The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope29th October, 2020
PlatformPC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Sometimes the name of a game will leave you with such low-hanging fruit, it's impossible not to draw attention to it. The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is one such game, with one such name. For example, when replying to somebody saying "I hope this is going to be better than Man of Medan", it's impossible to not reply by smugly saying "LITTLE HOPE... of that" to the raucous laughter of all around. Were I of the opinion that this is a bad game, I would also be saying something like "there's little hope of you enjoying Little Hope."
Only I'm not of that opinion. That's a spoiler, by the way, though you may have figured out that The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope was looking good from my preview of the game. Indeed, while I enjoyed Man of Medan, I couldn't help but see some of the flaws. Horror, recently, seems to be stuck in a situation where everybody must be an unlikable cretin. Supermassive Games sadly believed that when writing Man of Medan and frankly, my willingness to fight for the characters’ lives was lower than my willingness to not eat the last pringle in the tube.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope thankfully alleviates this by having a mixture of incredibly annoying characters and ones that I like. Will Poulter, for example, is me. When people are panicking, shouting, and acting irrationally around me, I enjoy telling them to shut the ahem up. Even the jock and the love interest come across as reasonably well-rounded, despite the younger female being a little too demanding. Contrary to narrative tradition, it's the older people that are the most annoying. The professor amuses me in his cowardice, though he is petulant at times. The old woman, she's a vile, withered old husk that I'd gladly feed to the monsters.
Well, I thought that until I was trying my damndest to save her. Now, I'm not going to spoil any of the major beats for you but if you've played a Supermassive Game, you know how this goes. It's a narrative-driven horror game where your choices have far-reaching consequences. Often, these consequences involve one of the characters either surviving or not surviving. I genuinely think that Supermassive has improved on how this all works, you can see a conscious chain of events and how the branching paths work. I will say though, there are still moments where I'm not even sure which moment led to a particular event. Not everything can be crystal clear, and I appreciate that, but the game could potentially drop a hint or two?
If there's one thing that The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope gets right, it's the atmosphere. After Until Dawn, Man of Medan and now this, I'd argue that Supermassive Games could very well be top of the list in a game developer conference titled "how to do light". The torch in this game, the rays of moonlight shining through a window, the masterful use of shadows. Supermassive Games layer on atmosphere like an extremely fat chocoholic would layer on chocolate sauce on ice cream.
When it comes to the visuals in general you can't fault Little Hope. Ever since Until Dawn and the massive cast list, Supermassive has decided to focus on later games having one particularly noticeable face with several other well-versed but not as recognisable actors. The star of this trip down horror lane is the arsehole from Maze Runner, Will Poulter. Every one of the actors has been captured fantastically, and they've needed to be because they cover a variety of different characters in this version.
When it comes to the dialogue and writing, the scenes in general, I would say that this seems to have learned from mistakes made when making Man of Medan. The stitching between scenes isn't as clear. It's not completely fluid at parts, but it's an improvement. As for the dialogue, some of the writing can feel hackneyed but for the most part, it's a positive. The delivery of it, top-notch. Sometimes, voice acting can sound forced and unnatural, even completely inappropriate for the facial or body expressions. Here, it's all good and can really add to the immersion.
Now if only The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope would have remedied one complaint about each of the horror games by Supermassive. What I'm talking about is the movement. I don't have any complaints about each of these Dark Picture titles being shorter in length than Until Dawn. Frankly, the more concise approach suits the game style and let's be honest, when you include the multiple permutations, the completely different style of game the multiplayer offers, there's a lot of value to be gained. I just wish Supermassive realised that by the time you're on your second and third playthroughs, the fact that each character controls like a sedated sloth is annoying at best, infuriating at worst.
On the subject of controls, let's talk Quick Time Events. In my preview, I said that I don't mind QTE's in these games and, honestly, I don't. However, this does come with a bit of a large "but". I don't mind the QTE’s, but they need to stop with the utter bullshit where a massive game and story-changing decision can be made by one mistake. I'm perfectly fine with a character dying at the end of a sequence of QTE's where, say, I got two out of five wrong.
What I can't stand are ones where you're surprised by them literally popping up out of nowhere and even worse where it's an event where you have about half a nanosecond to move the cursor to a particular point then pull the right-trigger. These feel like cheap deaths, particularly after succeeding at some of the incredibly strong chase sequences the game features. Hell, even failing at the chase sequences, when you're given a slight reprieve and a way to recover after one failure, are arse-clenchingly tense.
I'm not going to say get rid of the QTE's. Not at all. This is one of the very few games where QTEs feel genuinely integral to the style of game it is. What I am going to say is get rid of that cheap, shoddy, reticule aiming nonsense which requires you to first recognise that's what you're doing, locate where you have to move the reticule, move it and then pull the right trigger. All of this in the same length of time it takes for me to disappoint a woman, which is not bloody long at all.
If there's anything I'm taking away from The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope, above that of Man of Medan, is that I'm finding myself more engrossed with the overall narrative of it all. The Curator understandably doesn't recognise me (I played Man of Medan on the PS4, this on the PC), but it really is intriguing to see how everything fits together. This truly is starting to feel like an anthology, only two games in. That we already know it's going to get a third title is also a bonus.
What is a good thing to take away is how the two games have already worked with the whole 'horror' part of the horror genre. I'm honestly not the biggest fan of the story twist in Man of Medan, finding Little Hope much better. It keeps you thinking, it sends you down the wrong paths and doesn't feel contrived. Honestly, it's all quite intriguing and the characters developing, how much they like each other and the result of these attitudes and how they impact a single-player game is always interesting. Multiple playthroughs, particularly as you change your reactions to events, are truly rewarding.
I would also recommend the multiplayer mode - not the movie night mode, god no - shared story is still truly fantastic when aspects of the story, or particular scene, are getting influenced by more than the AI-controlled characters' personality table. A real human making wide-reaching decisions and seeing things that you don't is always interesting. I do find the single-player more immersive though.
So, do I like The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope? Yes, very much so. This is Supermassive learning from the issues of Man of Medan. While some persist, such as the tank-like controls and some very cheap QTE moments, the improvements made in character design, storytelling and just the general feel of the game more than makes up for any issues you may come across.
PC version reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope takes the Supermassive Games formula and improves on the previous outing, Man of Medan, in so many ways. With a more interesting story, a strong set of characters, the masterful building of atmosphere and more, you're going to be left on the edge of your seat while playing through this story. The excellent branching narrative, as well as multiplayer options also increase the gameplay value exponentially. This still isn't perfect, the sloth-like movements of characters can be annoying later on and some QTE's are annoyingly cheap, but this is still a brilliant game, one I would recommend to anybody.
- A compelling story with an interesting and varied cast of characters.
- Wide-reaching decisions that have huge, unforeseen, impacts even much further down the line.
- Some fantastic moments, scenes and events that leave you on the edge of your seat.
- Looks brilliant, with some of the best use of lighting and shadows to be found in gaming.
- A huge amount of replay value.
- The sloth-like controls of characters can get irritating pretty fast.
- Cheap-feeling quick-time events that lead to deaths with next to no warning are very annoying.
- While the decisions you make are very varied, it can be a challenge to figure out what moves you made led to a particular event.
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