Full-motion video, or FMV as it’s more commonly known, is enjoying a renaissance. Despite dying a premature death on early CD-based systems such as the SEGA CD and Panasonic 3DO, games like Erica and Late Shift have ushered a new era for live action, story-driven escapades. The Complex is the latest attempt from Wales Interactive, and follows in the footsteps of its previous efforts, such as The Bunker. Unfortunately, this cringe-inducing sci-fi yarn about witless scientists and nanotech is best left in quarantine.
In fact, given the current climate, it’s quite shocking to see an early scene in which a young woman is taken ill on London’s prestigious underground railway, but the publisher could never have accounted for real-world events and so the show must go on. Perhaps this particular performance would have been better off left in lockdown, however, as it’s senseless at best and borderline embarrassing at worst.
The story centres on a doctor named Amy Tenant, who’s played by Bad Blood’s Michelle Mylett. Having previously treated chemical warfare victims in the fictional totalitarian state of Kindar, she takes a role at a shady scientific organisation named Kensington, where she’s working on new nanocell technology. The setup largely consists of pseudo-intellectual sci-fi babble, which all concludes in folks getting infected and our heroine ending up locked in a bunker with her sharp-tongued ex-ally. There’s forced sexual tension throughout, because of course there is.
The plot is unwieldy and awkward to follow. Motives aren’t fully explored, and much of the cast acts out of character. There are glaring plot holes as obvious questions are overlooked, while Scottish actress Kate Dickie is a terrible casting choice as the CEO of a dodgy pharmaceutical group. To add insult to injury, the decision-driven gameplay is under-developed, with scant choices leaving you with little authority over the progress of the plot. There are multiple endings, but many of the main decisions are frighteningly black and white.
It’s a shame because, prior to release, the publisher was touting a personality engine which would keep track of your relationships with the rest of the cast. This feels like little more than window dressing, though, as it’s hard to determine the material impact your more subtle choices have on the overall plot. The title is, of course, designed to be replayed multiple times, but with the overarching story so dismally executed you’ll need to force yourself to see it through again.
There’s a place for FMV games like The Complex, but this effort is both poorly written and performed. You’ll tire of the cast long before you reach the release’s credits, and while the title does include various branches in its story, it generally feels like you’re on autopilot for the most part. If you’re desperate for a live action experience, the PS4 already has much better alternatives to this.