You awake in your own bed. This is not the most dramatic opening for a videogame ever invented, but nonetheless acts as a subtle informant of the kind of experience that awaits: you are a human, on earth, living an everyday, run-of-the-mill life. You have a dull job, bills to pay, and a waste of a love life. Just your average twenty-something living in a city that barely knows you exist. However, today is the day that everything changes.
4PM casts you as Caroline Wells. The above description of her life may not be too inspiring, but it’s the truth. And it’s the crux of the experience: 4PM takes the player on a journey as Wells attempts to unravel the events of the night before, and what she finds along the way could potentially change her life forever. Of course, given that 4PM has recently been confirmed for release next month this preview isn’t going to dwell on the storyline at it’s heart, but rather the mechanics that surround it.
Though 4PM is most certainly narrative driven – intended to be representative of a slice of human life, extraordinary though it may be – the videogame takes it’s cues from the point-n’-click adventure genre. The player will find objects and interact with environments just as with the fashion of more traditional titles of adventure gaming, however the player takes direct control of their avatar. Furthermore, 4PM is played from a first-person perspective and does not detract from the on-screen action with an inventory or other ethereal HUD elements. The player takes on the role of Wells and partakes in the unravelling of her day just as they would their own. Or at least, that is the intention.
The way in which the players deals with people and handles the decisions in 4PM will eventually affect the outcome of the videogame. However, VRFocus‘ preview version of the videogame was limited to the opening sequence only, and as such the conclusion of each interaction was not determined. In fact, the decisions which were taken were often so subtle that they are indistinguishable from forced activity. For example, one sequence challenged the player to reach the bathroom in a nightclub before vomiting due to alcoholic intoxication, however it was not revealed whether success or failure would alter the path of the conversation that followed. It’s this level of mystery and possible consequence that elevates 4PM above it’s indie adventure videogame peers and into the realms of Telltale Games’ recent groundbreaking series; true praise indeed.
This preview build, though decidedly limited, hinted at great potential for Bojan BrBora’s experiment. It’s a videogame born of passion for the medium, and above all else this shows. It’s an experience for which virtual reality (VR) isn’t essential, but which feels natural. The slow pace, the distance from reality while still retaining an inherently human visual quality; 4PM is a videogame that stands tall as an example of what creative minds can achieve when allowed to explore the possibilities of VR without being tethered to commercial design.