De­ci­sions abound in Planet Of The Apes: Last Fron­tier

Games Master - - Upfront -

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.

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