Late Shift Review

Richard Walker

Live-action FMV adventures haven't had the best track record as a video game sub-genre. The Bunker recently showed that there's life in it yet, however, even if we didn't think all that much of it. Late Shift is a wholly different prospect, though; a taut crime thriller that sees its protagonist drawn into a bizarre sequence of events, leading to being inadvertently involved in a heist that quickly goes terribly awry. Its premise is pretty far-fetched too, but if you go with it, there's feature length enjoyment to be had here.

Unlike The Bunker, Late Shift is completely seamless, save for the occasional slight, jarring delay in the FMV footage following the decisions you make, as they're presented to you on-the-fly. Playing as hapless parking attendant Matt, a seemingly quiet night quickly spirals out of control, and each of your choices shape how the ensuing scenes play out, with varying levels of terrible misfortune befalling the lead character with every decision you make.

With seven possible endings, it's genuinely intriguing to see how Late Shift's heist and the subsequent fallout unfolds, even if the game's central item of interest seems like a lot of much ado about nothing. A lot of bad shit happens over a tiny, but unbelievably valuable rice bowl, and if, like me on my first runthrough, you make just one bad choice, everything you've done leading up to the game's frenzied denouement can potentially count for nothing. Some choices can also be complete dead ends.

Nicely lensed, Late Shift does a great job in getting the look and feel of London after dark just right, although as someone with a rudimentary knowledge of the city's geography, the locations are all over the place. At one point, the game's characters state that they're heading to Shoreditch in East London only to end up heading miles to the south in New Cross. Why didn't they just say they're going to New Cross? It doesn't really matter, but nonetheless this kind of thing seems like a strange oversight, as does a visit to the quietest hospital ever, which makes absolutely no sense in Central London.

In fact, there are more than a few things that make little to no sense in Late Shift. Still, while these instances can be seen as glaring inconsistencies, it seems like nit-picking when Late Shift does a lot right. For starters, the performances are generally pretty decent, save for one or two slightly dodgy scenes, and the script for the most part is not bad, if a little heavy-handed in trying to communicate the ripple effect your decisions supposedly have. There are one or two daft dialogue exchanges that stretch the game's credibility too, numerous lines sounding completely unnatural. No one talks like that, as far as I know, anyway.

Regardless, Late Shift's achievement list rewards experimentation and making various decisions, most of which involve seeing a through-line to its conclusion, like refusing to give in during a certain juncture, for instance. You'll also need to view all seven of the game's endings too if you're planning on netting the full complement of 1000 Gamerscore. Even without the impetus provided by earning achievements, I still felt compelled to play Late Shift again, just to see what happens, though.

And while Late Shift is well shot and proficiently put together, it's worth noting that the game is essentially just making decisions as the action unfolds before you. There's nothing more to it than that, but as far as delivering an interactive movie goes, this is probably about as good as it gets. I've yet to play an example of an FMV game that's as well made as Late Shift, not that I've played many FMV games, mind you. Still, as a compelling interactive, cinematic experience, it might be flawed, but all in all, Late Shift delivers the goods. It just might not bowl you over completely.

Late Shift

A slightly iffy script, one or two uneven performances and some questionable scenes aside, Late Shift is an intriguing FMV crime thriller worth checking out.

Form widget
70%
Audio
75%

Some uneven performances, but an excellent soundtrack means that Late Shift sounds pretty good.

Visuals
85%

London by night looks superb, with flyovers of the city to rival The Apprentice. Late Shift is nicely shot, making it feel like a proper cinematic experience.

Playability
70%

All you're doing is picking choices and watching the story branch off down different paths, but it's engaging and enjoyable viewing. Job done.

Delivery
70%

A single run takes about 90 minutes (depending on your choices), but in all likelihood you'll want to see several of Late Shift's endings, if not all seven of 'em. You'll certainly get your money's worth.

Achievements
60%

All but three of Late Shift's achievements are secret, so trial and error, as well as repeated playthroughs will be required. You'll need to watch all of the endings for the full 1000G too.

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