505 Games, Xbox One
First Impression “review”
Ahh…The Unfinished Gamer has returned! I’m a little rusty here, so bear with me as I review a new game.
The game VIRGINIA was recommended to me by my friend, fiance and gaming cohort, and I picked it up on the Black Friday sale solely on impulse but also convinced by the trailer provided in the story. The trailer itself showed very little, but what was said about the game immediately reeled me in.
I am an auditory learner and a sucker for music and sound design in games because–quite frankly–I don’t think those departments get enough credit. Right off the bat, this thriller gets you right in the zone with a chorus of strings and piano that will chill you right to the bone. The opening credits pays a subtle homage to crime dramas of old and sets a tasty morsel of the atmosphere you are about to dive into right on the tip of your tongue.
Without giving away too much, you begin here, staring into your reflection. Once you pick up the pieces, compose yourself, and head out, you come to find out that you are at your commencement ceremony, and have become an FBI agent. The story follows Special Agent Anne Tarver on a double-investigation, as you find yourself partnered with someone who has a secretive past, Special Agent Maria Halperin. The pair begin their travels together and are both on the trail of a child abduction case.
Virginia may be of interest to those who love that Twin Peaks or X-Files type of bizarre mystery, as the chilling ambiance of the synth in the tunes really add to the atmosphere, and the dream sequences give a brilliant twist to psychological thriller. It is linear in a sense that it guides you along and it even does some pretty neat cinematic cuts to pull the story forward. (I did kind of see this as a bit of a downside as I read pretty slow–and missed a couple of notes in the files…But STILL the scene transitions and WTF moments really brighten up what would otherwise feel like a lull sort of moment in the game.) Along with the aforementioned Twin Peaks and X-Files, it is reminiscent of Vanishing of Ethan Carter for its mystery and Firewatch for the feels and the style.
Ah yes… This game is stylized, I can tell you that. Its graphic detail, though not “realistic”, paints a world so vivid that you still feel immersed by the vibrant and/or intense coloring used to set the scene. One thing that may be a drawback to some is: There is no dialogue…no text, no spoken word…nothing. You have the option to turn on subtitles but it’s just so you don’t miss the subtle nuances of the faint reactions or grunts or even the music being played in the background. Sounds are well placed, and from what I have seen don’t go for the cheap thrill of jumpscaring for the hell of it. Even though the music is a huge factor in the driving force of the game, it punctuates some moments while drowning some of them in loud sequences that may distract or fluster you…
Virginia proves with each passing chapter that you can create a hypnotizing story and atmosphere using very little on screen, thus requiring imagination and attention from the player. As a fan of the mystery/click adventure games, I cannot praise this one enough as it has found a way to make this category come to life, unfolding this tale in its own unique way. It forces you to be observant, as you are able to turn your head or move around during some sequences which makes it feel a little freer than some “thriller experience” games. There have been a few moments where it had me gasp or even say “Oh wow…” when that revelation hits, because everything starts to fall into place. I love that.
If you decide to pick it up and play it, wear headphones or play it through your television speakers. Even though it is a game without words–the music and sound effects are well-worth hearing.
Overall, I highly recommend it to fans of the genre, or if you want to try something different? Go for it.
I’m roughly 1/3 of the way through, as the game has 42 chapters/scenes, and may revisit this review once I am finished. 😉