Late Shift is a single player full motion video (FMV) game on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and iOS developed by CtrlMovie and published by Wales interactive (Late Shift, 2017). The game, if you can call it that, is an attempted revival of the FMV game genre that was last popular during the 16-bit Sega CD era. Late Shift is less a game than a choose your own adventure movie rated M for its mature content and foul language. The game is obviously very narrative driven since it is more like a movie than a game. The player fills the role of a parking attendant in London who has his quiet night at work abruptly interrupted as he is drug into an Ocean’s Eleven type heist. The heist goes horribly awry and the player is forced to make decisions throughout the entire experience.
This analysis was conducted using the Xbox One version of Late Shift using an Xbox One S connected to a 55-inch curved UHD Television with HDR. The visual quality of the production was great. This author will refer to Late Shift as a production because calling it a game feels wrong. Late Shift looks like a high production value film which separates it from its early predecessors like Night Trap and Wirehead on Sega CD. Those early FMV games were extremely grainy due to the very low-resolution output of the Sega CD. Without the processing power of modern PC’s and consoles and the high-resolution displays available today, Late Shift probably would not have been made. The terrible resolution of older FMV’s played a significant role in their lack of popularity and eventual downfall (Pulse, 2015). What is most intriguing about Late Shift is the choices the player is forced to make.
From a psychological viewpoint, if a player were to make decisions as if the events were really happening to them, one could learn a lot about the players morals and dogma. The biggest issue with Late Shift as a game is it seems to lack any real punishment or reward for the players choices. This author played through four times. The first time I just made decisions that felt like they would create the most interesting story. The second and third time I tried to be as evil as possible, and the final time I tried to be extremely good and do only the positive things. Regardless of my choices, the production takes the same linear path, albeit with the occasional side jaunt.
Late Shift is advertised on its own website as “The world's first cinematic interactive movie” (n.d.). Interestingly the press release for Late Shift states, “a new cinematic FMV adventure game…”(Gamasutra, 2017). Late Shift has been and can be shown in theaters. The theater experience allows the audience to vote using their phone during the film on the choices the protagonist makes. There are not any available box office earnings for Late Shift but SteamSpy shows that as a game it has over 70,000 owners on Steam. Steam is the only platform owner data that is available. It currently sales for $12.99 but goes on-sale frequently.
Late Shift is interesting, as it exists as both a film and a game. Unfortunately, it fails to realize its full potential as either. As a game, the lack of punishment and reward mentioned earlier leaves the player feeling like their choices don’t make any difference. Many of the professional game reviewers have given Late Shift bad reviews. Individuals, on the other hand, seem to enjoy the game and give it much higher marks than reviewers. This is likely since Late Shift cannot be reviewed purely as a game. Cinematically, Late Shift engages the viewer/player. The narrative is interesting, and the quality of the production is high. Sadly, Late shift struggles as a cinematic experience too. The fact that some viewers/players may see a good full story due to the choices they make but others may have a shorter less fulfilling experience makes it hard to review as a film. From a cultural viewpoint, Late Shift is one of the first of what is likely to become a more common interactive film experience. For the price, Late Shift makes for an interesting study of what an open-ended film could be and what a modern FMV game could look like. The potential for the revitalization of this genre of games is great for a person who remembers fondly the attempts made in the 90’s. It also makes it clear that cutscenes in games could easily be a live-action film rather than animated computer graphics. The option to film cutscenes could drastically decrease the cost of game production for many studios and independent developers. Live action is an option but may not be appropriate in all cases. Late Shift is worth a look whether you’re a gamer or a cinephile.
Gamasutra. (2017). Retrieved 2018, from https://www.gamasutra.com/view/pressreleases/293244/Late_Shift_A_Cinematic_FMV_Crime_Thriller_Coming_to_PC_PS4and_Xbox_One.php