PublisheR Bandai Namco Developer The Farm 51 Format Xbox One ETA 26 May 2017
above The game’s atmospheric visuals are amplified by a well-timed score and a carefully scripted internal monologue. At first glance this looks like any other shooter: a grizzly man, abandoned buildings, cool guns, a girl in peril… But then you wake up in a dank mental asylum with an odd contraption strapped to your head and a foggy recollection of what’s happened. To top it all off you’ve just started hallucinating.
To escape, you need to delve into your own memories while also investigating your surroundings, to figure out what happened and why you’ve ended up like this. Only some of what you see is real, and as you progress the game starts deliberately messing with your head – making you question everything you encounter.
While the main storyline was written within The Farm 51’s studio, all of the game’s dialogue was put together by the writers behind some of mental trickster Derren Brown’s infamous shows - Iain Sharkey and Stephen Long. Every line is purposeful, gently convincing you to do or feel something specific while also making you feel as though it’s all your own free will. You’re being subconsciously guided through the experience.
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The sound design plays a big part in that, with distant gunshots lending to the sense of uneasiness even though you aren’t in immediate danger. The voice of the protagonist, Black, thinking about his discoveries replaces your own inner monologue, and the music dips or becomes erratic during pivotal moments. With headphones on – the way it’s designed to be played – it becomes completely absorbing, and every note seems to hit at just the right point to elicit certain responses.
The core mechanic involves switching between your gun and a phone that contains various apps to help you on your way. There’s a scanner that finds evidence, a heat detector for tracing hot wires, a Map to show you where other people are and a UV light for picking up traces of DNA. This adds to the mysterious, troubling tone, as you can only hold one or the other at a time – you feel much safer when you’re holding your gun, but you won’t necessarily know where to go. Being forced to switch repeatedly keeps you feeling on edge, and never truly safe.
Possibly due to the small size of The Farm 51’s team, the handling isn’t great - there’s no jump, the scanning feature only works from specific angles and the environments are basic – but the ideas are intriguing. A lot of thought has gone into it, and that shows in the compelling desire the game inspires to move forward and solve its mysteries. The final thing will clock in at eight to 15 hours, and aims to take you through a range of emotions. The challenge facing it’s unique dev team will be retaining that sense of mystery throughout.
“You’re being subconsciously guided through the experience”