1992. George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin officially put an end to the Cold War. Barcelona held the summer Olympic Games. The Tonight Show aired its last show with Johnny Carson… … and Lucas Fairfax disappeared from his bedroom in Kingdom, Virginia.
In Virginia, we play as an FBI graduate named Anne Tarver, you are assigned to an investigation with another FBI agent, Maria Halperin who is much more experienced and you, and boy does she make you know it too.
Virginia is what a lot of the internet would call a walking simulator, as there isn’t much to do in terms of gameplay, nor does it have that ‘win/lose’ state that people look for in a game. What Virginia does offer is a gripping and emotional story from beginning till end. The atmosphere this game creates is comparable to the likes of The X-Files and Twin Peaks. I wouldn’t want to divulge too much information regarding the story in Virginia as it is the most prevalent element of the game. The game is able to portray the story so well, that it has done so without the need of speech of dialog from characters. It’s like watching a silent film from the 1890s. The way the plot unravels before you is very reminiscent of other games in this genre such as Layers of Fear. As you explore around each level, you can interact with usually only a few objects (if that), a lot of levels don’t have an object to interact with and just rely on moving your character to the correct spot, or waiting a specific amount of time. You can’t go into Virginia even expecting the slightest amount of gameplay because to put it quite simply, there is hardly any.
The art style present throughout Virginia is simple, yet very detailed at the same right. The pastel art gives the game a very smooth look, but what annoyed me about the graphical aspect of Virginia is the constant reminder that the developers want to make this a “cinematic experience”. You know what that means don’t you? Two big thick black bars at the top of your screen, cutting off almost a third of the space available which could quite have easily have been used in the game for a wider viewing ratio.
Probably the most insulting issue is that the developers recommend you play the game at 30 FPS. Yes seriously, they recommend you play at a lower frame rate. I tried to follow their advice and play it at 30 but given that I normally play games at 60-120 fps, it was so bad that it was 1) making me feel ill, and 2) just felt awful to play. After unlocking the frame rate to 60 the experience was much pleasanter and thankfully I didn’t run into any problems after that.
There isn’t that standard win/lose state that people come to expect from video games, as the aim of the game is to progress the story and nothing else; you cannot fail. The objects in the world that you need to interact with changes your cursor's shape when you hover around them, leaving next to no challenge or puzzles in Virginia.
The whole experience with Virgina was over in just about two hours. This is just about the same length as a film, and that’s what you are getting with this release. It’s an emotional and engaging story. If you can get into the plot, you will be hooked right till the end, getting excited about what's going to be around every corner. This is definitely one of the better made “walking simulator” games out there to date, and it may spark a change in the genre for the better.