Full motion video – or FMV, if you will – has been around in the gaming industry for decades, and it must be said I’ve always had a soft spot for this medium of gaming. There have been the likes of the camp horror found in Night Trap and the brilliant FMV scenes of Mark Hamill’s Wing Commander. And, if you are anything like me, when you dive into these type of games you get the impression that you are both the writer and director of a movie, placing the action in the direction of your own choosing. Lately Wales Interactive have been the bastions of the full motion video world with games like The Bunker and The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker. For the most part, they are brilliant, however the odd one or two fail to hit the mark, even though they are always very enjoyable. Now we have The Complex to add to the ever-growing library and it’s time to wonder which camp that game sits in.
The Complex is an interactive sci-fi movie about a bio-weapon attack in London, whereby two scientists find themselves in lockdown with the victim of the attack. You play as one of the scientists – Dr. Amy Tennant – whose own nanotechnology is coming back to haunt her. It’s a race against time too, as the complex you are in is under attack by terrorists and you’ll be left unsure whether you should trust the people helping you or the people in the same room.
The narrative of The Complex is written by Lynn Renee Maxcy, part of the Emmy award-winning writing team from The Handmaid’s Tale, with it starring Michelle Mylett (Letterkenny, Bad Blood), Kate Dickie (Game of Thrones, The Witch) and Al Weaver (Grantchester). The writing that has been created is good too, even though at times it’s a bit on the nose, and the situations created with numerous twists and turns are dazzling at times. The way the story threads together is well-honed and the development of the characters is nothing short of solid, with some nice characterisation and dynamic tensions in the script; all acted with skill.
As with most FMVs, the gameplay basically consists of you making choices as the story and film progresses, all when prompted to do so. You might get asked to choose between a life or death situation where an impossible choice needs to be made, or how you may want to deal with a problem in the story. Do you tackle a situation in a subtle way or use the brute force route? Each decision you make will have a direct impact on the tale and its overall outcome as things move ahead. It is certainly a game that deserves multiple playthroughs – if only so you can watch all eight of the possible endings.
When those conclusions are reached, and you make it through to the end of the game, you get presented with a scoresheet, detailing how you played the game and what route you went down in regards to the multitude of choices. The things the game takes into account are in terms of relationship tracking, which examines the choices you make and how it affects the closest relationships in the game. Accuse someone of something and that will weaken the relationship, whilst spending time to be kind to one another will see it strengthen. All of these relationship consequences have major impacts on the conclusions so you’ll need to consider each and every decision you make.
The Complex also focuses on your personality tracking which includes five basic dimensions of a personality; openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. And nicely if you’re not alone there is the option of pausing the narrative to allow for a third party discussion on the route to take with your friends or the family. Yep, The Complex lets you argue till your heart’s content about what direction to take, before putting it to the vote.
I do love what Wales Interactive do with these FMV games and over the years I’ve become a big fan. But I’ve not quite found myself as immersed with The Complex as I have others. I think the main problem is that at no point have I felt involved enough in the story – especially not like I have with their other games – instead partaking rather like a bystander watching the film play out. You see, in some of the other games, the camera viewpoint is from your own point of view so you feel directly connected to the characters and the storyline. With this, I didn’t quite feel that same connection.
The filming itself is of a high standard though with some very nice effects and well-created set locations; some built specially, and some real. The grade and tone of the film are excellent too, creating a tense atmosphere throughout. The sound and music are equally as enjoyable, always evocative of the mood of the piece, while the acting is on point throughout with solid performances and delivery, able to convincingly sell the story to us.
The Complex on Xbox One is a good sci-fi experience that delivers a decent tale about pharma-terrorism with many complex and interesting themes running throughout. The production values, acting and the script are all very good and it’s a very enjoyable yarn, with all this helped by the fact that there are several different – and hugely interesting – outcomes in place. But the actual choice-driven gameplay has not been able to make me feel connected to the story enough, especially not like past games that have a wider range of gameplay dynamics to choose from. The price is however pretty much perfect for a game of this size and if you are a fan of film or interactive movies then you can’t go wrong with a journey through The Complex.