Some neat licensed tunes, decent voice performances and stings of music that ramp up the tension at the right moments, make for a suitably atmospheric audio landscape.
An evocative snapshot of a fictionalised Britain in the 1980s, The Occupation is a solid-looking game, hampered only by occasional instances of clipping, frame rate glitches and bizarre character bugs.
There's nothing really wrong with how The Occupation plays, save for some irritating Xbox One X issues that cause the user interface to be offset. Interactions can be occasionally woolly, but that's about the worst you can say. Otherwise, this is by and large, robust.
On Xbox One X, The Occupation is virtually unplayable in its current state. On all other platforms, it works fine, save for the odd, relatively minor issue here and there. Perhaps hold off on buying this if you're planning on playing on the X, until another patch, at least.
Being both careful and thorough in The Occupation will reward you with a whole bunch of achievements. A list that demands you be the best damn investigative journalist you can be.
March 22, 2019
The Occupation is a stressful game. Played out in real-time, you're constantly checking your watch as the seconds tick down towards a scheduled interview, and your job as investigative journalist Harvey Miller involves snooping around for an hour, avoiding the unwanted attention of a roaming security guard. Miller takes the investigation part of his work very seriously indeed, leafing through files, digging up floppy disks, and poking around where he shouldn't be.
Set in the fictional Manchester-like region of Turing City during the late 80s, The Occupation is an immersive thriller, and it's down to you to prove the supposed innocence of an immigrant suspected of masterminding a bombing that resulted in the death of 23 people. The incident gives rise to The Union Act, a draconian measure set in place by the British government that threatens to infringe upon the civil liberties of a country thrown into turmoil. It's weighty subject matter laced with relevance in today's tumultuous political climate, but it's executed in a mature and smart manner that's marred only by a lack of technical polish.
Unfolding over the course of a single day, interspersed with sequences that take place around the disaster and its aftermath that fill in the narrative gaps, The Occupation's yarn proves to be an enormously intriguing one. And it's made all the more urgent by the time constraints that dictate how much research you can garner before heading into an interview with key members of the Bowman Carson Group.
Labelling The Occupation what it essentially is – a first-person stealth game – seems almost reductive. The truth is it's a lot more than that. Engendering tension in every moment, White Paper's investigative thriller pushes you to see how much you can get away with before being caught out, the Bowman Carson building's resident security guard Steve proving a constant thorn in your side. Run into him, and it can be a serious setback, having your briefcase and its invaluable contents confiscated while losing fifteen minutes of your hour.
Time is your most vital resource, too, as it's your only chance to follow leads and garner essential knowledge to take into your interviews. Without being forearmed with salient details, you'll ultimately fail to get to the bottom of what happened on that fateful day. White Paper Games has crafted a compelling tale brimming with intrigue that you'll want to thoroughly explore and immerse yourself in, right up until the panicky final chapter.
Unfortunately, upon reaching the second half of The Occupation and the hour before an interview with Chance Crow, a whole litany of devastating bugs were hurled my way. Among them was a bug that caused the game to freeze and crash to the console's dashboard on Xbox One X, and a weird issue with the interface and cursor that meant I was unable to perform smaller interactions with switches and keypads. Two patches have been released since the game launched on 5th March, and none seem to have addressed these problems. In fact, the latest update has only served to exacerbate the issues I encountered.
These problems don't affect other versions of the game, so as long as you're not playing on an Xbox One X, you'll be fine. For the most part. The Occupation still has its fair share of glitches and bugs, whichever platform you're on, and they all conspire to mar what is otherwise an intelligent, well-orchestrated game. And with a lack of a regular save system (to preserve the whole remit of the real-time hour prior to each interview), you'll be forced to do huge chunks of the game over again if it crashes on you. It's hugely infuriating, and a genuine shame. Discounting the bugs and other problems, The Occupation emerges as an incisive and immersive experience, and one that deserves to be played, even in spite of its shoddy presentation.
The Occupation's sense of time and place, and the act of crawling through vents, breaking into offices and finding floppy disks, cassette tapes, notes, and other leads to pursue make for a constantly compelling storyline that succeeds in drawing you right into its swirling plot of conspiracies and cover-ups. With multiple endings, and the possibility of everything blowing up in your face if you're caught, The Occupation will keep you hooked until its inevitable denouement, which if you've put in the work can go your way, or not. And by the time you've reached the end of The Occupation, you'll be ready for it to be over. It's almost the right length and only outstays its welcome a little bit towards the game's final moments.
Games like The Occupation are too few and far between. So when one comes along and it's this sloppily executed, you can't help but be disappointed. Fundamentally, there's nothing wrong with The Occupation's gameplay, core ideas and narrative; it's a lack of polish and attention to detail that hold it back from achieving greatness. Persevere, however, and The Occupation will reward you with a sanguine story overflowing with political intrigue, governmental conspiracy, and sharp social commentary.