All the things I hated about Detroit: Become Human (This is a rant, beware of SPOILERS)

I know, I know, my initial review of Detroit: Become Human was full of praise, so you might be asking yourself: why does she suddenly hate that game?

Let’s make this clear: I don’t hate it. It’s great in its own way. But Detroit: Become Human is also a sneaky, flashy little game that, at times, pretends to be more than it is.

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Choices! But, do they really matter?

My first playthrough was pretty much one long session. And while I raced through the three protagonists’ respective stories, marvelling at the thought-provoking dialogue, the setting, the conflict and stereotype characters that – because their journeys were familiar and still engaging – somehow worked despite their annoyingly cliché stories.

Then I played it again. And then again. And then it became really annoying.

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Okay, so when asked to paint by Carl, Markus painted himself…

Markus is the hero, right? No doubt about it, his is the classic hero’s journey. Ripped from his familiar home he faces death and is reborn, only to travel far from home, find a damsel in distress (though North is really anything but, more on her later) and prepare his triumphant return as the fabled rA9 (Yes, I know he’s not really rA9). The clever twist of this game is, of course, that Markus can fail, if the player makes the wrong choices, can, in fact, die, like any of the heroes, except Connor, until he’s outlasted his usefulness, that is.

(BTW, did you notice that the NPCs never react to whichever question or answer you choose? Their dialogue, their response, will never vary.)

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Okay. Please tell me when a person burning themself ever changed anything. In recent history. And why would an android imitate human folly, anyway?

Connor then, is the antagonist, the android deviant hunter set on a path towards either redemption (to be redeemed from what, exactly, I wonder?) and heroic deeds or damnation as he completes his mission in ending the uprising and killing Markus. His buddy-cop-story makes for some remarkable moments, sure, since Lt. Hank Anderson really is a sweet-heart and also pretty much provides the only human(e) perspective in this game.

(Carl does not count, as Carl is a classic mentor figure in this game and Kamski is just a kid playing god. And I admit that it took me quite a while to realise he had deliberately pitched those two RK800 prototypes against each other in this conflict, giving one to oppressive Cyberlife and one to liberal Carl, just to see what would happen.)

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Same prototype, different goals. That’s Connor and Markus in a nutshell.

Last but not least, there is Kara. A female main protagonist! Only, her story does nothing to further the cause of the androids, does it? She doesn’t do anything except get herself and Alice into bad situations and running away. Sure, that’s also an aspect of a conflict. It’s the human side, one might say. And, of course, it’s the story of a woman who wants nothing else but to protect her “child”, to nourish it and basically be its mother (What a great role model!!!???) and an annoying brat who can’t even take off her own shoes by herself let alone climb out of a car or into a boat.

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Yes, that Alice-is-an-android plot twist caught me by surprise, but if you were a little more adamant you would have noticed that when androids communicate nonverbally, the light on the LED flashes yellow… I wonder what she said to him?

(Ever interacted with kids of any age? They WANT to do things themselves! They insist, actually! They want to explore, they want to test their limits! Also, as far as product marketing goes, labelling this thing that somehow always feels sickly, either cold or hot or both, and is demanding constant attention as the perfect child without the fuss is simply ludicrous!)

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Well, of course she is a house maid and dressed like one, contrary to household android Markus… In short, I did not like the way women are depicted in this game.

As for the supporting cast, there is Simon, the reluctant and cautious one, Josh the Pacifist and North, the vengeful ex-prostitute (of course, what else) for, you know, a woman’s wrath has no – whatever… Also, there is Luther. He’s big, he’s black and his kind was “built for carrying heavy loads”. Are you kidding me? Who the heck needs an android to carry heavy loads? What kind of loads are we talking here? In a world where androids exist, I would have thought they’d have machines to do the heavy lifting. Machines actually built for carrying heavy loads, not machines that look like humans, cause, you know, the human form is not really built for carrying heavy loads.

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Connor (white guy) saves the day. Yeah!!!

All this tells me that, basically, conservative, oppressive Cyberlife (they are the bad guys, by the way, in case that wasn’t obvious before) is reinforcing sexist and racist stereotypes by producing and marketing their models the way they do, and because we are all super dense, the game really needs to rub it in.

That thing about dialogue
You know what I really loved about Deus ex: Human Revolution? The way NPCs would react differently to Adam Jensen, depending on his actions, choices, questions and answers. There is this one crucial moment, when Adam faces the mastermind behind the Augmented uprising and I was frantically trying to think of how to get him to hand me the code to disabling the station. And after a while, because I took so long, the NPC asked, quite nonchalantly at that, if the cat had gotten my tongue (or something similar). Brillant, right?

As mentioned above, Detroit: Become Human does not go that far and that is okay, because there are so many options, so many choices integrated into each mission, investigations and even observations that can change small details or even the fate of the protagonist. Quantic Dream put a lot of work into that and I praise them for it.

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That trophy actually spells death for Carl…

Unfortunately, repeating missions over and over again to hunt for clues that unlock new paths, new solutions is not my kind of fun. I am more impressed by character development and in that department, I think Detroit: Become Human is lacking. Whenever I chose one path I knew pretty much where they would be going with the character. There were no real suprises, no real growth, but simply a string of overly familiar story elements.

(Wait, there was one surprise. When Hank did not kill himself – best achievement! – and was taken hostage by the new Connor. I did not see that one coming.)

The cast of Detroit: Become Human features pretty much every pop culture stereotype you can think of: the liberal artist, the wayward son, the fat, unkempt pervert, the cop broken by life, the subservient maid, the cute little girl with the soulful eyes, the overworked and overburdened boss, the cool, calculating lady boss (even though she’s an AI), the enigmatic medium (Matrix-style), the brilliant inventor who’s become a world-weary recluse playing dangerous games, the prostitute who freed herself (empowerment!) but takes charge only when the male hero dies (or fails in his role) and, last but not least, the machine that discovers it has a heart. That’s Connor, of course. In short, someone brought together all the story elements that, in the past and present, have proven successful in triggering emotion in their audience.

I fell for that mix, too. And that’s what I hate about myself.

Cheers and keep on playing!


6 thoughts on “All the things I hated about Detroit: Become Human (This is a rant, beware of SPOILERS)

  1. Vickie Johnston says:

    Just caught your blog as I was looking for some help on “The Council” and I liked your style! Agree with you on Detroit! Absolutely loved my first play through and thought there were some really good tense moments (e.g. crossing the road). Didn’t fancy playing again as I thought that would be the case… Have you tried Until Dawn? Really good early PS4 game and whilst 1 playthrough may be enough it was an excellent thriller… I might try Deus Ex on your suggestion… think we have similar tastes! Keep up the excellent blogs… look forward to reading more! Regards, Vickie

  2. Vanessa says:

    Hi Vickie, so happy you are enjoying the blog! I really appreciate it! Thanks for pointing out Until Dawn, will definitely have a look at it and you absolutely must check out Deus ex, as you can tell it is one of my faves! 🙂 Best regards, Vanessa

  3. Anonymous says:

    This was very interesting to read however I see a few problems. I dislike how you called North a damsel in distress when she is the most outspoken character in the game, I also do not see any implication that points to Connor being on a quest of redemption. Why do you dislike the fact that Kara does nothing to further the androids there is no need to give all the leads variations of the same story and calling Alice a brat is not very mature and not a valid critique you also are not able to Compare alice to a real child because she is an android so i’m not sure what you going for there. Also you don’t like how Kara is dressed as a housemaid 1. Daniel is dressed as a housemaid are you mad about that? 2. i assume you didn’t read the character bios markus is dressed like that because Carl changes his clothes so that it like he’s part of the family of course Todd wouldn’t do that, also calling cyberlife racist, what? they manufacture many different looking models for the same purpose.
    Also the so called „stereotypes“ are just you ignoring the complexity of the characters
    the „liberal artist“ is actually the misunderstood revolutionary
    the „The wayward son“ is actually the result of a someone being the child of a celebrity
    the „fat unkempt pervert“ is actually the abusive father who is fueled by losing his child
    the „cop broken by life“ is actually the father broken by his dead son
    the „subservient maid“ you mean the subservient maid that became something more
    the „cute little girl with the soulful eyes“ this isn’t a stereotype i don’t know what you meant by this
    the „overworked and over burdened boss“ these stereotypes don’t align with the characters so i don’t know who your referencing captain Fowler? Amanda?
    the „cool lady boss“ i’m guessing this one’s Amanda but she’s not really a cool lady boss
    writing this was definitely a waste of time but hey i hope this inspires you to improve you to comprehension skills 🙂

  4. Vanessa says:

    Thank you for your comment, this is obviously important to you, so no time wasted. This post was meant to exaggerate and over-symplify – which is why I called it a rant – and is by no means a comprehensive analysis.

  5. Derek says:

    Alice isn’t a “brat” just because she needs help with her shoes and being picked up or lifted down—she was programmed as a child. Parents who bought a child Android obviously wanted the experience of raising and caring for a child; Alice needing no assistance and having the sentience of a toaster would not have fulfilled those emotional objectives.

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