Telling Lies Review

Dan Webb

In a time where we’re all crammed into our own homes, fighting an invisible battle with a deadly virus, there’s something comforting about peering into the lives of others and seeing what other people are getting up to. There’s something weirdly attractive about living the life of a voyeur in Sam Barlow’s latest outing, Telling Lies, peering through the curtain into the mysterious lives of others, but after a while one thing becomes apparent: for the most part, other people’s lives are really, really boring. Just like ours are.

Telling Lies, the follow-up to the award-winning Her Story, sees you playing the role of an unnamed protagonist as she snoops through the private lives of various individuals using NSA-esque spyware that’s recording every word and conversation while in front of a camera. With the current state of the world, as private companies listen in on our every conservation, the premise is not only chilling, but potentially fairly accurate as well.

In Telling Lies you spend your time using secret government technology that spies on the general public to get to the bottom of the mystery. You’ll be watching videos, clicking on keywords, and attempting to unravel the complicated mess that is other peoples’ lives, descending deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. If you’re familiar with Her Story, you’ll know exactly what to expect here.

What you get out of Telling Lies depends on what you put in and how invested you become. One could argue that throwing you into a game with no background or objective is a little too loosey-goosey for a narrative-driven experience, but honestly, that’s one of the lures of the game. The voyage of discovery is what makes Telling Lies such a compelling experience. Who are these people? Why are we spying on them? What kind of a person are they? When you lift the veil of opinion, peering into private conversations, you can really get a feel for who that person is.

That isn’t where Telling Lies loses its head of steam, though. In fact, Telling Lies’ saving grace is the vaguely interesting narrative that is woven throughout, with it jumping focus and direction more than enough to not only keep things interesting, but to keep things from growing stale. Telling Lies falls short in a lot of other departments. Going through hours and hours of video footage of a group of people’s lives might sound intimately fascinating to start with, but then you realise how many inane conversations people actually have.

Yes, it might be realistic… I mean, the amount of times I genuinely talk about the weather is living up to the British stereotype, but is that fun for someone listening in? Heck, I’m not even sure it’s fun for the other person I’m having the conversation with, let alone someone else watching it! Telling Lies has a lot of that. Inane conversations with a sprinkling of interesting moments. Don’t let me understate this either – in Telling Lies I literally watched a seven-minute video of someone basically staring at a camera and only reacting periodically. It’s hauntingly accurate to every Google Hangout and Zoom call I’ve had since the pandemic started. Considering you’re only seeing one side of a conversation, as well – experiencing a single person’s perspective – you have to suffer each fatuous conversation twice. Ugh.

Sure, the lack of any real goals is a hell of an intriguing mystery to fathom out, and not knowing what you’re searching for is kind of the point – to pique your curiosity, to peel back the layers. But with every layer you successfully peel, it’s still surrounded by profound boredom and dullness. I’m not even sure the ending is a big enough payoff either, for enduring all the nonsense you have to endure for most of the game.

Boring, dull, never-ending videos aside, it’s not as if Telling Lies isn’t without a litany of other issues. For one, the interface is a little finnicky for consoles. Telling Lies is clearly made for PC – I mean, you’re searching for videos using a PC interface – and the shift to the controller is awkward at best. It’s a little buggy too, and on numerous occasions I had to find workarounds to get the in-game videos to load. On top of that, the rewind function has three speeds: slow, slow and slow.

At its core, Telling Lies actually boasts a really solid narrative with some fantastic acting on offer, a story that keeps you guessing from one hour to the next, seeing new sides to people as you get to know them more and discover the skeletons in their closet, but that’s probably only 20% of what Telling Lies is. The other 80% is a real snooze-fest. In fact, at one point you can actually watch one of the characters fall asleep as her father reads her a bedtime story… but you know, you can’t actually hear that due to how the game is set up. If, then, you have the patience of a saint, Telling Lies might actually offer you something, but most people likely won’t get that far.

Telling Lies

Telling Lies is almost the perfect metaphor for real-life: inane bollocks for the most part, with some really interesting things happening every so often to stop you from falling asleep.

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The acting is spot on throughout. You can’t fault any of them, or even the musical score, which is excellent. Hauntingly excellent!


It’s FMV and adopts awkward angles to mimic how people use their phones and laptops. That’s all you need to know.


The controls are a little finnicky to say the least. A game, clearly made for PC – and for the most part, set on a PC screen – unsurprisingly doesn’t really translate that well to a controller.


A lot of nothing is saved by some vaguely interesting moments. Honestly, being a voyeur isn’t as interesting as you might think.


The achievements are decent enough. Most of them are for just making your way through the game, but there are a couple of creative ones in there as well. We love a good creative achievement, you know that!

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