‘Detroit: Become Human’ (PS4 demo) review: Branching paths

‘Detroit’ demo shows promise — but it’s too early to tell

Quantic Dream has been working on this PlayStation 4-exclusive game for quite some time; many can remember the “Kara” demonstration trailer in 2012, showing an android begging not to be disassemble upon apparently gaining consciousness. It was stunning and moving, both emotionally and technologically, and so director David Cage decided to turn that demo into “Detroit: Become Human.” Now, four years later, the game is upon us; but first, the demo.

Set 20 years in the future, everything in the apartment is more technologically advanced than what we have today, with AI-powered androids that look just like humans being the centerpiece.

First off, the demo is visually gorgeous. From the blue tinge permeating everything to the stunning animations, every piece of this demo is jaw-dropping in its rendering. The work Quantic Dream put into updating its game engine clearly paid off, and the demo makes the most of the PS4’s powerful hardware.

Much like “Heavy Rain” and “Beyond,” the “Detroit” demo is a case study in quick-time events and investigations. In fact, you control Connor, an android investigator trying to save a little girl from an android gone rogue (called Deviants in this world). The search for clues itself is pretty standard, but it’s the touches that shine. As an android, you’re capable of analyzing the scene much like in a “Batman” game, using your tech to re-create the crime scene. (For those who haven’t played a Quantic Dream game before, be prepared for many, many QTEs.)

When the demo really becomes interesting, though, is when you find the Deviant. What you find in your investigation beforehand matters because it shapes the conversation you have. In fact, you can check a flowchart in your menu to see what branching options lie before you. For instance, you didn’t learn the android’s name? You can’t use that to help talk him down. Pick up a gun? It changes how the Deviant reacts to you. Lots of little yet important details pile up, sending you down certain paths to your final outcome.

Of course, the investigation only serves as a starting point for the many choices you have to make during the conversations you have. Your style of play — aggression, conciliatory, detached, etc. — will affect the outcome just as much as the information you gather. (And I won’t lie: I spent two hours completely filling out the flowchart and achieving every possible conclusion.)

It’s just the demo, which generally are meant to show off an above-average piece of the final project, but I enjoyed it. It was smooth and interesting, and if the demo is any indication, there’s plenty of replay value here. We’re just have to see.

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