Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Her Story (2015) Game Review - NO SPOILERS!

Her Story is, I think, the first FMV game I have ever played. FMV being an acronym for “full motion video”, a type of gaming style that uses pre-recorded video rather than 2D/3D graphics. I was interested to find out during the opening titles it was created and written by Sam Barlow, the writer for two Silent Hill games. So though this game was a departure from the horror series, it was exceedingly well done. It was completely different to anything I have ever played before and though I was initially dubious looking at the trailer for it, it turned out to be worth the risk. It can be finished in a relatively short amount of time (around 2 hours) or if you’re a perfectionist that needs 100% completion in order to be satisfied, it would probably take around 5-6 hours. So either way it’s not going to be a game to take over your life for weeks, and it definitely is not open to replays, but it is worth a try for its uniqueness.


You are tasked as a detective, searching through previously archived and forgotten-about video files regarding the investigation into the murder of a man. Not many details are given and you really have to find your own feet. But when you succeed it gives you a great feeling that your hand wasn’t held throughout. You have access to the police’s database of interrogations to do with the murder in the form of hundreds of small clips, and by using keywords to search for particular words used in the dialogue to find relevant clips to use as evidence. If this sounds confusing, it’s because I’m trying not to give too much away. What is really enjoyable about this game is the discovery aspect of it, where you must find out everything for yourself. You’re not given names or anything and have to work from practically nothing to find out the murderer, weapon, motive, location, victim; literally everything. All I can say is good luck and try to be patient. At times you hit a wall of not being able to think of a single good word to search for, but it is usually short-lived. There’s a few pretty big twists that are pretty shocking and astounding, but it makes you feel like a real investigator, scouring for clues and occasionally hitting the jackpot.

To refrain from spoilers I can’t talk much about characters, but I will say that the videos available to the player are nicely acted most of the time, but tragically inadequate at times. The script is amazingly written, astoundingly so, with tiny details added that make the game seem so real. Everything has been planned carefully and aside from a few blaringly stupid answers that no one in their right mind would ever say in a police investigation, there are no obvious plot holes. Her Story has obviously been a long time coming and the effort that has gone into it all really does pay off.


The concept of the game is strong because there’s nothing really like it out there. It has little to no competition so in its uniqueness it can’t be matched. It has you sucked in from a few minutes in and that’s it; you’re hooked. You get involved and actually at times I forgot I was even playing a game. Shit got real when a notebook got involved to write down key words. On Reddit I’ve seen people with full on investigation boards or huge, intricate spreadsheets, and it just goes to show how involving Her Story is. I think it’s probably quite a marmite game, judging by people’s quite strong reactions to it.

The music for the game kicks in at a random time and I’m not sure why. It’s creepy music though, and it works. The very sparse graphics that are included are weak, but when the lighting flickers and a face pops up onto the 90s style computer screen, it’s honestly terrifying. I liked the interface of the game, being a Meta computer within a computer, and fit the realism style of Her Story perfectly. It also gives you an anti-glare option which I didn’t use because the reflections added character to the screen and, like I said, a bit of eeriness.

For a while it’s hard to think of any cons to the game, it’s perfectly executed. That is, until you’ve pieced together most of what you think happened, and then you realise, “Wait. How am I supposed to finish this game?” There is a feature where you can pin particularly important clips, and I thought those clips would then be judged on their relevance to see if I’d made a good enough case. Nope. There is literally no point to them except for your own easier access to the clips. You don’t ever put a case together or even have your questions answered. There is no definitive conclusion to this game and for me that was really disappointing. It didn’t add to the mystery of it all, it just pissed me off. It felt gimmicky, like an answer was excluded purposefully to get people frustrated and talking about Her Story so it would get more players. And though I understand how to the developers that would be beneficial, it’s just lazy game making.


To conclude, Her Story is fun, deeply involving and refreshingly innovative and I hope it will inspire others to create investigatory games that are realistic and constantly surprising. Strong scripting and acting are diminished slightly by the disappointing ending, but still enjoyable. Definitely worth the money if you don’t mind high quality over low quantity.