LOS ANGELES - When the mother of the little girl I was trying save called me an it and screamed for the cops not to let me near her daughter, I made a conscious decision to have compassion. Even though I was a droid. Hell, I even saved her fish from suffocation by putting it back into the tank.
Detroit: Become Human, an action-adventure title for the PS4 with a noir thriller feel, hinges on the choices you make. Your actions and decisions have weight in the world and will influence the story going further -- many times in unexpected ways.
In the trailer for Quantum Dream's upcoming game, which I saw during the PlayStation Press Conference, we were introduced to Marcus and Lucy, sentient (or deviant) androids who were on a mission to free the androids on sale in a shop. After passing along the sentience to the androids in the store, the new droid army encounters the cops, and the choices made by Marcus drastically affected how the story played out.
And that, like other Quantum Dream titles, is entirely the point. What decisions will you make when faced with hard decisions? I found that out today first-hand in my hands-on demo.
I played through the trailer shown at last year's E3 where Connor, a police negotiator android that was tasked with saving a little girl held hostage by a rogue droid. When I watched at last year's Sony Booth demo, Connor wasn't successful in his mission to save the child and I was forced to watch her plunge to her death. I wasn't going to let that happen.
When I entered the crime scene proper, I spoke to the commanding officer, who like the girl's mother referred to me and the other androids as it. He menacingly intoned that he would take care of the droid if I couldn't, even though the rogue bot and the little girl were balanced precariously on the edge of the balcony. Despite my disgust for the humans in the situation, it was time to go to work.
I was given two choices from there: understand what happened or confront the android. Since the latter was going to happen anyway, I thought it prudent to get to know my subject a little better first. I mean, a human child's life is at risk here, right?
I explored the swanky apartment piecing together how things went so very wrong. After searching the girl's room, I learned her name was Emma and that she and the android David were once very close. I also determined that she mercifully didn't hear the gunshots that killed her father, thanks to her headphones.
I reconstructed a scene in the parent's bedroom to learn that David used the father's own gun to kill him. Reconstructions will be vital in Detroit. Consisting of a three-dimensional scan of the immediate area and replaying the events, you can glean more clues from the scene that are pertinent to the case.
A quick examination of the kitchen showed that the family was in the stages of preparing dinner when everything went south. In the living room, I learned that the father had just ordered a replacement model for David when the violence occurred. The droid also killed the first responder on the scene -- things weren't looking good. However, when I stepped out to confront David, I saw a notification stating I had a 68 percent chance of success. I liked my odds.
That is until I started talking to a clearly agitated David who was positioned on the edge of a balcony, tightly clutching little Emma to him, a .50 caliber pistol pointed at her temple. Using everything I learned about David in his family, I managed to get my success rate up to 75 percent by choosing the right dialogue tree in a timed exchange. I was feeling good until i zigged when I should have zagged, accidently hitting a dialogue choice admonishing David for his actions. My heart plummeted as my chance for success rate dropped to 55 percent.
I managed to dig my out of the hole by selecting dialogue that focused on his emotional shock coupled with compassionate entreaties. I eventually talked my way to a 96 percent success rate after convincing David that I could guarantee I would make sure they wouldn't hurt him. Hollow words, because as soon as he released Emma, the S.W.A,T. snipers positioned on the opposite building took their shot, leaving gaping holes in David's torso and face.
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As the blue blood unique to android leaked out and the life (?) left his eyes, the last words he spoke were a full of quiet resentment and disbelief. "Connor, you lied to me." Of course I did, in a society where my kind are considered property, what sway could I possibly have? I walked away with a mission successful message behind me. But in light of how things ended, I didn't feel very successful.
Detroit: Beyond Human is the kind of game that could potentially spark meaningful conversations about humanity's ongoing relationship with technology, especially as we come closer to creating androids of our own. And I'd be lying, as a black woman, if I said I didn't see the comparisons here to slavery. I'm looking forward to playing Detroit when it launches and having those difficult conversations.