‘The Complex’ Review: The first ever interactive sci-fi movie is intriguing but underdeveloped
Wales Interactive, the video game developer behind BAFTA winning interactive movie Late Shift, brings us an intriguing new experience set within the sci-fi genre. The Complex follows two scientists, Amy (Michelle Mylett) and Rees (Al Weaver), who find themselves in a locked down laboratory after a bio-weapons attack on London. Events may hit a little too close to home for those looking for a notable distraction from the coronavirus, as they won’t find it here.
Amy, who has previously treated victims of a chemical attack in the fictional totalitarian state of Kindar, played a key role in developing the latest Nanocell Technology for Kensington Corp. After being infected with said tech, intern Clare (Twitch streamer Leah Viatham) starts vomiting blood on the tube and spends the movie’s duration with Amy and Rees inside K-Corp’s vacuum sealed lab — only Clare is kept inside a glass coffin for protection. Together, Amy and Rees must work to contain the bio-weapon, get to the bottom of a corporate conspiracy and fend off three masked intruders making their way into the high security lab.
As the story plays out, we’re presented with two to four options which not only affect the plot, but Amy’s personality traits and relationships with other characters. Some decisions are tougher than others and the time limit puts the pressure on, though this can be adjusted in the settings. While there are nine endings and 196 scenes, most of the options don’t change much upon replays, as many of the main decisions are quite black and white. With only superficial changes unlocking scenes with minor deviation, these, however, affect your relationships with characters who may or may not help you later in the story. It’s these that have major consequences on which ending you get, as the concluding scenes are the only ones that differ greatly.
The interactive decisions cause the editing to be quite abrupt, but this lingers even when the interactive options aren’t involved. While this isn’t a massive problem, it allows the editing to feel artificial and does distract from getting lost in the experience. The story itself can be quite slow and is only engrossing on the first playthrough. While I wanted to try and get as many endings as possible, I found that my interest had diminished pretty quickly. Despite being able to skip already played scenes — a fantastic feature — there just isn’t enough depth to the main story to inspire re-playability.
The glossy production value unfortunately doesn’t prevent the story from growing dull either, but at least the characters are likeable — notably Rees, who provides some enjoyable comedic and sarcastic dialogue throughout. I found that I wanted to save Amy, Rees and even Clare in any way possible, though the story doesn’t offer many happy endings for everyone, as you can imagine. I hated playthroughs where I put them in harms way to mix things up, but it did test my morals. While the acting is hit and miss, the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired as it works to fit with the mould of the story and its options. Sometimes selecting a choice that’s more mean won’t necessarily result in a character acting that way, thus the dialogue feels restricted.
Upon completion of the story, you get to see an overview of your playthrough. The game grades your decision-making on the five basic dimensions of a personality: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. My first playthrough garnered ‘altruistic,’ which was based on what I would actually do in the given situations. In my next playthrough, however, I did what any sane person would do and acted like a maniac. This, unsurprisingly, resulted in ‘neurotic.’ I was keen to unlock more endings, as some revealed hidden motives behind characters, but the story doesn’t offer enough to reel you back in for all nine endings.
The Complex is worth a play if you’re interested in full-motion video and the storyline is appealing, but I’d probably wait until it’s on sale. It’s a good effort, just underdeveloped — a shame considering the story was written by Lynne Renee Maxcy, the story editor for The Handmaid’s Tale. If anything, The Complex shows that an interactive feat like Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch doesn’t come easy.
The Complex is available on Steam, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.