Opinion: Why David Cage should remove “Detroit” from the title of his next game

Detroit become human

With the current generation of consoles being three years in their life span, we expect to see the best games.  The games that not only push boundaries graphically, but also the boundaries of story-telling.  One of the industry innovators, David Cage has announced his game for Playstation 4, and it is called “Detroit: Become Human”.  While you can’t question Cage’s pedigree in game making, I believe you can question the name he gives his game.

The game is set in Detroit about 50 years from now when the city experiences another revolution like that of the automobile, except it is with creating androids.   The plot follows multiple characters who are all androids who seem to develop human emotions, but are second-class citizens.  I have no doubt the game itself will be good, but one of the most important characters of a game is the setting, and I don’t think they will be able to get a good representation of Detroit.

Ever since the Playstation 2 era, open world games have tried to depict real world locations.  Whether it’s the GTA series depicting a city like New York, or “Infamous: Second Son” depicting Seattle.  The main difference between these games, is that they are approximations, and don’t have the city in the title.  With Detroit in the title, it comes with certain expectations.  The city sees renovations in the future setting, but will it be familiar enough for players to navigate?  These are the kind of questions you get when you name a game after a city.

One of the problems is developing an interesting world.  In “Infamous: Second Son”, the location of Seattle was vibrant and beautiful.  The development team at Sucker Punch, who are based in Seattle, had a lot to work with, they didn’t have to go on trips to research the layout of the city, they lived there.  They even included real-life locations in the game.  David Cage’s studio, Quantic Dream is based in France and has only seen the studio in trips.  While you can do extensive research, I don’t believe you can truly capture the vibe or people of the city with a few trips.  The problem with this is that there are compromises that must be made when rendering real cities.

When it comes to the real cities in other games, I often find that because I’m not from there, there is no connection to that world.  There have been some games based in Detroit, such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  The depiction is fairly accurate, but it allows a lot of room for exploration because it’s the game itself is more focused on gameplay than setting.

I believe David Cage will regret including the name “Detroit” in his title.  It’s not so much as a knock against the city, I just don’t believe Cage will be able to give a satisfying representation of the city.  Quantic Dream will struggle trying to create an interesting environment that feels alive and feels like a character in the story.

Nier: Automata – What Machines Dream Of

Protagonist

If you had told me in December that one of my favorite games of the year was going to be Nier: Automata, I would have looked at you like you were crazy.  As the amazing games continue to pile on, Nier: Automata stands above them all.  The game takes place thousands of years in the future, where earth was attacked by alien robots, and humanity was forced to seek refuge on the moon.  To save themselves, humanity built androids to battle the robot forces, and make earth habitable for humans.  This is where the player comes in, as you take control of the female android, 2B.  2B is one of many android’s part of the YOHRA group, tasked with rescuing humanity.

As you progress through the game, you are accompanied by a scouting unit named 9s.  As 2B, you are tasked with missions, you start to find out things are not as black as white as they seem.  9s seems to have an intense curiosity to understand machines, and 2B is only driven by her objective, her emotions are cold and calculated, a true soldier focused on the mission.  This may be a sequel, but in the timeline, it is so far removed from the original Nier that playing that game is only necessary to understand some Easter eggs and other small references.

What really stands out, though, is the structure of the story.  The director, Yoko Taro, creates a story that has you coming back for more, with five main endings (roughly three playthroughs, depending on some choices), and 21 extra hidden endings.  While the game refers to these as endings, it’s more accurate to think of these as chapters.  The first two “endings” are very similar, but the second “ending” gives a lot of context to the events of the first playthrough.

The story tackles large questions of ideology, and how complicated human emotions can be.  The world explores what happens when these machines find remnants of human society, and try to emulate what they did.  Whether it’s robots who have formed a death cult, believing they can “die and become gods” or a village of pacifists who don’t understand the emotion of fear.  Nier: Automata goes places in ways that I never anticipated, and in the final stretch of the game, I couldn’t put the controller down because I was so compelled to see the conclusion.

Accompanying this story, is an easy to learn, but deep combat system.  The player has chip-sets that they plug-in to give their character abilities.  It plays like a 3rd person action game, like the Devil May Cry series.  The gameplay is very tight and responsive, with a lot of variation on weapons and weapon abilities.  For those who struggle with these types of games, there is even a very easy mode where the game can almost play itself entirely.

While the world is post-apocalyptic, there seems to be an intense beauty in this world.  The world map isn’t very large, but is compact, with plenty of unique and beautiful locations.  Whether it’s the serenity of a lush forest, or the bright and colorful amusement park, Nier: Automata finds a way to keep the players in awe.

My only complaint with the game, and what keeps it from being a 10, is the side quest system.  Most of the side quests are glorified fetch quests, and playing them seems boring.  The other part that’s bothersome is that the game is not very clear when side quests become unavailable.  I missed some side quests on my first playthrough because I decided to do a main story quest, and some quests became unavailable.  This is especially frustrating because the side quests have such a good pay off and provide interesting ideas or concepts in this world.

Overall, Nier: Automata is the complete package.  It has plenty of content, with an amazing story, and fluid combat.  The characters are memorable, and develop a strong emotional attachment to the player.  This all culminates with a near-perfect recipe, with one imperfection that was too glaring to ignore.  Despite this, don’t be surprised when this game comes up in Game of The Year conversations at multiple outlets.