Happy To Do A Double
HIGH Seeing familiar locales in London.
LOW Why can’t I skip sections?
WTF ‘Prease Forrow me’…
Full Motion Video games had their day in the 90s, and titles like Sewer Shark, NightTrap and Ripper made sure that no one was excited to play them.
Limited in terms of interactivity and embarrassing in terms of fidelity, not even casting Christopher Walken as a lead was going to save the style. I remember groaning as I watched the canned animations of Mad Dog Mcree, clicking on real actors with my reticule and then waiting a split second for them to react. None but the criminally insane wanted to see a resurgence in the genre.
Fortunately, no one bothered to tell Wales Interactive that, so here they are in 2017 with Late Shift, their second FMV entry (after The Bunker) and it’s pretty damn good.
The game stars Matt, a valet in a late-night car park with a penchant for mathematics. Matt gets involved in a carjacking that snowballs out of control into a heist that includes double and triple crosses. This is relayed through live-action video that requires the player to make split-second decisions at key points by selecting from multiple choices about how Matt will respond to any given circumstance.
This new approach is a welcome one — it helps keep the pacing much tighter and more in line with modern adventure games in the Telltale vein. However, Unlike those recent titles, Late Shift seems to have remarkable breadth in how differently each scenario can play out. Given that Late Shift is not episodic, the dev team clearly spent a lot of time writing, storyboarding and shooting scenes with varying outcomes. Even though the plot is still hauled back to a set path at certain points, there’s some freedom for exploration.
For example, in one playthrough I had Matt refusing to help out in the heist and attempt to make an escape. By doing so, I saw areas that are never visited unless that choice is explicitly made. In another, I made Matt go to the police instead of agreeing to the shady dealings, and a separate part of the story broke out with the cops fingering Matt as the mastermind of the heist. This makes the idea of seeing the stated seven different endings far more appealing as there’s a good opportunity to see new things and end up with different results. With a run lasting between two to three hours, it’s in the sweet spot of being long enough to be satisfy, but not so long that a second playthrough seems like a chore.
Not content with making their own mark on modern adventure game formulas, Late Shift also eschews older FMV titles’ shaky budgets by keeping production values and acting quality high. Strung together as a singular narrative, Late Shift might easily pass as a UK television show. It gets a bit hammy in places and the central relationship between Matt and the female lead seems a little forced given how little time they get to know each other, but it manages to tell the tale with enough conviction that I cared about how things would turn out. The Daedalus Encounter this is not.
Late Shift‘s only real struggle is in failing to streamline the experience on subsequent playthroughs. Given that Until Dawn solved the problem of repeating content by offering a branching chapter select menu, it’s a shame that a similar feature hasn’t been included here. The lack of this option (combined with the fact that none of the videos are skippable) means that it’s annoying to sit through the same sections of dialogue multiple times while waiting to select a new option — after seeing certain bits of footage twice, I didn’t want to see it ever again. Unfortunately, seeing all the endings will require a player to sit through Matt’s monologue about statistical probability at least seven times.
Even with the issue of repetition hanging over its head, Late Shift remains a remarkable accomplishment and I recomend it without reservation. It’s a solidly entertaining FMV game that surpasses many modern adventure titles, and it kept me hanging on to the plot through every scene, constantly wanting to know if Matt was going to make it out of London alive.
— AJ Small
Disclosures: This game is developed by CtrlMovie and published by Wales Interactive. It is currently available on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Mac. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox One. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed 4 times, seeing 3 of the 7 endings. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, no information could be found for this game. The current rating on the PEGI system is 18+ and has profuse swearing, occasional violence and mature themes. I would not recommend it for children under the age of 15.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All information is text-based and there is no reliance on audio cues to play this game. Of note is that the subtitles don’t exactly match what is being said (the gist is the same) so it may be confusing for some.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. However, they are simple enough that it is unlikely required.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.