Again, I found a game sat across the table from me. It had answers, and I’d crack this nut one way or another. Sure, I’d start playing the way it wanted to be played, but if it refused to cooperate, well…I had ways of breaking it.
In all seriousness, I was pretty excited to grab Interrogation – You Will Be Deceived. It’s an interesting concept, putting you in the shoes of a police interrogator and navigating the muddy ethical waters that entails. Developed by Critique Gaming, the game was released on PC, Mac, and Linux on December 5, 2019. The PC version was played for this review via Steam.
Good Cop, Bad Cop
The plot starts fairly simply: You’re just trying to get to the bottom of a case where a woman was shot during a failed robbery. Things quickly spiral into uncovering an anti-government terrorist plot.
Along the way you’ll be conducting interviews with the press, sending your team out to gather information, and handling the official statements for your team. These tie into how the public, the press, and the higher administration views your crew, all of which can and will bite you later if ignored.
All these systems tie together in creating an environment where you really can’t have a singular good option. You can try to do things through proper channels and treat suspects right, but at the same time there’s bombs going off and the terrorists are spreading propaganda to recruit more and more people to their cause while you’re idle. You might want to play good cop, but that time spent buttering up a suspect may be time for their accomplices to get away. Hundreds of lives may be at stake, and you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it to slam a dude’s head into a table in the hope that he cracks and says where the bombs are.
It should be stated that the game deals with quite a topical situation, in ways that may hit close to home. Terrorist organizations recruiting online via messages sympathetic to a frustrated populace, it comes very close to making a statement about our current state of affairs…though at the risk of spoilers I will say that it manages to make the terrorists a mix of both left-wing and right-wing extremism to avoid saying anything about either side.
I found myself really getting into this, though there are a few cracks in it I’ve noticed. There’s a few bugs that I’ll get into later, but while a first playthrough seemed fairly on the nose with calling me out on mistakes, on subsequent playthroughs where I tried to avoid things like emotionally abusing innocent people or alienating my team, I still found myself getting called out for it. I also had a lot of trouble keeping my public image up, despite doing everything ethically by the book and trying to let the populace know we’ll handle things, and I quite frankly have no idea if that’s another bug, me just being incompetent at talking to the press, or a statement on the ACAB discourse.
We Have Ways of Making You Talk
Gameplay in Interrogation is fairly dialogue heavy. Between interrogations you’ll talk with your team and sources and send each of your team members off on assignments, with their success rate dictated by their individual personality and morale.
The main meat and potatoes of the game is the interrogations, as the name may suggest. You’ll be sat with multiple witnesses and have a variety of topics to ask them about. Learning new things, either from them or from the other witnesses, can open up new topics, and their responses will differ depending on their fear and openness.
You can unlock a variety of perks to impact things as well, such as giving precise numbers for their fear/openness ratings or unlocking new dialogue options. In addition, while talking to the suspect is what the public would prefer you do, there is always the option of turning off the recorder and applying some…shall we say, percussive persuasion…if you feel they’re not quite afraid enough.
Starting out, it feels very Ace Attorney-like, at least with the non-violent approach I took, where gameplay mostly revolved around catching contradictions and collecting evidence. As the game goes on, however, and you deal with people that have rehearsed their stories, it becomes more and more difficult to utilize evidence until it’s basically impossible. Even if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt they’re guilty, there’s still information they have that you need. At this point it’s more about manipulating the emotions of the people to convince them that it’s in their best interest to cooperate. Unfortunately this often meant doing everything I could to butter them up while going through options, and then going back through all the options I’d already done to see if any changed to something I could use. While the solutions usually made sense in hindsight, it often seemed unclear what might prompt a useful response now that they trust me.
Now, that all said, the bugs. This game unfortunately has a number of issues with tracking its conditions, a major problem in a game like this. There were at least a couple situations where I was offered a dialogue choice that seemed out of left field, only to find on a subsequent playthrough that dialogue options of that flavor SHOULD be restricted to a particular perk (The shaky text insanity options were perhaps the easiest to notice…). Knowing that at least a few of these exist makes me wonder if some of the systems that seemed unfair, or questionings that were extra difficult, may have had a dialogue option never pop up or punished me for something I hadn’t done this time…
That said, the bugs are more annoying than they are gamebreaking. Having a response that’s a bit out of character for the perks you’ve selected, or being able to respond to something the suspect hasn’t actually mentioned yet, that sort of thing. I hope they’re fixed, but they mostly just pull you out of the narrative for a second more than anything.
Shades of Grey
Black and white always works well for gritty detective stories, and it works well here too. The animation is fairly non-existent, with a few frames to convey a character reacting to something, and a little tweening here and there to give some motion, especially in the post-interrogation scenes. The music is likewise subdued and fitting. Somber, enough to fill the dead air but otherwise stays out of the way.
Neither are really impressive but, given the game’s subject matter, I don’t think it really would have helped matters to have over-the-top cutscenes or a rocking soundtrack. You’re working in a corrupt system often doing horrible things in the hopes that maybe some good will come out of it…unless you’re a total bastard just in it for the paycheck. The drab minimalism kinda works for that sort of tone.
A Solid Case
Barring some bugs that will hopefully get patched soon, I really enjoyed my time with Interrogation – You Will Be Deceived. The interconnected systems that give consequences even to your “kind” options really make me want to dig in and figure out just what effects all my actions have. While I went with a pacifist playthrough both times focusing on negotiating, I can’t help but wonder if being more aggressive towards those I was interrogating (especially with the hindsight of knowing who’s actually guilty now) may have a better result in the long run.
It’s not perfect, and it’s not very long, but the time I spent with it was a blast. While I do hope they iron things out a bit, I will say my score doesn’t assume they will.
Review copy provided by Critique Gaming for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer. Featured image courtesy of Critique Gaming.