Friday! Video games! Let’s talk!
This is bound to be an unpredictable weekend for me, seeing as how I just finished Detroit: Become Human about an hour ago and have no idea what to jump into next. Oops?
I mostly enjoyed Heavy Rain but loathed Beyond: Two Souls, so Quantic Dreams’ games are hit or miss for me. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly excited to play Detroit. However, I found a copy for rent at a local Red Box kiosk and it was only $7 for 3 days. I wasn’t in the middle of anything else, having just finishing God of War and my replay of Horizon: Zero Dawn, so I bit the bullet and dove into David Cage’s latest narrative adventure last night. And it’s definitely a David Cage-ass game.
Despite it being the source of ridicule on social media and quite a few negative reviews, I (similar to Heavy Rain) mostly enjoyed it. The storytelling is a little clumsy and direct at times and it’s unapologetically influenced by some of the darkest times in American history; just replacing human slavery with androids and history repeating itself. The point of the game is literally in the subtitle.
You play as three separate android characters with their own storylines that intertwine with one another. Kara, a housekeeper, is owned by an alcoholic single parent who uses her to take out his drug-fueled aggression. Markus was the caregiver to an aging artist who finds himself framed for murder and joins the android rebellion. And finally, Connor is an android who has been paired up with the human detective *slash* alcoholic Hank (wonderfully played by actor Clancy Brown) in order to assist him in investigating a series of murders by sentient androids. Kara’s story ended up my favorite, with Connor and Hank’s buddy cop scenario as a close second. Markus’ rebellion story lacked the emotional punch of Kara or the moral gray area of Connor, and some of his motivations and major beats didn’t always feel earned.
The story is framed in an interesting manner and offers a TON of player agency by way of dialogue replies and heavy decision making. The characters they meet along the way have affinity meters, which unlocks new dialogue prompts and cutscenes when raised or lowered, and the end of each chapter displays a roadmap that shows your choices and how they affected the narrative’s flow. This chart also shows blank spaces, indicating missed opportunities or separate narrative paths that “could have” happened had you reacted differently. It certainly encourages multiple playthroughs and reminded me a lot of Until Dawn.
While the storytelling is mostly interesting and the game is overflowing with player choice, where it falters is in the actual gameplay. It feels nearly identical to 2010’s Heavy Rain, with player interaction being relegated to holding or mashing buttons or matching specific button prompts that pop up during cutscenes. For instance, instead of crawling along the floor using the left analog stick (which is otherwise always used to move your character) you’ll be prompted to press and hold the R1 button, followed by L1, then repeating as necessary until you reach your destination. This type of interactivity isn’t necessarily bad in theory, but it causes the on-screen action to screech to a halt until the button presses are met. It’s definitely jarring when a chase scene is stopped because I haven’t mashed X enough or held down three different buttons.
I don’t really want to talk about the narrative since it’s such a huge part of the experience, but I do look forward to discussing it with others who have already finished the game. I’m curious to hear how other stories played out in comparison to my own, in order to truly gauge how important these choices and consequences are.
With Detroit: Become Human out of the way, I’m not sure what to jump into next. I picked up The Caligula Effect on Vita to play during my road trip a few weeks ago and never got around to it. I also have Tokyo Xanadu Ex+ downloaded on my PS4. Both are JRPGs and I don’t know if I’m in the mood for that right now. I’ve been tossing around the idea of firing up my SNES Classic and revisiting some of my favorites, namely Super Metroid.
What about you, folks? Any big plans this weekend?