App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
It's very difficult for me to look at FMV games the same way, recently. Since the release of Ordesa, I have a new hunger for games of this genre to be more than a simple choose-your-own adventure with stitched together video clips. This is all I was thinking about while playing The Complex, a very conventional FMV game that--boilerplate design aside--I would've enjoyed more if it were a smooth playing experience.
The Complex is a thriller that kicks off when an intern for a major medical corporation is infected with a mysterious bio-agent. The narrative follows from the perspective of Dr. Amy Tenant, a hotshot medical researcher and physician, who you then end up making decisions for at key points of The Complex's plot.
In typical FMV fashion, the majority of the game involves simply watching the action unfold the same way you would a tv show or movie, that is until Dr. Tenant is asked a question or is posed with options of what to do next. At these points, a few menu options pop up on screen and you need to choose one quickly as a timer counts down. The decisions you make ultimately affect how certain scenes play out, as well as the overall ending of the game.
A lot of FMV games tend to get stranger and stranger as the story wears on, but The Complex is a pretty tight story that has a well thought-out plot. It is definitely a little hokey in spots (thanks partially to some disinterested performances), but I much prefer a smaller, more realistic scope for storytelling like this as opposed to other Wales Interactive FMV experiences like The Shapeshifting Detective.
All that said, The Complex still has some points where its plot development feels off or oddly placed. While playing, there were definitely times where I was given choices that didn't seem like priorities given the situation and only served as a way to explain some small detail that largely seems irrelevant to the plot. I'm hoping that the reason for this is because The Complex has multiple plot strands that get mixed and matched to deliver up to eight different endings, which is understandably complicated. But--even if this is the case--I wish these intertwined scenes were tuned a little more sharply or felt more justified when creeping in and out of different overarching stories.
Some hitches in storytelling are bound to happen in "choose-your-own adventure"-style experiences, but what is much less tolerable about The Complex is its intermittent video stuttering, lack of checkpointing, and poor user interface. These things all take you out of the experience constantly and remind you that you're playing a game, and one that doesn't feel particularly well-built.
For every scene in The Complex, you can always see where the game is taking a moment to determine what to feed you next. It doesn't even matter if it was at a decision point or not. If you happen to close the game to come back to it later, it's also likely you'll get to see a lot of the same stitching you saw before, as the game has very few checkpoints, and doesn't tell you when you've reached them. A solution to that problem might be to play The Complex in one sitting, but that's not always realistic, particularly on a mobile device.
The bottom line
I'm ok with an FMV game that just wants to be formulaic, but The Complex bungles some of its fundamental execution in ways that make it hard to recommend, even for what it is. Perhaps if it were able to tighten up its narrative threads or perform in a more mobile-friendly way, it would be more enjoyable, but it still wouldn't be anything particularly special.