There’s nothing more entertaining than an interactive FMV game, choosing what actions and dialogue the on-screen characters perform and watching as the events play out in front of you. Over the years I’ve played many of these, such as The Shapeshifting Detective, Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier, and Hidden Agenda, some were CGI and some are full-motion video (FMV). This week I had the chance to play The Complex, the latest FMV interactive thriller from the publisher who has brought us a number of these titles, Wales Interactive.
I’ve played through this game about fifteen times so far, unlocked all nine endings, and obtained the platinum trophy. Each time I played it, I saw new things, discovered more dialogue, experienced alternative pathways, and chose to slap Rees each and every time the choice popped up! This is the beauty about combining a movie with gaming mechanics, it allows the viewer/gamer to choose their own narrative and alter the story in whichever way they wish – within limits.
So, let’s put on our protective gear and check out the thrilling story of The Complex…
The story within The Complex is very adaptive and branches out into numerous different pathways as you play and make various choices. However, the core concept and opening scenes are the same, there’s been a bio-weapon attack in London, delivered through the body of a young woman who was casually travelling on the tube when she started to cough blood and bleed from her eyes – as you do. Due to the threat, and very little which is known about whether it’s a virus, how it’s spread, or if it’s contagious, she’s quarantined immediately and sent to a secret lab for further research.
Dr. Amy Tenant is a brilliant scientist in the field of Nanocell Technologies, an employee of the same laboratory the ‘threat’ has been sent to. She had previously been treating victims of a chemical attack in the totalitarian state of Kindar, so has experience with contaminated patients. As such, Amy and her old partner, Rees, have been called in to find out what they can about this outbreak, see if it can be contained, and how it broke out to begin with. However, another situation crops up and they find themselves trapped within this isolated lab, unable to escape until they’ve completed their task.
Separated from the outside world via an oxygen-free barrier, you must both work together to uncover the answers you need in order to survive and get out before its too late. Who lives and who dies all depends on one thing – you – you’re the one pulling the strings, you mould the narrative, and you control the direction the events head in. The first time you play The Complex, you should only ask yourself one thing – “what would I do..?”
Have you ever played a Visual Novel before? They are ‘games’ in which you’re essentially reading a novel and picking a response or action every now and again in order to direct the story and change the narrative as it goes along. An FMV cinematic game is pretty much the same thing, only instead of you reading it like a novel, you’re watching it like a movie. The story itself is around 60-80 minutes (depending on the choices you make) and multiple playthroughs is a must – seriously, you can’t get the full experience with a single playthrough.
One of the great things about The Complex is the ‘Relationship Tracking’. This is a mechanic which is often used in Otome and dating Visual Novels, allowing you to see how favoured you are with the other people within the game, often deciding which busty lady you end up with in the final scene. However, in this game, the strength of your relationships opens up new scenes, different dialogue, new options, and certain peoples opinions changes crucial scenes based on the pathway you take. You can monitor this info at any point, you even get a trophy if you keep them all above 50%.
Similar to the Relationship Tracking, The Complex also monitors your own Personality, giving you a breakdown of what type of person you were at the end. Unlike the above though, this information doesn’t really affect the story or the options you’re presented with, it’s purely showing you how you played the game on your last run through. I would have liked it, at this point, to do a ‘Telltale game’ and show you how your choices matched with other players around the world, but it doesn’t. It’s all for your eyes only.
Does your choice matter?
Short answer: Yes, yes it does.
Longer answer: There are a lot of branches within The Complex, branches you probably don’t even realise are any different to what you saw before – but they are. For example, based on whether or not you’re liked by Rees, how Amy deals with certain situations will change, even though the options you have to pick from are the same either way. If he likes you then he’ll offer to help you out, if he doesn’t then Amy will have to perform whatever you tell her to do on her own.
Subtle things like this enhance the overall experience because it keeps continuity throughout and adapts to your Relationship status with the others.
The big changes, such as ones which dramatically alters the narrative and/or the ending you’re heading for, are seamlessly built within the narrative. There are two main routes you can go down once you get to a certain point, both of which then split into three or four alternative pathways based upon how you deal with the situations given to you and the Relationship levels at that point. As such, replaying the game and picking new choices at these crossroads is really interesting as it pretty much gives you a new perspective on things and pushes the story in drastic new directions.
Rewind or chapter skip?
No and no. The game runs in one direction – forwards – there’s no chapter select, no flow chart showing you the options you’ve made, no hints on what to do in order to unlock a trophy, and no undo option. So, if you forget to press anything, or you pick the wrong option, you need to play the whole game again so that you have a chance to pick another outcome. However, the game isn’t going to force you to play the entire game and watch every scene multiple times (as I said, it took me about 15 playthroughs to get the platinum), it has a ‘skip’ function.
Fans of Visual Novels will know of this feature, you can skip scenes you’ve already seen before by simply tapping the R1 button. So, if you want to make another choice at a certain point, keep pushing R1 (it skips to the next choice you have) until you get to the one you want. From here, the button may no longer work as you’re going down a new pathway and the option only skips that which you’ve seen. Also, as I mentioned above, even though the options you’re given may be the same as ones you’ve chosen previously, if you’ve picked any new outcomes to get to this point, the video may be slightly different, thus also blocking the use of the skip function.
This is a great feature in my opinion as it means you have to watch and experience all new scenes without the ability to bypass it for a quick platinum (as I’ve seen people abuse in Visual Novels many times). In regards to working out the nine different endings without the use of a flowchart or hints, it’s not that hard. It’s fun to figure out the criteria required and the trophy names give subtle hints, but I was able to work them all out pre-release with no guides or help, so I’m sure you can too.
For those out there who want to stream the game, you can enable ‘pause options’ which will give you longer to come to a decision with your viewers. Usually, you’ll have limited time to make a choice before the game chooses for you, so enabling this simply pauses the action until you make a choice.
The production quality and experience
An FMV game is either great or not based upon the quality of the video and the acting – both of which are simply superb within The Complex. The cast of actors were all amazing and the entire experience was just like watching a feature-length BBC TV show with really good cinematography, an interesting narrative, perfect casting, and believable performances. In terms of the actors, the main cast are Michelle Mylett (Letterkenny, Bad Blood), Kate Dickie (Game of Thrones, The Witch) and Al Weaver (Grantchester), as well as Kim Adis (Get Even, The Turning), Rachel Petladwala (M.I. High), and Leah Viathan (Twitch Streamer and ex-Xbox UK presenter).
What I would love the developers to do, although I can’t see it happening as I don’t know of any FMV game which does this, is offer us a chance to ‘replay’ the endings we’ve achieved. By this I mean list the nine endings and let us pick the ending we want and watch as the entire game plays out on its own until it reaches the ending of our choice. Why would I like this? I thought the production quality and experience was so good, I wouldn’t mind just popping it on and actually watching it as if its a movie, without making the choices myself. Maybe even have a ‘random’ mode where the movie will play out and it’ll make random choices, creating a new experience each time?
On a side note, for those who are squeamish like me – there is blood, needles, cuts, and very convincing makeup. If you’ve played The Bunker and you were fine with that, this game will be okay for you – thankfully there’s no actual tending to wounds like in that game (I really hated that part).
As far as FMV games go, The Complex sits among one of the best I’ve played this generation. With almost 200 scenes to discover, nine endings, multiple branches and pathways, and a tracker keeping tabs on your Relationship status with all the other characters, this game was aptly named as it’s rather ‘complex’. The entire experience felt like I was simply watching a film on TV, only I was the director, telling the actors what to do and how to proceed. I’d highly recommend this game to all fans of FMV titles and those looking for something they can casually play through on their own or with their family – just don’t forget to slap Rees…
- - Immersive story with lots of choices and branching pathways which lead to almost 200 scenes
- - Brilliant acting by all actors
- - Realistic and exciting
- - Feels like a TV movie thanks to its high production value
- - Finding all nine endings on your own is satisfying and not too difficult
- - I wish there was an option to just watch the 'movie' with random choices. (didn't affect my score but I couldn't think of a negative point)