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4PM Review

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“…leaves you feeling uncomfortable and not quite knowing what to feel”

4PM is a home-hitting, experimental interactive story from the mind of developer Brojan Brbora. It attempts to take a serious, real world issue and turn it into an interactive experience in a way that has not been done before in a video game. Before you really get into things properly however, and before you even buy the game, you are given a heads up of its unusual nature for a game, with a comment explaining the following:

“This is not a typical, mechanics driven game, it is a short, interactive story with gameplay elements. If you are interested in something a bit different, experimental, then this is it, if you are looking for an open world, levelling up, puzzles and 10 hours of gameplay then this is probably not for you.”

So with that in mind, this review takes a look at what exactly 4PM really is all about.

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Storyline

4PM has a very emotive storyline at its core. Without giving away every detail of its very short contents there are themes of alcoholism and suicide which forefront the nature of the game; it is not the sort of title you should be looking at for fun. With this in mind then, there is probably quite a narrow audience who would be drawn to the experience, however the game does not make it entirely clear before you buy exactly what the themes are which it deals with. This is a bit of a problem.

The major issue with not telling the potential player what the nature of the game is before they pick it up is that they do not have the chance to prepare themselves for it. For someone then who unwittingly picks it up out of interest because it is something different, this can be quite a shock. For someone who can relate to the issues which are dealt with, it can even be quite upsetting. Given the nature of the subject matter, some warning really should be in place.

The storyline also jumps about to hit on several different issues within its thirty-or-so minutes of gameplay. Whilst the game has been intentionally designed as a short experience, aimed at almost being a pilot experiment for this kind of gaming experience, the story is somewhat lacking and unfulfilling. It is clear what issues it is trying to reflect, however they are not reflected with the true emotion with which they would genuinely play out in a real-life experience. As an individual who has seen some of these issues play out in front of my own eyes, I was left disappointed in the way with which they were dealt, as well as feeling quite uncomfortable…

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Gameplay

4PM as a game is less of a game and much more of an interactive story. The game claims to have “gameplay elements” within it, however there is only one section of the game where this is really true. Otherwise, the decisions you make are simply one way or another to influence which ending you experience. You can walk around, but only where the game wants you to, and you can interact with some objects, but these are hardly gameplay elements. The one time you have gameplay-style control is when you have to sneak out of your bosses office, which is only about one minute of game time in total.

The game is also very closed in the paths it gives you to choose from. True enough, not every game needs to be open ended, but this game almost tells you that you are playing it wrong if you do something different to what you are expected to. This is a bit of a blow to even its interactive story claim too, as there are only two outcomes which actually lead to an end to the game, and these come at the very end. Any other way in which the game could end forces you back to try again, as if the ending you just found was wrong or you aren’t allowed to have it. It feels almost as if this is someone else’s story, and you have to do it their way, not interact with it in your own.

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Graphics and Audio

The look of 4PM is somewhat reminiscent of J. J. Abrams Star Trek; there is so much of a blur effect going on around what you are trying to look at that in some cases you simply cannot look at it at all. Even on the highest graphical setting, things were so blurry in the game that after playing the entire story through a couple of times to hit on any different outcomes I had quite the headache. This was disappointing, as the game’s trailer boasted some nice looking visuals, and indeed the game itself looks as though behind the haze which everything has there are some nice things to see.

In terms of the games audio elements, the main factor to comment on would be voice acting. The voices are good in the sense that they are clear and understandable, and much of the script is fitting to the game, however there is a distinct lack of emotion throughout. This is a key issue given once again the issues which the game attempts to deal with, and heavily contributed to the distressing feeling which it left me with after playing. In terms of background sounds and the like however, some good, realistic elements have been employed throughout the game.

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In Conclusion…

4PM is a difficult game to review. What it sets out to do is noble; it wants to take some real world issues, allow you to interact with them, and presumably leave you thinking about them once you have finished. Sadly however, it takes on some very heavy issues, fails to do them emotional justice, and leaves you feeling uncomfortable and not quite knowing what to feel about what you have just played. It also fails to level with the player before they start playing the game on the type of issues which it is going to deal with, so those with real-world experience of them can feel quite a strong emotional hit from what is to follow…

On the other hand, there is of course the factor to consider that this is an experimental title which aims to create almost a new style for story-focussed gaming. 4PM itself is a graduate project, and at that level it covers many of the core ideas required to create a game. Whilst in this instance the game has not hit the right notes, its standpoint as an experimental title should put its creator in good stead to learn from what they have produced here and the reactions to it. 4PM has failed to inspire, but this developer should not throw down their tools at this point in their timeline. The essence behind the creation a game is clearly within their abilities, but 4PM was not the title to truly show it off. While game number one on the shelves has not been a success, it should still be seen as an important step along the road to making something special in the future.

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The Good:

  • A good display of game creation ability in an early days graduate project.
  • An experiment, which though not necessarily successful, attempts a genuinely new approach to binding interactivity to a down to earth story.
  • Clear potential for brighter things to come from the game’s young developer.

The Bad:

  • A lack of consideration and consumer-care in making clear the nature of the game’s serious and delicate storyline.
  • A general lack of gaming features, making this more of an interactive story.
  • A sense of being a closed storyline, where only certain endings are “correct”.
  • Some gameplay, particularly visual, features make the game difficult to play.
  • Leaves you feeling more uncomfortable than enlightened.

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Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.

Rating:
2/5
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