Towards the back end of last year, we were pleasantly surprised by a full-motion video game named The Bunker. The first of its kind on PlayStation 4, its story, characters, and acting performances were the driving factors in what was a short but sweet experience. Publisher Wales Interactive is now back with a second foray into the FMV genre in the form of Late Shift, developed by CtrlMovie and written by the author behind the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, Michael R. Johnson. Originally released on the iPad and iPhone, its origins could be questionable to a point, but does this jump to the big screen bring with it a quality affair?
You follow Matt, a Mathematics student who in-between lectures and parties works as a chauffeur at a car park in London. But one night he is held at gunpoint and forced into driving a robber to his accomplices, who then pressure Matt into helping them steal a valuable Chinese bowl at an auction. Based on your actions, the heist may or may not go well, but as a result of it, Matt has to set out on a mission to clear his name and learn of the mystery behind the Chinese bowl he helped steal.
Consider it's the centrepiece of the game, Late Shift's story is uninspiring. Attempts to build upon the base plot are made, but the few curve balls and twists that are thrown at you leave a lot to be desired, as well as being fairly predictable. This left us with a plot that did little to engage, excite, or even really interest us.
At the time of writing we've seen four of the game's seven endings, and these are the narrative's high points thanks to their variation. Things could grind to a screeching halt as your decisions cause further problems for Matt, or you could go all the way and uncover the mystery behind the bowl but in turn also place another character in a troubling situation. Depending on what happens, the story can last as little as 45 minutes or stretch to an hour and a half. These choices and endings are the game at its peak, but it's a shame that they're affecting something that is so dull.
Another fault of the narrative is that despite it being shot in real-time with actual actors, the game requires you to suspend a lot of disbelief. This is due to the breakneck pace it moves at, taking place over one night and the early morning afterwards, and the fact that some scenes simply wouldn't work in real life. One scene, depending on your choices, sees Matt visit a hospital to talk to someone who was at the auction that night. He approaches a receptionist to ask of the subject's room number, but is denied. Matt then moves to the second assistant, who is literally sat three feet away from the original, and asks her the exact same question. Of course this second clerk would have already heard the first interaction in real life and would deny him straight away. But she still goes through the motions of looking up the patient Matt is looking for. This simply would not happen in the real world.
There are further flaws found in the title's script, where a number of inconsistencies are located. Certain lines are built into the script, but Matt wouldn't actually know what he's talking about unless you chose a specific route through your choices. For example, at the very beginning of the game the robber that takes you hostage breaks into the car park through a 15-foot high vent. If you select the right choices, Matt will uncover this point of entry but if you don't, then he doesn't find it at all. However, Matt mentions the vent minutes later, no matter whether he actually found it or not.
The judgement calls you make are the only pieces of gameplay to be found in Late Shift. You'll be given two or three different options to select from and with a press of the X button, you'll be on your way. And that's it. There is a timer that ticks down for every decision you have to make which increases the tension somewhat, but when you don't feel engaged in the plot itself, it rarely comes into play. For a video game, this feels like too much of a step in the wrong direction. The Bunker struck a great balance between its gameplay and full-motion video, but Late Shift has laid far too heavily into the film portion this time around. Had the gameplay been more enticing and offered a few more mechanics, it could have elevated the uninteresting plot to a greater level.
If you really boil it down, Late Shift is a movie with a plot that you can alter. Sadly, that plot isn't very good. Gameplay is minimal, and where The Bunker struck a decent balance, the lack of interaction here only serves to make the experience more of a slog. This can only be described as a complete disappointment.