These days, if a game was being made that’s based upon a movie or TV show, it usually launches within a year of the source – in order to ride on the hype and active fanbase for the IP. However, Microïds surprised us not too long ago by announcing Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo, a new interactive adventure game freely inspired by the 1958 classic Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name. I’ve personally not watched the original film yet, something I’m planning on doing tonight, but I believe the game takes the concept of the film and uses that to create a truly unique narrative and experience, rather than a 1:1 retelling of the same story.
The developers behind this incredible immersive thriller are Pendulo Studios, the team behind titles such as Blacksad and the Yesterday series. However, Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is different to their previous games, feeling more like Life is Strange than a modernised 3D point-and-click game, focusing mainly on narrative storytelling than puzzles and exploration. Also, as stated above, Microïds are the publisher, a studio that needs no introduction to fans of immersive 3D adventure and old-school point and click games.
I’ve just finished playing through Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo, watching as the credits roll at the end of the eleven-hour experience. I was hooked, only stopping in order to get some sleep, it was full of surprises, suspense, mystery, and intrigue, it’s been a while since I’ve been unable to figure out what’s actually going on until the game shows me…
You begin the game as Ed Miller, a published author who has awoken on the side of a road next to a set of skid marks. Despite being unable to recall the events which occurred shortly before waking up, you do remember being in a car with your wife and daughter, the car which is now overturned at the bottom of the ravine. As if that’s not bad enough, you spot a familiar figure on the nearby bridge, positioning themselves atop the barrier as they prepare to jump! Unable to save them (whether real or just your imagination), the event has left you traumatised and bedridden due to a severe case of vertigo.
Why is Ed confined to his bed and not being questioned about the death of his wife and child? Upon further inspection, there is no sign of any bodies or blood within the vehicle. There’s also no photographs or witnesses who can back up Ed’s story about the two victims. Is he going mad, maybe it’s a side-effect of his condition, or did something happen whilst he was unconscious prior to the incident? Either way, nothing is clear anymore, his memories are corrupted and misleading, he’s having trouble determining what’s reality or fiction – nobody believes him, yet he refuses to let go of what he determines to be the ‘truth’.
In an effort to heal and stabilise Ed’s condition, his old friend hires a psychiatrist who performs hypnotherapy as part of her recovery process. She speaks with Ed in order to hear how he perceived his memories of past events, followed by delving into his subconscious in order to untangle the truth from the rose-tinted lies. However, in order to discover what happened a few weeks ago, you must go back to when you were a child and try to find the source of the vertigo condition.
As the game progresses, you take control of various characters. You’ll run the therapy sessions as Julia, replay memories as Ed, investigate as Nick (the sheriff), and see things from a different perspective via a fourth character. At times it felt confusing, but everything eventually is answered and put into context as the various stories and memories come together.
Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is a third-person interactive adventure, focusing on storytelling and the narrative rather than puzzles and action. If I was to liken it to previous games, I’d say it’s akin to the Quantic Dreams titles but without the branching pathways. That’s right, this game is a linear experience with no deviation from the main storyline (from what I could see). There are moments where you can go for a wander and either interact with objects or enter a new location to have a nosey around, but it just leads to a change in dialogue and/or responses you can give when talking to someone in the same scene.
However, this isn’t a negative point, the game isn’t trying to advertise itself as a puzzle game or 3D point-and-click adventure, such as Beyond a Steel Sky, it’s an interactive thriller based upon the concept from the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. The game is very cinematic and well-scripted, it’s like you’re watching a film that you’re in control of at certain times. Plus, there are gameplay elements within the experience, such as when you’re analysing the memories within hypnosis in order to push aside the lies and traumatically suppressed truths.
Returning to Quantic Dreams, there are a number of ‘controller interactions’ throughout the game, similar to those seen in titles from the aforementioned developer. For example, it may indicate to push one or two sticks in a certain direction to pick something up or open a door, maybe push up then rotate the stick to unscrew something. Most of these let you take your time, but there are some which have a time limit on them, resulting in a failure or stumble if you’re too slow or press the wrong button. Sadly, there are no accessibility options to disable the timed events for those who struggle to react fast enough.
As stated previously, one of the key gameplay mechanics of Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo has to be the hypnotherapy sessions. After talking to Ed, and playing out his memories as an interactive adventure, you’ll follow this up by placing him within a trance as he recalls the events in a different light. To analyse them further, you skip through the shortened version – like a videotape – and observe key moments by taking control of a semi-naked Ed as you wander around and interact with various people and objects. Doing this allows you, as the therapist, to determine the truth behind what was really said and done at the time.
For example, when jumping into the memories of your childhood, you recall being a pirate or a KGB agent, seeking out treasure and spying on the enemies under the command of your father and imaginary friends. However, are you hiding the actual events behind your creative imagination, suppressing the truth because it’s too hard to come to terms with, or are you really the murderous psychopath those around you are beginning to believe?
Each chapter has multiple memories to dive into, often leading you to questions without answers and sometimes leaving you in suspense as the game shifts over to another character whilst leaving you on a cliffhanger. But, as I said previously, everything is eventually answered and explained, it’s just not always right away – you’ll piece things together by seeing things from a different perspective, time, or character’s story.
Despite not having multiple pathways to venture down or a dynamic story, there’s a lot going on in Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo behind the scenes. Agendas, events, and personalities change as you uncover hidden truths and view things from a different perspective. The way everything comes together is paced really well, keeping you guessing right until the final scene (which I would have never guessed!). Also, some of the revelations you uncover are quite disturbing and unexpected, constantly keeping you on the edge of your seat with suspense.
First up, I initially had an issue with the game running correctly, displaying rather severe visual defects and glitches. However, my PC setup is old, an i7 2600k with a GeForce GTX780Ti. So, I opted to install and stream it from my mother’s laptop, which is an i7 with a GeForce 1650 GPU, and it worked perfectly. So, unlike me, ensure your setup meets the minimum specs suggested on the store page to avoid any technical issues!
Issues aside, the game looks and ran great on the laptop. If you’re familiar with the developers’ Yesterday series, the character models are very similar with their almost realistic appearance. They’re all nicely animated and every one is unique, with no cloned designs from what I could see. The lipsyncing wasn’t the greatest, but that may have just been due to the streaming setup I was using. There isn’t a lot of locations to visit, as most of the memories and present-time events take place at two houses, but they’re all well-designed and interesting – you also have full control of the camera when you’re walking around, allowing you to look everywhere.
In terms of the audio, I loved the voice acting and the music. There were a few instances of inconsistent volume levels, with some characters almost shouting their lines in a scene (one of which was quite funny where one person says they’re investigating a death and the other unintentionally belts out “it’s a murder”), and the main character gets his line wrong twice. This error is regarding the same subject, he’s talking about a book called ‘The Son of the Red Corsaire’, but he says Black instead of Red. The subtitles and another scene, later on, says Red, but this particular scene seems to have slipped under the developer’s radar!
On a side note, the game isn’t only in English, there’s also voice acting in French, German and Spanish, as well as subtitles in all of these and both Italian and Russian.
Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo was much more immersive and suspenseful than I thought it would be. Rather than taking the classic movie and creating a 1:1 carbon copy with puzzles, the developers have created an interactive thriller based upon the concept yet unique in its narrative. Although there are no branching pathways or multiple endings, the story is brilliantly crafted and well-paced, requiring you to analyse all of Ed’s memories and experience everyone’s perspectives in order to piece together the truth and reality.
If you love interactive stories, such as the ‘Walking Dead’ era of games from Telltale or the Life is Strange series, then you’ll really enjoy Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo. It’s not a puzzle game like the Yesterday series or Beyond a Steel Sky, but it’ll quickly have you hooked thanks to its immersive gameplay and story.
Alfred Hitchcock - Vertigo£24.99
- - A brilliant story which imitates Hitchcock's style within a new unique story
- - Great voice acting and music throughout
- - Keeps you guessing right until the final scene
- - You play as multiple characters from different perspectives
- - Learning the truth via hypnosis is a fun mechanic
- - The game is essentially an interactive thriller, so if you're looking for puzzles then you may be disappointed
- - If you have an older GPU (like my 780Ti), you may experience visual issues
- - There are some inconsistencies with the audio levels and words spoken (compared to the subtitles)