We recently spent some hands-on time with developer Variable State's upcoming game, Virginia. A first-person mystery title, Virginia sees players assume the role of FBI Agent Anne Tarver. As Tarver, the goal is to discover the whereabouts of a missing person: Lucas Fairfax. We had the chance to play through the demo – which is now available to everyone through Steam – to get a little taste of what to expect when the game hits the PlayStation 4 on 22nd September.
Pretty much immediately, the game is visually striking. Everything is stylised interestingly, up to and including the people that appear in the game. Now, while the scenery is striking in a good way, the same cannot be said of the character models. All of the people in-game look like a really bizarre mix between Miis and Xbox avatars. It's actually rather jarring, and we're a little worried that the appearance of the characters has the chance to hurt some of the more emotional parts of the game. We don't know this for sure yet, as the demo is really only a brief teaser.
Apart from the character models, though, this game looks like it may essentially be an honest-to-goodness video game version of Twin Peaks. One of the things talked about in many of Virginia's trailers and promotional material is the fact that it tells an original story while being heavily inspired by shows like Twin Peaks and True Detective. The Twin Peaks influence in particular is apparent even just in the demo. Between some of the music, the small town vibe, and even some surrealism, the game feels downright Lynchian. We could even swear we saw Dr. Jacoby's glasses at one point in the demo. Suffice it to say, the 90's cult classics' DNA can be felt all over this game. And with such a great show – it just so happens to one of our favorites – as influence, this bodes well for the final product.
Other areas of the game, on the other hand, show a few problems. We're not sure how true a representation of the final product the demo is, but the editing is really strange. We saw a bunch of different scenes that felt very hastily cobbled together. The most likely reason is that the demo tries to dance around anything really important to the main game, which would excuse how choppy it feels. But if the final game is like that, it very well may feel like an incomplete, scattershot experience.
The gameplay itself seems to be a little more standard, though. Everything encountered in the demo is point-and-clicky in nature, having the player simply go to certain rooms and pick up certain objects. The game does a good job of making the environments feel more open-ended, though. However, even across the barely 20 minutes of the demo, it's clear that the title is very linear. We never encountered a scenario where there was more than one singular thing we could do at any moment, and for the final product, we hope it's opened up a little more, allowing a bit more breathing room for the player.
Granted, with that being the biggest issue we encountered, we're still incredibly excited. Publisher 505 Games has been pushing a whole lot of games out the door the past few months, and we have a feeling it's backed another winner here. It feels like there's going to be a really great mystery game headed our way come the end of September.
Are you eager to solve the mysteries of Virginia? Are you finding the visual style employed here a little off-putting? Solve the case in the comments section below.