Live-action cutscenes in video games are rare, but titles that are almost entirely made up of FMVs are even harder to come by these days. In the past, it was a gimmick that companies like SEGA tried to use to their advantage, only to be met with less-than-stellar sales due to the minimalistic gameplay. Most games require you to watch a corny movie and press on-screen buttons at the right time, or drag cursors across items and characters in order to trigger brief cutscenes. To sum up this retrospective, there was little substance to it all.
It hasn’t stopped every developer from attempting to break into this niche sub-genre, however. Russian indie company Rhinotales threw their ushanka into the ring back in July earlier this year with their interactive thriller She Sees Red. It’s by no means a lengthy or highly-interactive ride, but it’s a professionally-made flick which is a bloody good watch.
Right off the bat, you’re greeted by a less-than-welcoming shot of a mysterious figure in a hoodie in a nightclub’s storage room, holding the corpse of a recently-murdered security guard. The club’s shady owner, Yuriy Evgenievich, and a homicide detective follow the trail of clues left behind. Flicking between two perspectives – one being the mobster and police during present day, the other being the intruder infiltrating the club merely hours before – the events and exposition slowly and gradually unfold at a reasonable pace.
This flick didn’t bore me in the slightest – the writing was on par, the visuals and sets were eye-catching, and the music was fittingly atmospheric. The whole thing looked and sounded like it was professionally made. That is, with exception to the English dubbing, which just feels a bit out-of-place with its selection of thick American accents that don’t quite match the faces of the actors. It’s best to watch it with the original Russian audio and translated subtitles. There are plenty of languages to choose from, making it accessible to a large audience.
Throughout the game, at key moments in the story, you’ll be forced to pick between two actions. For instance, at the beginning, you’ll be asked whether to leave the corpse, or make it look like the guard committed suicide. Otherwise, you must decide between whether the intruder should follow their plan or improvise, preferring to use either stealth or violence. You’ll often follow a similar path with each playthrough, albeit with a few alternate scenes taking place here and there, but there are key decisions that’ll unlock new scenes that you won’t have seen on your first playthrough. In total, there are four different endings to unlock.
Each playthrough will last about 40 minutes. You won’t be doing anything beyond watching footage and making snap decisions, though. Still, after your second playthrough, the option to skip scenes will be unlocked (this was added in one of their more recent updates), which is a pretty handy feature for those who want to snag the achievements. Thing is, there’s no flowchart of events to follow; you’ll have to go through the whole thing again if you want to make different decisions, but even then, there’s no guarantee it’ll unlock new paths or the other endings. Sometimes, you’ll just be shown unseen footage or more flashbacks, yet these do fill in some of the gaps and add shed even more light on the characters’ goals and backstories.
She Sees Red is a gruesome, engrossing (and sadly short) FMV title at a bargain price. £6 for a semi-interactive movie isn’t a bad deal at all, considering how well-made the whole thing is. The sound and visuals are on-point, with exception to the English dubbing, and it’s got itself some exciting fight scenes to boot as well. Finding all of the endings and achievements can feel like sieving through the sand during later playthroughs as it’s not entirely clear what some actions influence things later down the line, though it’s definitely worth revising to see how differently things turn out. It’s tonnes better than the kind of flicks you’ll find in a supermarket bargain bins, and well worth the spare change.