Detroit: Become Human has myriad issues, from how it ignorantly handles racial and class divides; its disturbing treatment of women; and its co-opting of historically significant events without context or reflection.
But one of my biggest problems with the game is one I’ve seen few people talk about. And that’s the matter of Sumo, the “dog” with human hands.
[Warning: Some light spoilers for Detroit: Become Human are below.]
Sumo belongs to Hank, the detective who co-stars in Detroit’s least offensive storyline. Connor, the cop android, checks in on Hank at his home during one chapter, after Hank fails to pick up the phone or return any of Connor’s messages. But because Hank just isn’t answering, Connor has to break in, and that involves tip-toeing past his sleeping, massive St. Bernard, Sumo.
It’s a very good name for a very, very large dog. But getting past Sumo isn’t the issue here. In fact, at that point in the chapter, I was pretty chill with Sumo. “He’s a cute dog!” I thought.
I was wrong. Later on, when Connor is sneaking around Hank’s house to learn more about his partner, he actually goes to pet Sumo — he wants to make a friend. Again: I get it. You want a wrestler-sized pup on your side. Also, petting a dog is good any and every time, baby.
But then the camera cuts to a shot from a lower angle, where we can see Sumo’s entire body for the first time. And just ... look at him.
Sumo is not a regular dog. He’s a dog whose paws do not belong to an animal. I mean, unless you consider human beings animals. Because those paws are human hands.
His claws look like fingers. They’re chubby, long fingers, with manicured nails to boot. Sumo has nicer hands than I do. Because his hands, like mine, are human.
It got me thinking: Maybe David Cage’s intention behind the title Detroit: Become Human had less to do with its free will-seeking androids and more to do with the fact that this tertiary character has already succeeded: Sumo has transcended his canine beginnings. He’s a homo sapien now. He walks among the human beings, freely and without prejudice. (Also, he does it on all fours.)
Thanks to Polygon news editor Mike McWhertor, we’ve fashioned a better cover for what could have been the optimal version of Detroit: Become Human. (Of course, we’d also request a title change to Dog: Become Human, but we’d take what we could get to make the real game less discomforting.)
None of the above makes Detroit any less of a disappointing, inconsistent, tonally troubling game, of course. But to ignore that even this dog — a good dog! — is messed up is to ignore just how deep Detroit’s problems run.