Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier is set between the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the War of the Planet of the Apes films; however, there is no direct connection to any of the movies from what I gather (I haven’t seen the latest film, but a quick search online suggests there is no link).
This narrative experience (note the fact I left out the word ‘game’) is an interesting one as it not only comes with full PlayLink support but also full support for the Dualshock 4 Controller – something none of the other PlayLink titles provides. I’ll get into the mechanics of the experience a little later as I’ll start with the positives first.
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier begins with a funeral for the leader of Millerton, a human settlement, who had died of the Simian Flu. You are introduced to his wife, our main protagonist, Jess Ross and her son Mark as they are laying his body into the ground. Jess becomes the new leader and tension is created between her and Luke Rainey, a fellow settler who wants to be the leader but has twice been overlooked during their elections.
The apes are being led by Khan and Clarence (the orangutang) and are currently hiding out near the human settlement. Winter is coming, food is short and emotions are all over the place with one of Khan’s sons wanting peace, one is a bit mentally challenged and the other wants nothing more than to kill all the humans. Whilst out searching for food the apes come into contact with the humans and this is where the experience truly begins.
You will flip between the humans and the apes throughout the experience, making decisions for many different characters. Some of these will change how people think of you, some will change the current situation and some will be the difference between life and death. One thing to be aware of, the story is about 90% set in stone, you are there to choose how you want this story to play out and how you want the various characters to act on screen.
I wouldn’t call this a game as it isn’t like Hidden Agenda where you have various gameplay elements and the occasional ‘hidden agenda’ to play out with your friends. Imagine a TellTale game where the movement is automatic and you only have two choices at each conversation point then you have thought of exactly what this experience is. Don’t get me wrong, the story is really good and the nods to the previous movies and the whole cinematic experiences are amazing, just don’t expect any ‘gameplay’ as such.
In terms of graphics and storytelling, this experience is phenomenal. The whole thing is basically a massive real-time cutscene within the Unreal 4 Engine which will cut and swap the story on the fly based on your decisions. As your playing it, it looks and feels like you are watching an actual movie rather than playing a game with the only difference being the choices. The story itself took me about five to six hours to watch on my first run-through which isn’t bad for a narrative experience. There are also multiple endings but no chapter select meaning you have to go through it all over again if you want to try different decisions.
There is a companion app you can download for this title which runs on your phone or tablet. The app gives you a brief summary of each of the main human and ape characters (which you can actually read without having the game if you wish too). The app itself, when being used in conjunction with the experience, doesn’t display the choices or even two boxes to pick the option you want – it basically emulates the PS4 controller, offering you the D-pad and the X and O buttons.
This game can be played with the app or the controller, which is most likely why it is simply emulating the controller – it doesn’t bring anything new or special, unlike the other PlayLink titles. It feels like PlayLink was added as a final decision, which is most likely true as it’s also out on PC and coming to Xbox in the future.
I personally played this on my own but I can’t see the multiplayer aspect being that entertaining. When the choices appear on the screen, you must all pick the same choice otherwise it will remain on the choice screen until someone changes their vote. When a QTE that requires you to press X appears, you must all press it within the time frame otherwise it isn’t counted.
There are a lot of choices, easily a few hundred, throughout the whole playthrough so I can’t imagine stopping at each one and arguing with other people over which choice to make. However, I can see the appeal of just using one controller and when a choice appears you just make a mutual agreement and select the option you all want to see. I remember many years ago owning a House on Haunted Hill Blu-ray which operated like that. You had choices throughout the film in which you chose who lived and who died – it didn’t change the story but it did add extra scenes and narrative, which is very similar to what is happening here.
First 10 minutes:
This is a great addition to any fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise as the story is both engaging and interesting. However, don’t expect actual ‘gameplay’, think of it more as a ‘choose your own adventure’ where 90% of the story is pre-written but you choose how they play out the scenes they are going to have.
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier
- Amazing graphics and cinematic shots
- Great voice acting and story
- A lengthy story (five to six hours)
- Can be played with a controller (no fear of your phone dying)
- Multiple endings and many trophies linked to choices will have you coming back for more
- No 'gameplay' outside of choosing one of two actions/dialogues and a simple QTE
- No chapter select for experimenting with choices
- No save option and no clear indication of when and where it saves up to
- The multiplayer aspect feels unnecessary and pointless
- PlayLink wasn't used to its full potential here, it offers a character guide but that's all