With the success of 2015’s Her Story, there seems to be somewhat of a resurgence of the FMV game genre.
There’s been the wonderfully hammy Contradiction, for example, and also Splendy Games’ brilliant The Bunker. And whilst some people debate whether or not they should be considered video games at all, I really don’t care. All I know is that they’re interactive and provide thoroughly entertaining experiences. In fact, the latest FMV-centric game to be released, Late Shift, developed by CtrlMovie, is one of the most engaging experiences I’ve had the pleasure of encountering so far this year.
"Late Shift, developed by CtrlMovie, is one of the most engaging experiences I’ve had the pleasure of encountering so far this year."
With its slick introduction, Late Shift wastes no time in putting you in the driving seat of all the decisions set to shape the evening of a mathematically-minded car park attendant called Matt. Kidnapped and forced to take part in a robbery, the choices you make for him affect the story on the fly, forcing you to think and act quickly. To that effect, how this crime thriller plays out is up to you, and I really do mean that. Do you do as you’re told and go along with your captors’ plan, or try to thwart their efforts whenever possible? You are in control, and when things go from bad to worse, your sense of morality will be tried as the stakes are raised.
As stories go, there’s nothing really original or ground-breaking contained within Late Shift, but it’s a solid effort nonetheless. The generic plot is buoyed by a few twists and turns that manage to keep you on your toes, gluing you to the edge of your seat until the credits roll, despite the odd inconsistency and moment of silliness. It helps that cinematography is on point too, giving the production a quality feel. Shot on location in London, it has a dark and gritty quality to it that suits the story down to a T.
It’s nice to say that nearly all of the actors performing in Late Shift put in a mighty fine effort also. Joe Sowerbutts who plays the lead is both likeable and convincing in his role, successfully making you feel for his plight. On recollection, there was actually only one scene in which Late Shift let itself down – your entry into a Chinese restaurant which is met with some particularly poor acting and/or scripting. Suffice to say, it did little to squander my enjoyment of something in which you can tell many have put their heart and soul into.
If anything takes the shine off of what Late Shift sets out to achieve it’s the minor technical issues that it’s marred with. Scene changes are frequently accompanied by moments of stuttering or the odd graphical glitch, needlessly breaking your immersion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a major issue in any way, but it does prove to be irksome over time. Hopefully it’s something that can be eradicated with a patch post launch.
With seven endings and 14 chapters to discover, Late Shift’s brief running time of around one hour simply promotes you to re-engage with it again and again. The first time I sat down with it, I ended up playing through it three times in a row; impressed by just how much difference my choices made. I found entire chapters that I’d missed, witnessed scenes that had changed a great deal in tone, and uncovered a variety of outcomes that I could have never expected. Late Shift puts other similar experiences to shame with just how variable your playthrough can be.
"With its entertaining story that you have a surprising amount of control over, [Late Shift is] definitely a triumph in a genre that is steadily making a revival."
Of course, without any kind of roadmap to show you what routes you’ve explored and where you can make a different decision to experience something new, eventually you are going to tire of seeing the same scenes again and again. With over four hours of footage, I’m sure you’ll have had your money's worth before then though.
Released for about the same price as a cinema ticket, Late Shift is an impressive piece of interactive media that I heartily recommend you to buy. With its entertaining story that you have a surprising amount of control over, it’s definitely a triumph in a genre that is steadily making a revival. And if Late Shift sets the bar for production quality, I’ll be more than happy to see more titles released in a similar vein in the future.