REVIEW / The Detail Ep 1: Where the Dead Lie (PC)

 

Episodic games have recently become the go to model for smaller game studios that are looking to get their product into the hands of gamers. And it seems that those gamers have embraced this trend of getting just a short slice of a game for a fraction of the price of a big budget title.  The folks over at Rival Games have recently embraced this technique for storytelling with their new game, The Detail.  Being a small studio located in the heart of Turku, Finland, the episodic formula allows them the freedom to play by their own rules while at the same time, crafting an experience that is fun and telling a story that is gritty and dark.

 

The Detail 1

Detective Moore (left) discusses a case with his partner Tyrone DeShawn (right).

 

The Detail highlights the exploits of jaded police detective Reginald “Reggie” Moore, a veteran gumshoe who has grown frustrated with the police department’s inability to curb crime, and former confidential informant Joseph “Joe” Miller,who is hesitantly dragged back into the criminal underworld at Moore’s insistence.  Taking on the role of both of these characters, the player will be tasked with investigating criminal activity and scenes of murder, arresting suspects and interrogating them for information, all while trying to navigate the pitfalls of a crime-ridden city where every choice can hold significant repercussions.

Inspired by classic adventure games like Escape from Monkey Island and The Walking Dead as well as TV cop dramas like The Wire, The Detail promises to raise the bar for dramatic interactive narrative.  It is an adventure game that takes the player to the streets of a city ruled by gang bangers and drug pushers.  It combines the elements of point-and-click and decision making in the form of some QTEs and interaction with NPCs to create an experience that feels new with the promise of choices that will be carried through to the remaining episodes.  The player is free to navigate the streets of the city and to interact with its denizens in any way that they see fit in order to solve a murder for one and to make up for past deeds for another.

 

The Detail 2

You’ll only have seconds in some situations to make a decision on how to proceed during QTEs.

 

The visuals in The Detail will be an aspect of the game that will definitely draw you in on first glance.  Done in a really cool graphic novel art style and presented in a manner that comic books are now done for perusal on tablets, it creates an atmosphere that is at times dark and noir-ish, with just the right amount of tension to keep the player engaged in the story.  Panels will swoop onto the screen as actions takes place with the camera closing in on a pair of shifty eyes or just focusing in on a particular action taking place like the gouging of eyes or feet running to get away.  The graphic novel format really lends to the subject matter with some scenes done in black and white and others done in color.  This helps to set this game apart from other recent adventure games that also use the episodic configuration in that it creates its own identity and its own category in the episodic game space.

The voice overs in The Detail are surprisingly good even if the written dialog can be a little rote at times.  The voice actors do a very good job of bringing the tension and emotion through to the player even though the writing is predictable and sometimes a bit ridiculous.  Even still, the story churns along at a good pace and I never felt lost in what I was doing and why I was doing it.  The music in the game is also a high point as it helps to set the dark tone of the city and of the motivations of the two characters that you get to play as.  Sound effects are spot on and bring this dying city to life, so to speak, so much so that I can’t wait for the next episode to release.

 

The Detail 3

You’ll have to thoroughly investigate crime scenes in order to find all the clues and solve the cases.

 

While I enjoyed my time as Detective Moore and, former criminal turned family-man, Joe Miller, it seemed like it just wasn’t a long enough introduction experience for the $5.99 price tag.  I took me exactly two hours to play through this first episode and I have to admit that it felt like it was over way too soon.  Even the episodes of The Walking Dead take between three to four hours to complete for roughly the same price so there is no excuse for the first episode of The Detail to be so short.  That being the case, I think that it would be a mistake to miss out on the next episode just to see where this franchise is going next.  If they can tie in all of your decisions and have them truly carry over to each episode, then I think that Rival Games may have a hit on their hands.  Only time will tell.  [7.5].

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