves a complex chart and shows the percentage of other people in the world who made the same choices as you. It can be exciting and shocking to see some of the major choices you make only having a 16% agreement rate with the rest of the world and adds to the feeling that you are having a completely unique story experience. The valid criticism of this is that it shows you too much of what is going on behind the scenes, especially as it is available in each chapter and not just at the end. Despite this when you see that there are basically 4 choices and then multiples of these at each decision point, then hidden decision points and dialogue options you probably would never be able to work out everything even in multiple playthroughs.
Detroit is the evolution of the David Cage game genre and is one of the most immersive and enjoyable experiences I have had in gaming. Criticisms of some predictable elements of the overall storyline are valid and the borrowing it does from media like Blade Runner, I Robot and the tv series Humans can seem obvious and jarring in sections yet I found the pacing and injections of life and morality that the Connor sections gave drove the plot along. Despite my nature and experience of the previous games, I was still able to fail with one character at the final hurdle. I simply made the mistake of doing what I thought was right instead of what the character would do and fell victim to the butterfly effect of my previous choices. Still, you can replay the chapter if you wish or start a new story. I think I will leave it for a while as the experience I had and revisit later. Until then this game comes highly recommended for fans of decision making.