Decisions abound in Planet Of The Apes: Last Frontier
Planet Of The Apes is enough of a phenomenon now that if you use the acronym ‘POTA’, then people may just know what you’re talking about. Three hit films and nigh-on $2bn later, it was inevitable that a game would follow. But with Planet Of The Apes: Last Frontier, debut developer Imaginati isn’t content to slap the POTA licensing on the trendy genre du jour and claim its paycheque. This is a super-cinematic interactive drama, incorporating a clever multiplayer element that’s unlike anything we’ve quite seen before. Last Frontier takes place after civilisation’s collapse following the simian flu pandemic. Switching between the perspectives of a young simian in a rugged ape tribe and the leader of an agrarian group of humans, it’s an adventure where every choice, snarl, and uncouth chest-beat can affect who lives, who dies, and how things ultimately pan out.
It looks great, as you’d expect from a game made with the help of Imaginarium, Andy Serkis’ mo-cap and performance-capture company (which has worked on the POTA movies and The Force Awakens, among others). The mo-cap is done using the exact same tech used for films, while Steve Kniebihly, director of Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, has taken the directorial helm. There’s serious cinematic gravitas behind the scenes, and it comes across in front of the camera (even if our hands-on suggested it still needs some visual polishing).
Though ‘hands-on’ is a bit of a misnomer, given that Last Frontier removes movement control from the players’ hands, leaving them only the crucial decisions to make. In our time with the game, these entailed stealing cattle from humans when playing as the apes, then, as the humans, calming tensions in the group as they argued over whether or not to torture an ape for information. Classic moral conundrums.
Perhaps most intriguing is the multiplayer. Up to four people can play simultaneously, turning each choice into a decision-bycommittee (it’s Playlink-compatible for PS4, so smartphones will suffice as controllers). If there’s an equal split over a course of action, then you need to discuss among yourselves which is best. Unless, that is, the player with the rotating ‘tiebreaker’ card decides to overrule everyone and make the decision they want.
“Up to four people can play, turning each choice into a decision-by-committee”
Another interesting multiplayer mechanic surfaced during our hands-on. As the apes, we had a timed prompt to shoot a human trying to flee on horseback. In such situations, even one player pressing the button executes the action. We can already hear the screams of ‘ Don’t shoot!’ during rowdy multiplayer sessions, and gasps as one person goes rogue to use their tiebreaker against the consensus.
The lack of movement controls may prove divisive, but Last Frontier deserves credit for trying to harness the social nature of interactive adventures. In so doing, it’s playing its part in evolving a challenging genre – which is more than you can say of most movie tie-ins.
We, for one, welcome our new simian overlords. We’ve spent enough time looking at Twitter to be acclimatised to the, erm, mud-slinging.
Most of the action takes places in rural north-eastern America, because lord forbid people seek out somewhere warm and pleasant post-apocalypse.