Last week I began an in-depth look at a fantastic game by Quantic Dream called Detroit Become Human. If you want to know more about why this is a three-part series, pop back in time and read about it here. In last week’s article, I mentioned that after the first mission, things dropped into slow motion. That was when we were introduced to Marcus. Shades of Color puts the player in Marcus’s shoes as he… goes out to buy paint. I’m not kidding. That’s it. After that incredible hostage situation that was the opening mission, this was a 180. Where did the action go? I’ll be fair, 2 short chapters later, we are back with Marcus and we are given more story and while that too isn’t an action extravaganza, it is building a much needed story. He’s an android owned by Carl, played by veteran genre legend Lance Henriksen (Aliens, plus 257 other acting credits on his IMDB page). Carl is an old man who needs to be taken care of, given shots, and wheeled around in his wheelchair. He has special equipment to help him paint that lifts him up so he can paint on very large canvases. Carl treats Marcus like a son and asks Marcus to try to paint, offering him the chance to let his creativity loose. This begs the question of whether or not a machine can be creative. Carl also has a son, Leo, who spends money on drugs. It’s apparent early on that Carl cares for Marcus more than his own son but perhaps justifiably. As one might suspect, this leads to a conflict. At this point, we are less than an hour into the game and I have started to question what makes a man: Marcus is a machine but he has more of a soul than Carl’s biological son. This starts my brain going into overdrive. When Marcus begins to express feelings, things go pear shaped.
I have to admit, I had a hard time keeping it together for this sequence. I wanted to allow my inner rage to have its own freedom of expression, but I knew that would upset Carl so I kept it together and a terrible thing happens. Marcus starts down a path that makes him perhaps the single most important person in the game. Stunningly, his is still not my favorite story but the three main characters are all so well developed and their stories are so compelling, that it’s like a best of three great choices, so at no point do you feel let down. The only part that surprised me was how slow the first handful of episodes are after that stunningly fast-paced opening.
The issue with talking too much about the game is that I don’t want to spoil the story. I will say that Marcus is essential to the wave of Androids starting to express emotions and he realizes that their message has to get out. Once again you have choices in what you want your message to be and I went with equality; I don’t know how different the game would have been had I selected freedom or one of the other options. I think I chose equality because I don’t like seeing things in my personal life where what is ok for one person, is not for another. That aside, his story is one of a handful of mistakes I made, but I was not going to replay a mission: I was determined to see how things would play out with my actions. At one point, while taking over a TV tower, a human makes a run for it and I hit the wrong button! I shot the fleeing fellow. I felt awful. There is no reloading and my only option was to replay the whole mission. Life doesn’t work that way, so I opted to play on. When I replay the game, this is one change I plan to make! You don’t shoot a fleeing man!
Marcus is played by Jesse Williams and looks just like him. The acting is incredible and the graphics are amazing. Minka Kelly plays his love interest, North. (I pressed a wrong button on the final mission with North too. It’s the only mission I did replay because I was completely disgusted with the way I screwed up that mission. I was very happy to say I was able to have a much better ending for Marcus and North when I replayed it!) Together Marcus and North can bring about a better world for the androids. Maybe humans can coexist with them. Maybe they should be treated as a lifeform unto themselves.
Since Marcus’s actions are intrinsically linked to her, I’ll use this week to introduce Chloe. Chloe is introduced as the loading screen android. She’s beautiful and sits there welcoming you back every time you launch the game. With the points you get between missions, I unlocked her introduction video. As this is just a short clip and does not impact the game, I’ll include her video instead of a trailer; for that, check last weeks post. The thing is, her words send chills through me each time I listen to them. She claims the one thing she can’t have is a soul. I struggle with this: why?? What is this “soul” of which we speak? (Yeah, I’m a ginger, so maybe I’m biased…) It’s it biological or is it based on our emotions and who we grow up to be? Looking at Leo and Marcus, I’m fairly certain Marcus has a soul, while I can’t be sure if Leo does. He’s self absorbed and doesn’t care about his father, treating him and his belongings as if they are only there for his use. Marcus, by contrast, cares and even cries when something happens to Carl. So is Chloe right that she doesn’t have a soul merely because she is a machine? Can a machine have more soul than man, if it’s capable of deciding for itself? And is it ok for me to even say “it” when referring to a machine? This is the concept sitting comfortably at the heart of the game.
To enhance the Chloe/Marcus connection, upon completion of the game, Chloe realizes she wants her freedom and, yes, even though she’s the face of the loading screen, she asks if I would allow her to be free. Look, I didn’t want her to go, but how could I deny her? What right did I have? Sure, it’s a game, and I bought the game, and I should be able to enjoy it, but I enjoy it when a moral dilemma is posed that I have to really look at and I didn’t feel I could hold her there just because I didn’t want her to be gone. So I accepted her request and freed her. She thanks me, and leaves. I launched the game the next day to replay the final mission (for North’s sake among others… stay tuned next week for that one). And what did I discover? She was still gone! The game didn’t lie to me: it said she wanted her freedom and she really is gone. Chloe, my friend who asks me things at the start of every round and who even invited me to a survey, left me alone. Somehow the game felt colder now. I’ll miss my friend.
I am absolutely stunned by how insanely good this game was. The aforementioned survey was something I found fascinating, especially since I got to see the percentages of the population that agreed and disagreed with me. I have a very good friend who debates these very questions with me now and then and I think she’d be of the same outcomes on most of the questions. I might have to give her the survey. In the meantime, I’ll continue to ponder if a machine can have a soul and if they are capable of feelings. I don’t know if I am knowledgeable enough to know the answer but I’m certainly willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. (I’ve even started to wake Alexa just to wish her good morning!)
Stay tuned next week for the last character. In the meantime, let me introduce you to Chloe. ML