While many video games have dealt with police investigations, few deal with the interviewing suspects. This is the basis of Sam Barlow’s latest game, Her Story. Barlow, the creator of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and Aisle, is known for creating games with striking narratives that are outside the norm in most games. Her Story is certainly no exception to this, and might be Barlow’s greatest work to date.
Despite most of the game dealing with interviewing a suspect, the player is not asking the questions. Instead, the player is watching short clips (that range from five to thirty seconds) of the process, years after the case took place. This is a game about closure, not a mystery about who has committed the crime. Within the first five minutes, players will know the culprit, but that doesn’t matter. What makes Her Story so captivating is finding out the motivations behind what happened, and the story of the woman being interviewed.
Interview clips are sorted by words that are used by the suspect, Hannah. So if the player searches for “weapon” in the in-game search tool, they’ll get back the five oldest clips where Hannah utters the word. This means that the player unravels the story at their own pace, and every playthrough will be different. Some players will discover key plot points early on, while others will take more time to discover them. No matter how the game is played, the narrative is still thrilling. It is an amazing achievement that such a non-linear story is able to be fit together perfectly.
The actual interview videos use full motion video. While FMV certainly doesn’t have a good reputation in games, it is used superbly in Her Story. The actress portraying Hannah, Viva Seifert, does an amazing job delivering a believable performance. The entire game relies on her performance, as it is the only character ever seen, so it was essential that she nailed the character. Her Story shows that FMV has a future in games, it just needs to be used when it makes sense.
There isn’t much gameplay in a traditional sense to be found. Most of the game is just watching videos, but the game can drive players to take several pages worth of notes. During dialogue, players will want to write down key phrases so they know to search for them later. It isn’t necessary, but it will make for a more thorough investigation.
Other than knowing the percentage of videos you have viewed, there is no sense of progression in Her Story. In fact, the game never tells you when you are finished, instead the player is tasked with walking away from the game once they are satisfied with the information they have uncovered. Not conforming to gaming rules, such as having a clear cut ending, is one of the things that make Her Story such a powerful game. The game answers just enough questions to leave the player satisfied. But, it also leaves enough blurriness for there to be years worth of debates to happen on message boards.
Once the game is “completed” and the credits roll, the player can then go back into the game with some additional commands. This makes viewing any missed videos easy, and they’ll quickly see anything that they could not discover previously. While this definitely should help any players that feel like they missed any of the story feel satisfied, it kind of diminishes the point of walking away from the monitor. That said, it still is completely optional.
Her Story is unlike any other game on the marketplace. It is a personal, intriguing story that is more interesting than most films. While its gameplay may not be anything revolutionary, it shows that video games can be so much more than they are currently. Her Story has one of the most striking narratives ever seen in gaming, and is a game that needs to be played. Few games are this thought provoking, few games are this interesting, and no game makes the case for FMV as well as Her Story does.
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