Developer & Publisher: Wales Interactive
Genre: Full Motion Video
Also On: PC, PlayStation, Xbox
For years upon years now, video games have been trying to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are art on par with music, paintings, sculptures and cinema. From massive scale titles to budget indie one-offs, we’ve seen the tantalizing evidence of real creativity and craftsmanship seep out of every corner of the world. One thing that’s never really caught on, though, are the FMVs, or full motion video games. Sure, we’ve seen bits and bobs get recognition and accolades, from the surprisingly deep Black Dahlia to the controversy and pearl clutching that Sewer Shark inspired so long ago. Perhaps it’s the lasting imprint of these titles that encouraged Wales Interactive to keep taking a chance on these movies-as-games that have trotted onto the stage in the last few years. The latest, Bloodshore, seems almost formulaic to a fault, which leads to the question: who exactly is this for?
Bloodshore treads zero new grounds in terms of storyline and plot points, though several are basically screamed at the player to ensure that you get the “nuance.” Kill/Stream is a murderous reality show that’s been around for over a decade, in which contestants must outwit and ultimately outlive each other for a chance at fame and fortune. You play the brooding protagonist, Nick, who is a former movie star that now finds himself on the show for noble reasons that may or may not be revealed to you as soon as you start the game. Airdropped onto an unknown and untrackable island, Nick must form alliances, gather supplies, and make quick decisions to ensure that he survives long enough to expose the dark and ugly truth of Kill/Stream. Will Nick be the hero who shows the public that we are all the playthings of the wealthy? Does he end up falling in love with the woman who’s been making eyes at him since the airplane? Can anyone really say that they wouldn’t kill a bunch of strangers to become comfortably rich? I mean, I hope that last one isn’t rhetorical and we can all answer “no,” but the Internet is a wild place.
Sitting comfortably at about 75 minutes, the average playthrough of Bloodshore is a decent little B-movie style romp that’ll take you from beginning to end in little more than a couple episodes of Dexter, and far less than a single Hunger Games movie. The player’s only role is to make flash decisions when prompted, which is often just a This or That option. Each decision that Nick makes affects metrics that you can see at any point in the game’s menu, with rising and falling numbers in Audience Appeal, Romance, Ammunition and so on. These metrics will give you the pathway to your final ending, so keep those numbers up if you’re looking for something specific. Thankfully, most of the choices that Nick has to make are pretty straightforward. For example, saving the girl during a bridge explosion will significantly boost the likelihood of a romantic ending with her. Additionally, choosing to save your ammunition during a shootout might make your Audience Appeal dip, but then you’ll still have bullets left during the final showdown with some of the secret bad guys on the island.
With nothing else to speak of in terms of game mechanics, it falls to the reviewer and the audience alike to see if they enjoy Bloodshore as much as they might. On the one hand, as a game, it’s a single shot of cheap thrills that you are done with sooner than you’d think, but longer than you’d like. There’s no option to save or any control over the game other than Resume, so trying to get different endings means rewinding the tape and starting from the beginning: once you start this journey, you’re on it till the end. Additionally, you really can’t passively enjoy Bloodshore, as the options that are given to Nick appear and disappear in a matter of seconds. Failure to choose means the game defaults to the first choice, which is often something bland if not awful, like “Say Nothing” or “Wait.” Forget to pause before checking your phone and suddenly Nick has totally tanked his appeal with Tish. To be fair, the game incorporates the sound of a ticking clock every time a decision appears, so players who are caught offguard have no one but themselves to blame.
On the other hand, Bloodshore is a fantastic group experience with the right mindset at the helm. This captures the feel and look of a straight-to-video action title that you and your friends/family would enjoy one cheesy Friday night. Everyone in the cast is exceptionally dramatic without being too hammy, and it makes zero apologies for how it presents. There’s the undercurrent of the maniacal game master making tasteless jokes at the expense of the dead, and the aloof billionaire who created Kill/Stream feeling no empathy to people in the game. The through story about the economy and the dystopian reality of the world can be a bummer, but game choices allow you to skip over some of it if you’d prefer just to focus on the bloody but wholly unrealistic violence. A man’s parachute doesn’t open, he falls to the shore and dies from impact, but his body is perfectly intact, just covered with fake blood spray. Bloodshore isn’t sharing any new or exciting messages, but it has a lot of fun with the same words that you’ve heard elsewhere, and the cast really does deliver in their presentations.
For less than the price of two movie tickets, you can pick up Bloodshore and enjoy some indie filmmaking at its finest, complete with the notion that the film can change every time. Sure, you’re not getting the thrill of doing the action or the questing yourself, but the player is far from a passive spectator: you’re the director, within limits, for a surprisingly good time. As long as you trim your ambitions and realize you’re getting a movie, not a game, then Bloodshore can be a great Friday night a few times over. However, once you’ve seen all the endings you care for, then Bloodshore really does just drift off into a crimson sunset.
As long as you trim your ambitions and realize you’re getting a movie, not a game, then Bloodshore can be a great Friday night a few times over.