One of the things that games have always had over movies was interactivity. Movies are largely passive experiences, and while that’s fine for most people, I like to have agency in my entertainment, which is why I game far more than I watch movies. Wales Interactive has been publishing some interesting titles in recent years that bridge the gap between movies and games.
They have FMV titles like The Bunker or The Shapeshifting Detective that play like live action adventures, but then you have full-on interactive movies like Late Shift. The Complex falls into this latter category, offering an interactive thriller for your next movie night. Does it make a case for this type of experience, or will you yearn for a movie that can make its own decisions? Let’s find out.
A Movie That Keeps on Giving
The Complex is an interesting take on the interactive movie genre that Wales Interactive has pioneered with their titles. As a movie, it offers a solid story about cutting-edge tech, corruption, and the lengths that people will go to in the pursuit of progress.
The themes work well in this thriller, which spends a majority of its time in an underground lab with some pretty unique security systems. The main cast all turn in solid performances, but it’s the lead roles played by Michelle Mylett and Al Weaver that really sold the characters for me.
Their past, both explained and insinuated, gives them a strong presence on screen, and offers a convincing character arc from beginning to end. The others are less compelling, with some standout moments from the supporting cast that I won’t spoil here.
As a film, The Complex could have benefited from tighter pacing throughout. I thought it had a strong opening and a very tense final act, but the middle felt a little too loose with its quieter moments and strands that never panned out (at least, in my playthrough).
It’s the final note (about the loose strands) where we should begin talking about the interactive elements in The Complex. If I saw this movie on something like Netflix or Hulu, it would have been a decent, but ultimately standard thriller. What elevates the experience here is the ability to influence the film and craft the protagonist’s personality to match your choices.
Like other interactive films, choices will appear as you’re watching, with a limited amount of time to choose between two or more options. These steer the immediate story, but if you press the touchpad while playing The Complex, you’re treated to a sleek status screen that shows multiple aspects of your personality and your relationship with each of the characters you’ve interacted with.
These are expressed via percentages, but I particularly liked the personality traits, which range from bravery to curiosity, intelligence, honesty, and more. At the end of your first playthrough, you’ll be assigned a personality assessment (mine was Altruistic), and you’ll see that you’ve finished one of nine possible endings and, in my case, only about half of the possible scenes.
This equates to replayability for sure, and The Complex also wisely includes the option to skip scenes you’ve already seen in subsequent playthroughs by pressing the R1 button. This lowers the barrier for subsequent viewing sessions, and it’s an option I appreciated a lot.
My only qualms with the interactive aspect of film are minor, but I would have liked a more direct look at how your choices shape personality traits. For example, it would have been cool to see a Telltale style message when you make choices that say “Bravery up” or “Intelligence down,” so you can see how your choices are working behind the scenes.
It’s a fascinating way to add agency to the film, and The Complex could have benefited from making a larger part of the experience, in my opinion.
Some Solid Performances Amidst Mixed Presentation
The Complex is the best attempt I’ve seen at crafting an interactive film from Wales Interactive. It offers all the things you want from the experience: a compelling plot, plenty of potential endings, a skip function for things you’ve seen, and a way to leverage real control over the character in the form of their actions and ultimately, their personality as a whole.
I think the film could have had better pacing in the middle, and the acting has a few low points. The same goes for the sets and effects, which range from great to noticeably low-budget. Overall, though, you’re paying less for this than you would at the theater, and you’re getting much more replayability and potential endings, making this far more than your average viewing experience.
This is a great step forward for the genre, and it’s clear Wales Interactive is on to something with this concept. I for one am very much looking forward to my next movie night now.
Final Score: 8.5/10
A copy of The Complex was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 4/8/2020