By Thom Compton 18.04.2017
Interactive dramas vary pretty radically. In some, gamers will get to control their characters and their everyday lives. In others, they only get to control how the story progresses, manipulating what they choose to interact with and how they handle each moment they are tasked with handling. Then, there's the one that takes most of the power from the player, and simply lets them occasionally make choices, as the characters on screen act out pre-determined decisions, while the player waits their turn. That's where Late Shift falls… and where it faults.
Late Shift is a heist film that allows the player to push the story in many different directions. Because of this, it has to be judged both as a film and a game. Players - and this term doesn't hold much weight here - control Matt, a young security guard working the night shift. Matt's rather humdrum night takes a wild turn when he's forced to participate in a heist. From there, the player is guided down an increasingly bizarre rabbit hole.
The production value is big cinema good, and the game would have worked great as a film. While there are several moments where the acting falls flat, and sometimes the story progression makes no sense, it's a rather enjoyable little heist film. It doesn't run quite as long as you might like, but that's a good thing.
Restarting the game every time to try to change the outcome for Matt is a bit annoying, but the short run time keeps it from becoming stale too quickly. The game also has a nasty habit of proceeding without you, even when the player exits to the PS4 main screen. Pausing stops this, but it's strange that exiting the game, but leaving it running, doesn't stop the game from proceeding. In theory, one could start it, exit to the system menu, and then just walk away for a little while.
Late Shift manages to be somewhat enjoyable, but it falters as a game. The player is relegated to making random decisions, many of which don't feel particularly heavy. There's no real rhyme or reason to when the player is asked to participate, either, instead being asked to decide certain decisions, while others the game seems to guide you towards. The various endings are all fairly different, and some are wildly different than others. It doesn't make up for the severe lack of involvement, though. While it's understanding that a live action video game may not give the player complete control, it still manages to feel detached.
Late Shift would be a fine movie, although it would falter from an odd lack of direction from time to time. As a game, though, Late Shift just feels too disconnected from the player to justify even giving them control. It does allow you to steer the story, and on occasion it feels like the decisions that have been made actually mattered. Still, the player's involvement just feels like the movie occasionally wondering where it should go.