Late Shift (Switch) Review – Contradicting in Every Way
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Release: 26th April 2018 (Switch)
Calling David Cage´s and Quantimc Dreams’ interactive movies “games” is still something most feel uncomfortable about. However, a small indie studio tried to deliver an even more cinematic interactive movie with Late Shift, when it released last year. Now, since it´s coming to the Switch though, I had the opportunity to finally check it out and can confirm, that this is probably one step too far in the wrong direction.
Matt is your typical student, working late shifts in a car park to pay off his debts and finance his life while trying to pass the stressful life in university. However, as competent he tends to be with numbers, as bad his luck can get, when he finds himself in the middle of a hostage situation during one of his nights. Or doesn´t? Maybe he went to check out the strange noise he heard before anyone else could, making both him the hostage in the first place and preventing that anyone else gets involved. Or something different entirely?
These questions are at the very core of Late Shift, advertising itself as an enjoyable movie, which also happens to offer dozens of choices, altering the general flow every part of the story to ensure maximum interactivity. So, before digging into those aspects though, it´s necessary to talk about the plot in general. It´s pretty much your typical “innocent guy stumbles into a crime” set-up with Matt being forced to participate in a robbery. Such a concept is way too overused in modern times to actually work on its own, so, at least in my eyes, the whole thing needed very strong writing to offer anything new or worthwhile. Unfortunately, the whole thing just feels so unbelievable at so many points.
On the one hand, the beginning creates a simply wonderful atmosphere of dark foreshadowing. Especially his monologue, as edgy as it may sound at times, establishes Matt as a very objective, almost mathematical guy. Similar to Sherlock Holmes’ modern interpretation. Then, the whole thing starts to speed through its plot-points. When he gets kidnapped and forced into the robbery, nor does it sound believable or well-thought out. The whole process of him getting involved with these criminals is so cliché and executed in a few minutes without even thinking about the consequences of putting him in a crucial position, that I still can´t understand how someone could write this. Yet, that´s only the beginning, since Late Shift seems to have forgotten how a plotline for a 50 minutes long movie has to be constructed: Simple.
What is presented here is anything other than simple, it´s a rushed feeling chain of events, loosely connected to each other by short car drives. There´s no character development or anything else during the characters’ run through the plot. Every movie needs time to breathe or deliver exposition, Late Shift doesn´t. Even for a full-length production, this could´ve been too much to properly depict. From twists, betrayals, action, death and much more in an instant isn´t good writing or captivating.
Given, while one can still have a ton of fun by just watching this mediocre but somehow entertaining thing, what really took the cake for me was Matt itself. The other characters (except two maybe) are just blank pages so don´t even bother with them, even though the writing really tries to set them up as some sort of important core aspects. Matt is basically a model for the player to create his own character. So, depending on your choices, he can become a believable scared student … or a scared student in the one scene, a killing, ruthless robber in the next and return to his former self in the other. It´s so dependant on the player to make this concept work, that any other approach will almost certainly destroy anything about it.
Despite all those flaws, Late Shift isn´t a badly made movie. By all means, I actually really like the cinematography during certain passages like the intro or more intimate scenes. The whole thing really doesn´t seem like a cheap production and at least the main characters are acted really good. For a 13 dollar indie “game”, the production values are nothing than outstanding, even though it only takes around 50 minutes for one playthrough. The fact I can watch it on the Switch with nearly no performance drain is amazing as well (when you can excuse the file size of 7gb since it´s recorded in FullHD).Also, damn, I somehow love the soundtrack.
Late Shift tries to transport a pure movie into the video game genre. It tries to offer so much story content, variety and character depth, that it stumbles upon its own ambitions. Be it the character only able to truly stand out if you decide to basically characterize him in your mind before ever deciding what to do. It tries so much but is only able to deliver a streamlined story, truly contradicting.
[A Review Code was provided by Wales Interactive]