Every now and then comes a game that rewires what you think is possible in the whole video game sphere; an experience that takes games in a new and bold direction, dragging you along, almost unwillingly, to a new perspective. For the avoidance of doubt, 41 Hours from Eastasiasoft is not that game.
In fact, this review could be just 41 words long, most of them negative, but then the editor would shout at me, so I’ll go into a little more depth. Launching a couple of years ago on Steam and now having released on console, should 41 Hours have stayed on the PC platform, or should we rejoice that we now get to play this title?
The first thing to mention is that 41 Hours is an odd fusion of genres. If you take a visual novel, and mix it with a first person shooter, what do you get? An unholy mess? Well, yes, but you also get 41 Hours.
The story sees a scientist called Ethan, who is a workaholic (aren’t they always?) go in search of his long lost wife, with the aid of an android of some description with a variety of amazing powers. Surely it would make more sense to send the android to find the wife, given that she seems to be indestructible and Ethan is made of squishy human stuff? Well, a variety of ridiculous events occur, and Ethan has to take up a gun and also get his best roller skates on (this will become clear later on). So, with a story of sorts nailed on, let’s move onto the rest of the game.
Presentation is a game of two halves, as is so often the case these days. There is the graphic novel side, which shows a set of fully narrated comic strip-styled panels, and then there is the FPS side of the game. The graphic novel stuff is all nicely drawn and helps to break up the “action”, but my goodness the voice overs are ropey. Every sentence is declaimed, as if it is the end of the world, and while this is amusing for a brief while it does start to grate after about thirty seconds or so.
The FPS side is also not without its flaws. The graphics look nice enough when you aren’t moving, and for a happy moment you can almost dare to dream. Then you start to explore, and the screen tearing and pop-in becomes almost hysterically funny. And this is on an Xbox Series X, supposedly the most powerful console in the world; we’re seeing PS2 era graphical flaws. My favourite part is when you are trying to be stealthy, and then a soldier pops into view about five feet away, shoots you full of holes and leaves you looking at the “restart from last save?” screen. Much swearing has been uttered in the process of this review, let’s put it that way.
There’s not a great deal to speak of in terms of the audio either – sound is okay, the guns sound like guns, and the rest of the experience is oddly flat.
So, the presentation has a firm “must try harder” mark next to it, what about the rest of the game? What about the combat, as the graphic novel section doesn’t actually require you to do anything? Well, here the story is mixed too. There are some good ideas sprinkled through this game, but they are not enough to save the game from itself. Let’s begin with our android companion.
There are some nice ideas, as I said earlier, and they mostly revolve around the female android that accompanies us on our quest. She has a number of interesting abilities, some of which are more useful than others. She can, for instance, open a wormhole between two points, bypassing force fields and so on by simply teleporting to where you tell her, before then opening a rift to allow you progress. She can also slow time down as well, which makes things a bit easier when you are facing many foes, mostly as you can dash around and fill them full of holes while they are unable to move. The most useless ability is the first one she gains – the ability to send her to a location and instruct her to blow herself up, killing anything in the vicinity. At least, that’s the idea, but when she starts the self destruct procedure, it takes such a long time to charge and makes such a noise that the enemies have time to mark the page in the book they were reading, grab their gear and saunter out of the blast radius before she actually detonates. In this way, this ability is pretty useless.
However, she is a virtuoso of death compared to Ethan who would struggle to hit a barn door with his weapon if he was standing on the latch. It says something that Ethan’s strongest attack, a one hit kill against ordinary soldiers, is to sprint towards them and then slide, on what would appear to be rocket powered roller skates, hitting the foes with such force that they are sent flying. Or more usually, they will shoot you as you run towards them, causing yet more deaths. Once he gets his hands on guns, they are customisable, which is a nice touch, but even when Ethan nails a sniper scope to his rifle it is almost impossible to hit anything. Some of the weapons have such a massive muzzle flash that it is pointless trying to use them, as you cannot see anything when you are shooting.
I’ve not been taken much by 41 Hours and there is a very good reason for that – it’s a bit rubbish, failing to live up to any of the ideas that are included. It does feel that somewhere in here is a good game trying to get out, but it is going to need a lot more work and a much higher budget to realise that potential. There’s not even the usual Eastasiasoft booby prize of easy Xbox achievements to compensate for as they are mostly tied to progression through the game; something which many will find is too painful to contemplate.
There’s a chance that you’ll have had enough of 41 Hours after just 41 minutes, never mind the 20+ hours that are claimed for full completion. There’s a good idea here, but it is one that has been ruined by poor execution.
41 Hours is on the Xbox Store
- Good ideas…
- … Ruined by poor execution
- Very unbalanced
- Crucially, it’s just not fun
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Eastasiasoft
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 19 October 2022
- Launch price from - £16.74