The combination of cinema and video games has gradually increased with technological progress, which has allowed it to evolve towards more artistic and refined forms. In recent years, then authors such as David Cage e Sam lake they were pioneers of this philosophy, of the videogame as a communicative work of art, where the boundary between game and film is thin, and one in turn influences the other.
With Virginia, work before Variable State, instead we try a multimedia experiment that goes far beyond what we have seen so far: not a videogame with strong cinematographic influences but to all intents and purposes a walking simulator disguised as an interactive film, where the player is a spectator and supporter of the events. Available from 22 September on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One at the price of 9.99 €, will Virginia be able to convince us with her experimental approach to the genre of cinematic experiences?
Version tested: Xbox One
Welcome to Twin Peaks VirginiaThe absence of any form of acting is a double-edged sword
Spielberg, Kubric, Lynch. Three directors who have marked the history of cinema and influenced future generations with their stories. Imitated, visionary and a source of inspiration, even the world of video games has often drawn heavily from their filmography. Especially Lynch with Twin Peaks he laid the foundations of a surreal, dark and strongly psychological detective vein, taken years ago in all its essence by a title that paid homage to him in every respect, Deadly Premonition.
Virginia also approaches Lynch in a similar way, almost as if he were his illegitimate son, following all his trappings and daring even more., eliminating any form of acting from the game / film. A risky and not easy choice to make (nor to make your interlocutor understand) that shifts the effectiveness of communication to other levels such as the script or the expressive capacity of virtual actors.
The Variable State title puts us in the shoes of Anne Tarver, a new FBI agent dealing with a missing case. The young man Lucas Fairfax, of the town of Kingdom in Virginia he disappeared under mysterious circumstances and it will be up to us, as law enforcement officers, to solve the case and find out what happened to the boy. A not so original and heavily abused plot beginning where the narrative element and its development will make the difference. After taking control of Anne, our every action will be subject to the direction and from the editing of the scenes: sequence shots, fades, flashbacks, every directorial disagreement will influence the classic concept we have of gameplay, which in Virginia will be severely limited, almost impalpable. For example, we will find ourselves walking down a long corridor or a trip by car; as we walk the screen image will be cut abruptly, transporting us to the next sequence just like it would happen in a movie, giving everything a certain dynamism typical of film productions. To destabilize things, the supernatural element comes into play, which will bind to the normal progression of history, making it difficult to distinguish the truth from the numerous hallucinations that our Anne will find herself experiencing apparently for no reason on her skin, and we with her. The absence of any form of acting is a double-edged sword that on the one hand complicates the understanding of certain events, on the other leaves ample room for the free interpretation of the story that will not be spared, in about 2 hours it takes to get to the end credits, to play with the viewer, bringing up aliens, "what if" narratives, strange religious cults and unsolved family problems in a bizarre and confusing potpourri worthy of the best episode of X-Files. From this point of view, Virginia is a title that needs more than a "turn" to be grasped as a whole, to savor every nuance or detail, which probably had escaped the first "vision".
I want to be ReeveThe type of experience experienced can drastically change depending on the player
For this reason it is really difficult to talk to you about such a complex story without going too far into the merits of the story and risking to ruin any surprises. And it is also complicated to make you understand in words the type of experience that goes beyond the video game formula we are used to and which can drastically vary (both for good and for bad) depending on the player.
As mentioned, Virginia's gameplay is sketched, in such an essential form as to be barely tangible, riding this increasingly rampant trend of walking simulators. Living the adventure from Anne's eyes, we will be able to move within the game environments, often in context with the direction. Sometimes when the opportunity is given it will be possible to interact with some elements of the scenario, all constantly guided by history and the course of events, continually underlining the fact that we are dealing with an interactive film and not the other way around. Unlike what was done by the aforementioned Cage, or in the adventures of the house Telltale, in Virginia there is no "decision-making" factor that can change our future, making sure that every single action performed within the game is an end in itself or necessary for the story, avoiding opening the way to possible narrative crossroads.
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The silence of the hamsSome tracks on the soundtrack recall the themes of twin Peaks and X-Files
But Virginia's real star is her soundtrack. The absence of any form of dubbing is compensated beautifully by the music composed for the occasion by Lyndon Holland and made "alive" thanks toPrague Philharmonic Orchestra. Not only will the music give "voice" to Virginia's characters with a truly incredible intensity, but even the simple ambient noises will become fundamental pieces of the story. Some songs, then, recall the symphonies of the main themes of the X-Files and of Twin Peaks itself, a quotationism that awakens unexpected Prustian memories in the player / spectator, making the viewing even more rewarding.
We conclude by spending a few words on the graphic aspect, cross and delight of Virginia. The Variable State title boasts a valid and effective technical sector that focuses more on a caricature style than on forced realism, which in hindsight would surely have out of tune or would have been less effective. In their simplicity, the 3D models of the protagonists boast an incredible expressiveness and do not make us regret the absence of any type of dialogue. Even the use of the first person view contributes to our involvement in the story, proving also suitable to be used on more than one occasion as a narrative stratagem that plays in particular on the perception of events. Despite the good use of Unity, the final yield is affected by a frame rate not always up to par, which in the few interactive sequences will make itself felt, with loss of fluidity during our movements.
Verdict 8.5 / 10 But on Netflix when do they give it? Comment With Virginia, Variable State attempts a different approach to the cinematographic experiences proposed in recent years by Cage and company. Virginia is on balance a walking simulator disguised as an interactive film, an experiment that draws heavily from the filmography of the psychological and surreal detective genre, paying homage to Lynch and his Twin Peaks in an almost obsessive way. Virginia constantly travels on the razor's edge, poised between the Fantozzian "crazy shit" and the undisputed masterpiece of the author, a factor that makes it more easily appreciated by those looking for particular videogame experiences that go beyond the canons of today's market, and is sufficiently open minded to digest what he just felt. Virginia is therefore a title not for everyone, and as for others before it (albeit in other playful forms) the same considerations apply: if you are looking for something more concrete and classic, you have completely mistaken the title and you should go further. . If, on the other hand, you are curious and ready to experiment, get ready to dedicate two hours of your time to it, and given the very affordable ticket price, it will not be so different from spending a night at the cinema in the company of a good movie. Pros and cons ✓ It is an interactive film
✓ Great Lynch atmospheres
✓ Powerful and effective soundtrack
✓ Beautifully characterized characters x It is an interactive film
x Virtually absent gameplay
x It is completed in a couple of hours
x Some fluidity problems