Full-motion video in video games is now considered to be a relic of the pas, but as the technology of video capture and performances improve, it seems to be enjoying some sort of renaissance as a narrative genre of its own. 2019’s Erica was a somewhat okay example of that, and now we have Wales Interactive’s The Complex, another attempt at reviving the concept.
But while the developers have had some experience in crafting narrative adventures told through live-action performances, this might just be one show you should skip.
With no accounting for current events, The Complex is focused on a pharmaceutical research group funded by a fictional Asian country called Kindar. Unfortunately, the organisation known as Kensington is creating a pandemic-worthy virus that would be disastrous for the world and as expected, the virus escapes containment and the group has to cover it up before their secret gets out.
Ignoring the pseudo-scientific terms being thrown about, The Complex definitely tries its hardest at portraying a feasible future of nanocell tech. While you can certainly accept that as part of the premise, there is no excusing the lack of choice or even a coherent story, not to mention a lack of depth to the characters, or even the performances as a whole.
Players will be required to make choices throughout the roughly two-hour story of The Complex, be it interactions with the various characters or performing certain actions. As the doctor, Amy Tenant, your relationships with the others and the choices made will result in one of the eight endings. That worked fine for a horror game like Until Dawn, but The Complex is infinitely inferior in comparison.
The choices you make actually does not affect the story much at all. Trying out different options seemingly only resulted in changed dialogue, but the end results are the same. There is simply no player choice at play here, which is utterly egregious for a narrative-driven game that asks you to make choices. The fact that each decision has a time limit of five-seconds makes it even more annoying.
However, the worst part of The Complex is the characters themselves. While Amy is meant to be a representation of the player, she lacks any distinct identity. It is weird looking at a blank slate of a person staring back at you, as you figure out which choice you want to make. There is no connection, and as a result, you do not really care what happens to her.
This problem extends to the rest of the cast as well. They are dull, uninteresting, and like Amy, the motivations of each are muddy and unclear. There really is nothing well-defined in the narrative. Instead, The Complex relies heavily on exposition dumps that happen every once in a while to explain the plot.
Even the soundtrack barely matches with the scenes being played on-screen, and the camera work looks similar to the amateur work you can find on countless YouTube videos.
Plot holes can sometimes lead to much speculation and interest, but for The Complex, they are but just one of the many problems with this FMV game. Sure, you can try to go back and replay the game in order to fill in the missing pieces, but that is pure torture. Worse, there is no guarantee the writers even managed to answer any of those convoluted plot points in the first place.
Rather than a narrative-driven, choice-heavy FMV game, The Complex leans more towards a movie that fails in its very purpose of telling a story. After spending a few hours in this world, there is no doubt that it has been a true waste of time. Not even a world-threatening pandemic should make anyone want to experience The Complex.
The Complex is available on the US PSN Store for US$12.99.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The Complex is a failure of an FMV game, with meaningless choices and boring characters that would make you wish for your time back.
Gameplay - 2/10
Story - 4/10
Presentation - 3/10
Value - 2/10