I’m Getting a Complex
It’s another FMV game from the folks at Wales Interactive, and this time a sinister pseudo-pharma company is off being very naughty with totalitarian state Kindar tangled up in the mess. It’s on you as Dr. Amy Tenant to unravel the mysteries of The Complex, the laboratory the good doctor works at, to save the world from a bio-terrorist threat.
Unfortunately, unlike other Wales Interactive titles such as Late Shift and The Bunker – which were both pretty good – The Complex is scarcely believable, tonally all over the place, boasts seemingly inconsequential decision-making and suffers from poor post-production values.
It’s all terribly disappointing because the trailer looked great, and it boasted some notable alumni from Game of Thrones and The Handmaids tale. But most importantly, the whole thing is set in London, which was bloody marvelous as a Brit, to finally see us lot get hammered instead of New York for the 372,832nd time.
A Weak Story
From the off, The Complex positions itself as a high stakes affair. You’re immediately thrust into the role of Dr. Amy Tenant – played by Michelle Mylett of Bad Blood fame – forcing you to play God with the lives of two Kindarian patients.
Unfortunately, with little to no backstory, the initial experience is quite jarring. And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t give a toss whether poor Talo or the other sod lived or died, because I felt I was bucketed into a meaningless decision. It turned out to be the case because it had little to no bearing on the next part of the game, where five years have passed, and the good Dr. Tenant has traded in saving Kindarian lives for pitching shady nanotech in board rooms.
Despite being jarring and disjointed, the main issue with The Complex is that it’s a horribly cliched and dull story. Unlike The Bunker, which allowed you to explore rooms for additional lore, The Complex plays like a knock-off version of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, without the depth, intrigue and acting performances.
A Poorly Scripted Affair
The Complex boasts an impressive array of acting talent, with Kate Dickie of Game of Thrones fame playing the stereotypical shady pharma boss. Unfortunately, Dickie’s skills are put to waste in this role, and she comes across as wooden because of the poor script.
It’s the same for that British fellow Rees, who acts as Dr. Tenant’s sidekick and obvious love-interest. While I’m sure Al Weaver is a good actor, the mainstay of his contributions to the plot of The Complex are really annoying wise-cracks and crude innuendo; both of which trivialise the severity of the situation the game tries to build in the initial scenes.
Tonally, The Complex is all over the place. At the start, it cuts to a quite shocking scene where someone is quite literally bleeding out of their face on the London Underground*, to Rees cracking stupid jokes about hand gliding in the Himalayas. It creates a tremendous disconnect between the severity of the situation the characters find themselves in and their response to it.
*I take issue with this scene because the woman who’s bleeding out of her face has a conversation with a passenger on the Tube. This NEVER happens IRL. After years of using the Tube, we Londoners – even though I’m a northerner now – do our utmost to not even make eye contact, let alone engage in idle conversation!
Half-baked Decisions and Features
FMV games are well known for their decision-making features and, unfortunately, in my first playthrough, nothing I did seemed to have any real consequences. Take the poor sods in the opening scene, I killed both, but this isn’t even referenced later in the game, making the whole thing seem totally pointless.
This pattern of meaningless decision-making continues throughout the game. Later, a situation arises whereby you must escape the area you’re in. You can choose to do it with blunt force or chemicals, both of which have no consequence to the overarching plot because the entire thing is one big McGuffin to get Kate Dickens on the phone. The whole decision-making process seems to be tacked on with minimal impact on the overarching game, unlike Erica – which I’ve played three times – and have had a different experience each time.
Much was made pre-launch about a personality engine, that tracks your relationships with the cast throughout the game, as well as your own psychometric profile based on your choices. I didn’t know this feature existed until I opened the press kit that came with the game and discovered the option in the pause menu. An arbitrary statistic is assigned to each of the characters, reflecting your engagements with each of them.
I couldn’t help but feel Wales Interactive just shoved these features in to put something else flashy on their marketing packs.
The Complex Could Have Had So Much To Say, But It Falls Spectacularly Short
With a shadowy totalitarian state pulling the strings (thinly disguising North Korea) and a bio-terrorist threat in a major European city, The Complex could have much to say about politics, ethics, and other meaningful subjects. Instead, the game meanders in mediocrity to its meaningless climax, leaving with you little motivation to replay the game to explore alternative decisions.
I write this review as I’m under quarantine for the COVID-19 pandemic. When my editor posted the code assignment for The Complex, and after seeing the trailer, with the shocking scenes in the game showing parallels to what’s going across the globe right now, I snapped up the opportunity to review the game.
Unfortunately, with the myriad points discussed throughout this piece, it might have been better for Wales Interactive to leave this game in lockdown.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed); Developer: Wales Interactive.; Publisher: Wales Interactive.; Players: 1; Released: March 31, 2020; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $12.99
Full disclosure: A review code was provided by the game’s publisher.