Friday 21 September 2018

Detroit Become Human review: When robots have human rights too

Detroit: Become Human (PS4) ★★★★ Age: 18+

Detroit: Become Human
Detroit: Become Human
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Androids, they're just like oppressed black communities, aren't they? The latest pseudo-social cinematic production from French auteur David Cage couldn't be any more transparent in its parallels if it tried.

But while Cage can be heavy-handed and in thrall to the Hollywood school of directing, his big-budget experimental psycho-dramas explore topics that few others do. In Detroit, we follow the struggles of three androids in a near-future society that uses them as hired help and, inevitably, treats them poorly.

They're forced to travel in separate compartments on buses, get roundly abused at every turn and, despite their emotional complexity, are just one whim away from being recycled or trashed. As in HBO's Westworld or Channel 4's Humans, eventually they rebel and try to break the chains.

As always, Cage likes to mix the mundane - forcing the player to perform routine tasks such as cleaning - with the profound (rapid decisions that could cost the androids or humans their lives). But here he also pulls back the curtain on his trickery with a flowchart showing how your choices altered the narrative. It's even open to you to go back and play out different scenarios immediately, which punctures any tension you might feel about weighing a decision.

Still, Cage is unafraid to tackle grave themes - one scene involves rescuing (or not) a child from an abusive father. His graphics team conjure an expressive cast of motion-captured humans and synths who, despite the sometimes-clunky script, manage to be enthralling viewing via subtle technical achievements. Detroit may not fully meet Cage's vision of an interactive movie but it's a compelling experience that's just a little too contrived and derivative for its own good.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

(Switch/PS4/XO) ★★★★ Age: 12+

Spun off from an obscure 90s comic, this belated RPG tie-in evokes that colourful style with a rip-roaring if not wholly original turn-based romp. Your posse of explorers who crash-land on a mysterious island hew to the usual archetypes but it's the terrific battle system that captures the imagination.

Ranged against a motley band of enemies - from anthropomorphic slimes to evil wolf men - the Battle Chasers dole out a blend of physical and magical attacks. Certain offensive moves generate overcharge energy that can be spent on devastating special spells.

Loading times can be a drag but Battle Chasers' somewhat hackneyed parts add up to a polished dungeon-crawler that makes it worth of consideration.

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