Every so often, a game comes along which tries to do something outside of the norm, setting itself apart from the rest almost immediately. Late Shift is one such game. Developed by CtrlMovie, it tries to create a perfect blend between a cinematic experience and an interactive story. It’s a bold move, but does this full motion video crime thriller have what it takes to set the bar high and potentially start a trend? Or is it a case of struggling to find a balance between the two styles?
I’ll let you be the judge.
Late Shift follows a young man, Matt, who’s working a night job in London to help fund his mathematics studies. One night everything goes belly up, as a criminal ends up appearing in the car park he works, coercing him into a car and subsequently, roping him into being an accomplice in the theft of an extraordinarily rare piece of pottery, steeped in history and worth a few quid to the right buyer. The gang who are orchestrating the robbery are nothing compared to the people they are stealing it from. If Matt’s to get out of this sticky situation, he needs you to make the crucial decisions; his life is in your hands from start to finish.
And that’s where the interaction element comes in. At certain junctures, a selection of options will pop up at the bottom of the screen to choose from; usually consisting of, but not limited to, two choices. These can be as simple as deciding whether to speak out to anyone who’ll listen, or heading to a different location – the only difficulty arrives in deciding quickly, before the game takes it out of your hands. There aren’t any long pauses in the video whilst you weigh up the choices either; it just carries on regardless, which adds a level of seamlessness to proceedings.
The same can’t be said for the moments immediately following a decision though, as there tends to be a slow-down, and then a speed up, as it switches to the scene relating to your choice. This kind of technical issue happens a fair bit throughout, even when the game advances to another chapter, and it really grates on you as a viewer/player.
To give credit where credit’s due, there are a decent amount of choices to make and it generally has an effect which is instantly noticeable. You’re not constantly wondering what the difference is, with multiple chapters linked to specific decisions. The amount of footage included allows for at least two rather varied playthroughs offering different events unfolding, with a whopping seven endings available to bring a close to your story-driven adventure.
As a thriller, the pacing is on point, nearly always moving on from one tricky moment of intensity to the next. Unfortunately, a handful of scenes aside, the entertainment factor isn’t really present, leading to something which is an above average story at best – should you choose a more believable path to its conclusion. And when the majority of your time is spent watching the live-action footage, that’s a bit of a blow to the amount of enjoyment you’ll gain from Late Shift. The acting is a tad hit and miss too…
The lead character, Matt (played by Joe Sowerbutts), is at times the most convincing actor and his transformation throughout the night as he gets increasingly overwhelmed is great. As for the others, criminal ‘masterminds’ May-Ling (Haruka Abe) and Jeffrey (Sol Heras) especially, well, I really struggle to buy into them due to either poor writing or a certain woodenness to the acting. I’m not expecting Oscar winning performances, but when my gut reaction is to chuckle to myself at a ridiculous, yet serious moment, then there’s something a little off.
Overall, Late Shift does well to ensure any choices you make impact on the story, either immediately or later on. It really lives or dies by the success of the live-action part though and in truth, my enjoyment varies dependent on the decision making and the subsequent acting out of the following scenes, with only the lead delivering an almost faultless performance. The technical issues really hold it back though, and despite not being game-breaking, it’s irritating to have such problems spread out from start to finish.
I do believe Late Shift offers an alright tale, with a decent story which never lets up, but as a game/movie hybrid, it could be so much better – at least on the technical front.