With each passing year, video games become more and more lifelike, and start to resemble movies even more than they already did. This never used to be a thing decades ago, because we would always end up exaggerating when we called games realistic, even if they did look amazing for the time. Nowadays, though, many of the interactive experiences we enjoy utilize facial and body scanning tech that allows developers to create lifelike human beings in the form of playable characters. Not to mention titles that use real life actors, such as Until Dawn and Man of Medan. That said, not all video games look lifelike because of technical advancements. Some feel like movies because they mostly are, and that particular genre (known as full motion video, or FMV) has been around for quite some time.
The latest in a long line of FMV games is The Complex, which comes to us from Little Jade Productions, Good Gate Media, and Wales Interactive, as well as director Paul Raschid. You may not be familiar with anyone mentioned, but folks who worked on this title were also responsible for The Bunker and Late Shift, both of which shared similar qualities. This effort is more advanced, though, and is very much like a playable movie. It also stars someone that fans of the hilarious Canadian TV show, Letterkenny, will be familiar with. That is, Michelle Mylett.
Those who purchase The Complex expecting intricate gameplay systems and innovative user control will not get either one, and may end up disappointed. To put it simply, this is almost more movie than game. There are those who’ll shun it for that reason and that’s their choice, but to do so would be to pass up a good, well made and interesting interactive experience. While this release is very limited in its gameplay offerings, it does its genre proud.
Things begin on the beach of a made up country, wherein Dr. Amy Tennant (Mylett) and her partner, Dr. Rees Wakefield, are attempting to save the lives of two very ill individuals. We’re introduced to a panic stricken scene, and soon learn that there is only enough medicine to (potentially) save one of the two lives. Thus, our conversations with the sick individuals, which allow us to be honest and blunt or hide the truth about their predicaments, lead to a challenging first choice right out of the gate.
Following this unfortunate situation, things advance further and move into a boardroom, wherein Dr. Tennant is briefing a group of investors about her new, potentially game changing technology. You see, Amy is a researcher who’s been employed by rich industrialist Nathalie Kensington to develop medial nanocells. She’s succeeded, too, which is why she’s seeking investor support to further development. What she doesn’t know, though, is that something has happened that requires her technology immediately. While the player is answering investor questions, and dealing with a rude personality, the story is churning by showing a sick woman on a subway train. Moments later, Amy is called away and rushed to The Complex, which is the name of Kensington’s massive and incredibly high tech laboratory and enclosing facility, which is located on a large plot of land in London, England.
The Complex, as you’ll learn, is a place that is so secure nothing gets out without being allowed out. That is especially true of the work that is done in the underground lab, which is so highly protected that its entrance is vacuum protected. That way, germs and biological agents cannot escape.
Most of this game takes place there, in the lab, as Dr. Tennant and her peers attempt to figure out why the woman — who’s been quarantined in a special plastic enclosure — is sick. I’ll stop there, for fear of spoiling things.
Things play out in movie format, with two options appearing on screen every time the player needs to make a choice. This occurs pretty often, and it’s player choice that dictates which of the several endings you’ll get. These endings promote replay value, especially since the game is only about two hours long at most. Then again, it is billed as a movie-like experience, and most movies are about two hours long themselves.
When a decision needs to be made, things slow down and the player is allowed to quickly think before selecting something. These choices can lead to the death of certain characters, and can also endanger Amy. I’ll be honest and admit that I made a dumb decision right at the end of my playthrough, which led to me getting a less than desirable ending. I’ll go back and play through the story again, though, because I enjoyed it more than I expected to. The last FMV game that I played was Simulacra, which I found to be merely okay.
Examples of some of the choices you’ll have to make include whether or not to give somebody medicine, which person to focus your attention to, and whether to be careful or a more forceful when opening things. Some are more advanced than that, but to include actual descriptions would risk spoiling the game for those who have interest in playing it. At other times, you’ll be navigating dialogue conversations, and choosing whether to answer calls or not.
While this is all seemingly simple from a gameplay perspective, it’s well executed and feels very modern. The video quality is quite nice, but it goes without saying that a lot hinges on the writing and acting when it comes to these things. Thankfully, The Complex is well-written, mostly well-acted (I wasn’t a huge fan of Kensington) and has a lead actress who steals the show. Michelle Mylett is good in Letterkenny, and she’s really good here. As the central cog in the proverbial wheel that is The Complex, she’s very believable and likeable. I applaud her for taking this role seriously and giving it everything she could.
Good sound design also complements very solid directing, resulting in a very modern feeling
film game. Also, given what’s going on in the world today, the subject matter is quite current and poignant. Some may want to wait until the Coronavirus pandemic is over before playing this as a result, while others will find this the perfect game to play during the outbreak.
I find it easy to recommend this game, and came out more impressed by it than I’d ever expected to be. I had high hopes for The Complex, and it has been on my radar since seeing who stars in it, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. This is a genre that I don’t have a ton of experience with and have found to be hit or miss, but in this case, it’s definitely more hit than miss. Sure, some caveats like a two hour runtime and limited gameplay are factors, but that’s part of the genre. This thing is also slightly more than the price of one movie ticket, so it’s not going to hurt your wallet too much.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
- Well made
- Michelle Mylett steals the show, and really makes this all believable
- Interesting storyline and very poignant subject matter
- Limited gameplay, as per its genre
- Only two hours in length
- A bit expensive for only two hours of game