Late Shift brings the choose-your-own-adventure genre to the world of video games with an innovative take on what playing a video game really means. Instead of gorgeous state of the art graphics you get a story filmed in the real world, with dozens of different choices that directly effect how one very long night plays out. Whether you let a girl borrow her boyfriend's Maserati, or you decide to flee from a gun-toting man in a black skullcap, everything that happens can change what comes next. It's the story that the entire game revolves around, and the heist that dominates things will drag you in and have you enjoying Late Shift very quickly.
Not your average game
Let me start by saying Late Shift doesn't look like your usual video game. That's because the graphics haven't been carefully programmed to look as life-like as possible. Instead, the entire game was filmed. Yep, you're basically playing a movie that is a video game, where every choice affects what comes next.
Late Shift isn't a particularly long, or complicated game. It will pull you in and make you want to uncover exactly what is going on. With 17 different possible endings, there is a huge variance in how the events of the night unfold. While the big events of the game seem to play out no matter what you decide to do, how they play out can be very different. Late Shift has 14 chapters that you can continue through, one blending directly into the next.
You'll have to be careful, though, because it's quite possible to reach one of the endings without uncovering the entire game. The first time I played through I managed to get through 12 chapters, but the second time I wasn't able to make it nearly as far. To add to the tension, each decision must be made quickly or you'll fall to indecision. Whatever choice you're gonna make, just go for it. Worst comes to worst, you know what to do next time.
A very long night
Things start out normally enough for our protagonist Matt, when he shows up to his job as a night valet. The night takes a pretty abrupt turn very quickly, though, when someone breaks into the garage where he works. One thing leads to another, and he winds up getting pulled into a crazy heist of a porcelain rice bowl. The heist (usually) goes off without a hitch, but afterward is when absolutely everything goes sideways very, very quickly.
The item that was stolen belongs to the powerful Tchoi family, and they really want it back. Depending on the choices you make, you'll run into them either sooner or later, and when you do things can get a bit gruesome very quickly. The narrative is the cornerstone of Late Shift, and it's what everything is about. The gameplay elements are cut down to only the choices that you make, and where they take you.
To that end, there are actually 17 different possible endings. I've managed to get through a half dozen or so of them, and while I knew the end was coming in some circumstances, other times it took me entirely by surprise. Depending on what I told Matt to do, I found that certain portions of the story stretched out, and in some cases disappeared entirely. I also began to learn from my mistakes, following the routes that I mapped out during multiple playthroughs.
Almost like watching a movie
Since the gameplay was slimmed so far down, the experience of playing was far more like watching a movie where I had a hand in what came next. I got pulled into the story easily, and I wanted to see everything that was going on. Each game I played ran for about an hour and a half, though the time could wobble in either direction depending on what choices I decided to run with.
While the first two playthroughs were a ton of fun, as I tried to uncover more of the endings and twists in the narrative, the shine started to rub off by my third game. It was still fun, but I definitely needed a break before watching the same scenes I had already played through twice. The lack of normal gameplay mechanics made it easy to get distracted during scenes where I knew what was going on, which meant that I actually missed a few prompts to make a choice.
Likewise, while watching the game unfold, when I was seeing new things every few moments, I was enthralled by the story. Except that when it came to watching the same clips and knowing that my choices would bring me towards certain narrative arcs, I found myself less interested. Much like rewatching a favorite movie, I didn't want to keep rewatching something when I knew what the outcome was.
Innovative and interesting
Late Shift uses an awesomely innovative idea in a game that revolves around a young man being pulled into a deadly heist. The lack of normal gameplay elements makes it a very different kind of game, but it's a fun and compelling sprint for anyone who likes a good story. The differences your choices make also affect the story in new and unexpected ways, making it fun to replay the game trying for each of the 17 different endings. Available for just $12.49, it's a great addition to your Xbox library.
- Awesome feeling of an interactive movie.
- Short playthroughs make it a great sprint of a game.
- Quality narrative hooks you quickly.
- Game can feel repetitive at points.
- Gameplay may feel overly simplistic for experienced gamers.