Detroit: Become Human Delivers Some of the Best Digital Performances to Date
If nothing else, Quantic Dream knows how to grab attention. Even though this studio is best-known for turning mundane tasks like twisting doorknobs into game mechanics, there’s a level of fidelity in its recent works that is undeniably eye-catching. And despite Detroit: Beyond Human stemming from a 2012 PS3 tech demo, this new release is still capable of surprising us.
On IGN, our sister site, reviewer Lucy O’Brien gave Detroit a Great score of 8/10. The sheer number of possible twists and turns available to choose from is truly impressive, and she heaps praise on the quality of both the performance capture tech and the performances themselves. All told, this is Quantic Dream’s best implementation of the Heavy Rain formula to date.
With 82 reviews counted, Metacritic calculates a metascore of 79 – a bit higher than the PS3 release of Beyond: Two Souls, but lower than Heavy Rain’s high watermark of 87. Some publications, like ShackNews, gave the game a glowing 9 out of 10 because of the vivid depiction of a near-future, android-laden dystopia. While a handful of sites, such as VideoGamer, only gave it a 4 out of 10 because of a “muddled” story and a perceived failure to live up to the standard that competing studios have set.
By putting you in the shoes of three androids that fit into 2038 Detroit very differently, Quantic Dream attempts to tug at your heartstrings in every possible direction. Have a soft spot for children? David Cage et al. will use the realistic-looking characters to exploit your feelings by threatening them as quickly as possible.
Similarly, there are a number of particularly ham-fisted allegories of chattel slavery, the Jim Crow south, and the holocaust. There’s plenty of room for games to tackle those weighty subjects, but they require a degree of finesse that Quantic Dream has yet to demonstrate. As it stands, it’s safe to expect some wincing in spite of the game’s strengths.
With such a wide range of reactions, it’s going to be difficult to nail down how the story will land with you. Consensus seems to point to this being the best Quantic Dream game to date, but that’s probably not enough to convert those who are critical of this company’s previous efforts and questionable behavior. Still, the staggering number of branching paths available in this game is hard to believe.
Setting aside the business and story implications for a moment, let’s talk about the tech. On the standard PS4, we’re getting a native resolution of 1080p – exactly what we’d expect. On the Pro, the dev team uses checkerboarding to deliver a 2160p resolution. However, some of the more costly post-processing effects are being rendered well below 4K.
With a 30fps target, it seems like both versions of the PS4 can typically handle the load. Neither one is completely locked, but the folks over at Digital Foundry have found that the Pro is noticeably more stable. And because of the heavy use of post-process effects, they find the frame rate stability to be more important than the resolution bump when all is said and done.
Featuring top of the line performance capture, incredible dynamic lighting, and character models that approach photo-realism under certain conditions, Detroit is an excellent show piece. It doesn’t offer the scale of a game like Horizon, and the story definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s hard to deny the technical excellence on display here.