Games: Detroit: Become Human offers cinematic 'robo roleplay'
Detroit: Become Human (PS4)
DEPENDING on who you talk to, David Cage is either the Spielberg of videogame storytelling or its Tommy Wiseau. While the French auteur's cinematic grandstanding often falls short in execution, we need developers who dream big – and following on from Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls comes Quantic Dream's most ambitious interactive movie yet.
Box-set telly as a videogame, Detroit is an epic jaunt through the Rock City of 2038, where meatbags and robots co-exist, though not as equals.
Robo-slavery dates back to early '80s telly, when Ted Rogers, cruel master of Dusty Bin, shared the schedules with wingnut-headed maid Metal Mickey. But the march of progress means the sexy androids of 2038 Detroit have gotten all uppity and are demanding rights.
Detroit's philosophical cyberpunk hoo-ha interweaves the tales of three different androids, Kara, Connor and Markus. With the world gone to hell in a handcart and robots robbing feckless humans of employment (themmuns get all the best jobs), the domestic Kara escapes her abusive schlub owner, taking his daughter in tow in an affecting tale of mechanised motherhood.
Then there's Markus, a sensitive hospice android caring for terminally ill artist Carl (Hollywood's go-to synthetic, Lance Henriksen, in some sly casting). Before you can say Martin Luther Spring, our marvellous mechanical man is fronting an android civil rights movement.
Finally, Connor, a police android (or "RoboCop", if you will) is partnered with the hardboiled Lt Anderson, investigating malfunctioning homicidal droids. The strongest plot-thread, Connor's sections are more brain-scratching than chin-stroking with police procedural sleuthing that plays out like a futuristic Se7en.
If you've played any of Cage's fodder before, you'll know what to expect here, with flights of pretentiousness wrapped in gorgeous cinematic visuals that are a joy to behold.
And looking's what you'll mostly do, bar the odd context-sensitive action where prompted button presses and joystick swivels let players complete actions, from opening doors, putting out the bins or examining blood at a crime scene.
It starts off at snail's pace though, and you'll spend the opening chapters cleaning dishes and lugging an infirm Lance Henriksen to the bog. Like the studio's previous efforts, each chapter is verdant with branching variations and critical choices as you earn your robo-rights through conflict or negotiation.
Vibrant and detailed, future Detroit looks incredible and, like the on-screen robots, Become Human's pieces are meticulously put together. Unfortunately, it hammers home the Sesame Street grade 'life lessons' (yay for rights!) with all the grace of a one-legged ballerina.
It's still a stellar production though, and only the most robo-hearted cynic will fail to be moved by its synthetic fantasy – even if you get the impression that Cage would much rather be puffing Gauloises on a movie set.