A Der­ren Brown-like thriller mak­ing all the right noises

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CONTENTS - Daniella Lu­cas Pub­lisheR Bandai Namco De­vel­oper The Farm 51 For­mat Xbox One ETA May 26 2017

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 lit­tle 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.

Hear and now

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”

above The game’s at­mo­spheric vi­su­als are am­pli­fied by a well-timed score and a care­fully scripted in­ter­nal mono­logue.

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