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.