The Detail

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
The Detail Game Poster Image
Gritty, violent crime drama barely scratches plot surface.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

There are takeaways at end of each chapter by news clippings, meant to shed moral light on your actions, but it highlights fact there may be no real "moral" choices, even when you're trying to do the right thing. All pragmatic but complicated.

Positive Role Models & Representations

It's a dog-eat-dog criminal world, where police are only slightly less corrupt, uncaring than criminals they're trying to catch.

Ease of Play

Simple controls, but sometimes noticeably, strangely very slow. 

Violence

Brutal shootings, depictions of violence, blood, gore, references to torture make this a pretty sordid game.

Sex

References to lewd acts being performed on underage girls, rape, used condoms, plenty of unsavory characters making "jokes" about filthy things.

Language

Lots of profanity in both anger, casual conversation.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug deals, meetings in bars, drunks getting sick, drug addicts getting sick, smoking all routine parts of this game.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Detail is a downloadable, episodic adventure with multiple protagonists in a story whose content is not suitable for children. You play as a grizzled old-school cop and also an informant goaded back into a life of crime. There are lots of choices you're presented with making and a finite period of time to decide what to do. You'll have to back up the reasons why as you investigate a murder and, with your other character, try to work your way back into the criminal underground to aid the police. Given the subject matter, there's plenty here that you shouldn't expose younger children to, from lots of mature language to substance use and abuse and lots of violent, graphic situations.

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What's it about?

In THE DETAIL, you play as a pair of characters, both with different stakes and involvement in the investigation of a brutal gangland murder: a disgruntled veteran cop and an ex-con trying to keep his family from danger. How you carry yourself in both roles affects how smoothly the investigation goes and what happens to the people around you. There are a steady stream of difficult decisions posed to you without obvious right or wrong answers -- only the decisions you make and owning the consequences and all their unforeseen ripples later. The game is episodic, with its story spread across three separately downloadable (now all available) episodes.

Is it any good?

This crime drama starts off strong and inspired, an interesting mix of interactive graphic novel and more conventional point-and-click adventure game but quickly becomes oversimplified and paper-thin. For example, although it claims to be heavily inspired by the HBO series The Wire, it doesn't seem to know how to show its deep appreciation beyond some shallow and repeated references to corruption, racism, and other systemic problems in a city. Although the stakes are high, the consequences of your actions are intended more for you to ponder after the game is done: At the end of each chapter, unsourced news clippings give you statistics about the choices you made and how they echo real-world stats about sex trafficking in the United States and central and Eastern Europe. But the characters you interact with whose lives intersect with these statistics are largely treated as footnotes on your way to get achievements and wrap up the case -- they don't linger or lend you more empathy or indulge your honest curiosity. 

That means the rest of the game is a nuts-and-bolts investigation, with the standard procedures of a familiar adventure game. You poke around environments, see what you can find, and make decisions on how to proceed from there. Not that it's all bad; this can actually be pretty fun and rewarding in an adventure game setup: Midway through the first episode, you and your partner have to gain entry to a person of interest's property. You can kick his door down, illegally go through his mail, or head back and go through his trash to learn about correspondences he's had with his lawyer and then intimidate his attorney at the door. There's definitely some cleverness in this game, and the brainy portions are offset by the twitchier chase scenes and shoot-outs, but it isn't quite as smart as it thinks it is, with the thinnest lessons and explorations being given to some pretty heavy subject matter. It's worth a look, but don't expect to come away with a changed life view about crime or criminals -- which The Detail seems to be trying to help give players.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games. Would The Detail work if the content that was included in this game weren't so graphic?

  • Talk about criminal informants. How do they not get caught? What's the line for informants to stay on the right side of the law when trying to solidify their criminal contacts and relationships?

  • Why do the police sometimes bend the rules or laws to investigate crimes and apprehend suspects? Is that a lesser crime than what the criminals do?

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