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The Detail / 10th of May 2016

There has been a slew of episodic games emerging since Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead Season One managed to grab the limelight with its…well, let’s not dwell on its inadequacies, but rather shift our focus to the present, and the emergence of Rival Games’ mature, The Wire inspired police thriller, The Detail, which has just recently come to end of its first season. In it, players take control of a group of characters battling organised crime from both within and outside these organisations, and as if that wasn’t reason enough to pick it up, it also ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger.

The story opens with a simple murder investigation in what appears to be a drug deal gone wrong, only the corpse in question turns out to be none other than one of the three local gang bosses. The investigation sets in motion a series of events that spiral towards violence, mistrust and yes, the cliff-hanger ending that I have already alluded to. The most important turn of events, well, that doesn’t include any spoilers, is that the first episode leads inexorably to the creation of a new major crimes unit in the city, known as The Detail. Comprised mainly of a rookie cop with a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time (Katelyn Hayes), and two long serving detectives (Reggie Moore) whose friendships is set to face its greatest challenge to date thanks to an ex-con struggling to escape his past (Joe Miller). Whilst trying to avoid the pitfalls of disintegrating personal relationships, The Detail must also orchestrate raids, survive shoot-outs and more as they seek to unearth proof of the police and political corruption that is slowly tearing the city to pieces.

Each episode has been written as a whole, concise act within the overarching story, with Rival Games having skilfully combined a high budget TV show approach to storytelling with a gritty, comic book visual style. As a result, The Detail is simple enough to play, coming across as a combination of point and click adventure and interactive graphic novel, there aren’t really any puzzles to speak of as such though, you simply need to search crime scenes for clues, which generally just means clicking on any and all interactive objects within a scene. It’s obviously not going to represent a stern challenge to anybody, but then perhaps that’s the point, clearly the most imperative aspect of the experience here is the storytelling, so the developer, Rival Games, have ensured that everybody can pick up and enjoy their time with the game.

The downside to this though is that each episode is generally rather short, with the whole season taking only around four hours to complete, and offering very little in terms of replay value, but then to look at the game in such a way is really to miss the point. The Detail isn’t really a game in the standard sense, it literally is an interactive graphic novel that has been created to weave together the lives and stories of a varied cast of characters, most of whom aren’t all that they appear to be, so I’m definitely prepared to give it some leeway here.

The art style that Rival Games have opted for seemed perhaps a bit basic to me at times, though there are undoubtedly moments where it looks outstanding, and it certainly manages to maintain a fairly tense atmosphere throughout, something that it develops almost immediately thanks to a sequence in which the player controls two cops as they investigate the apartment of a paedophile. There are times where the colour palette is reduced to a stark black and white, whilst other sequences are awash with colour, such as Joe’s first foray back into organised crime, Rival Games clearly know when and where to ramp up the level of detail in the visuals. The audio is equally fitting, though there’s no voice acting, but the music, whilst not much to write home about mostly, is certainly appropriate, perfectly matching the overall mood of the game.

Coming in at just under £15, The Detail is obviously not going to be to everyone’s tastes, but there can be no doubting that Rival Games have managed to create something that feels quite original in an industry that has become a tad too homogenised. Yes, it could obviously be longer, but the four hours or so that you spend with this will simply fly past, and enjoyably so, and besides, the very fact that its cliff-hanger ending has left me all-too anxious to sample season two, which quite frankly cannot come soon enough, speaks volumes. So, if you’re looking for something that’s a little bit different from the norm, then don’t be afraid to give The Detail a chance, you never know, it might just manage to surprise you.

James Paton
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