The latest in a trend of iconoclastic simulation games, Accident adds a boldly meta twist to the genre by putting players in the role of an accident investigator replaying VR recreations of vehicular mishaps.
At first this seems like a strange choice — why not simply cast players as the paramedics who treat the injured and then switch to the investigators who determine the fault of various parties?
Accident wants the gameplay to feel more immediate, which is why the main focus of play is from the viewpoint of a random civilian who happens across the violent crash and has to stabilize the injured before the paramedics arrive. Of course, having the same random civilian assist at a dozen different crashes would stretch credulity, hence the ‘crash investigator re-enacting past events via VR’ framing that Accident uses.
While I can’t speak to the realism of the first-person first aid, the careful, methodical presentation wins points for verisimilitude. Players examine the injured for wounds, listen for breathing, and (when necessary) perform CPR.
The CPR minigame could use a little revamping — breathing for the victim is accomplished by holding down a button and moving the mouse up and back down again. It works fine, but to start the next breath players are forced to let go of the button and re-click on the victim’s mouth, for no reason I can fathom. I understand that the mouse movement is simulating breathing in and out, but what’s the re-clicking for? In real life first responders don’t have to pause to find their patient’s mouths again every time they finish a breath.
Despite this minor annoyance, Accident does a great job of making players feel like they’re intervening in life-or-death situations. The one level currently available in the demo features a three-car accident, a fire, a dead body, and a man who’s been ejected from his vehicle by the force of an impact. It’s a bloody, frightening scene staged with utter faithfulness to driving conditions, and it’s the kind of situation that would make anyone ease off on the gas the next time they’re on a country road.
The crash investigation gameplay is simple, but in-depth enough to get the player involved in the mini-narrative that occurred prior to their arrival on the scene. It’s a simple matter of walking around the area and noting points of interest relevant to the accident, and then marking them on a timeline. Get the timeline in the right order, and the level ends successfully.
There’s satisfaction to be found in figuring out exactly what led to the tragic circumstance the player stumbled upon, especially when the level ends with an epilogue detailing the fate of the various parties in the aftermath of their awful day.
While what I’ve outlined so far makes for a satisfactory demo experience, the biggest problem (and it’s one I hope the devs focus on) is forcing players to repeat their actions until they get them right.
Because the player’s character is inside an in-game VR simulation, failure is not an option — they have to save everyone that the ‘real’ person did, or they’re given a game over and told to ‘rewind’ back to the start.
Accident‘s timelines are so tight and victims’ conditions degrade so rapidly that a single mistake can cause a game over five minutes later. In practice, this means the player can look forward to their first attempt at a level being nothing more than a scouting run to get the lay of the land before they inevitably rewind and try to do everything in the proper order. My feeling is that requiring players to re-do every level two or three times before they’ll be able to complete it might be a dealbreaker for some.
Despite the issue of forced repetition, I’m interested to see the full version of Accident — it’s an interesting premise and the execution is largely solid. As long as the developers are able to come up with another dozen or so accidents as interesting as the one in the demo, it’ll definitely be worth a look when it’s finished.
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