It’s a dangerous town and the cops struggle to keep a lid on organised crime, and when one of the local mob leaders dies, it throws the underworld into disarray and brings something new to the streets, the city’s new Major Crimes Unit, affectionately called The Detail.
Genre(s): Choice-based Adventure
Developer: Rival Games Ltd.
Publisher: Rival Games Ltd.
Release Date: October 2014 – May 2016
Played: 2.5/3 episodes (keep reading)
Purchase At: Steam
The Detail is a choice-based narrative driven game, in the same vein as Telltale’s, so you know what to expect. If you’re looking for brain-teasing puzzles and inventory management, I’ll flat out tell you this is not the game for you. But if you’re willing to accept the shallow gameplay mechanics and focus more on the storytelling and characterisation, then read on.
The Detail begins with black & white comic book panel art, showing you two officers checking on a known pedophile—yes, this game goes dark even from the start—finding a bound and traumatised girl in the apartment. The perp attacks them, but through careful clicks to choose the characters’ actions, you take him down and bring him into custody. That’s where the game introduces you to your main character, Reggie, a disgruntled homicide detective, along with his by-the-books partner Tyrone. It’s your job to question the subject and your approach to this interrogation is the first of many choices in The Detail. I decided to go the bad cop route, being abusive and violent with the guy. I tend to play nice guys, but the gut reaction with the pedophile was vicious. But because of this police abuse, the guy walked.
This is the kind of story that The Detail presents, one where every choice you make has almost immediate consequence from one scene to the next or even within the same episode. The choices of course have the expected impact further down the line but it’s always refreshing to see the consequences to your actions immediately instead of just seeing the now tiresome “X will remember this.”
It’s also very realistic in its portrayal of law-enforcement, taking you through the long investigations, the cross-references, the dead ends and the thin lines you can’t cross if you don’t want your case thrown out. Most importantly, it shows what bravado can lead you to and how low some people, police or criminals, will go to achieve their goals. It’s gripping stuff.
The Detail presents its cutscenes in comic-book style panels, even having speech bubbles and thought-boxes. But while the opening ones are great in their black & white style, the game soon switches to colour and most jarring of all, the quality of the art changes wildly between scenes. Some are great and beautifully drawn and detailed while others look like rough sketches hastily put together. It may sound harsh, but if you’re going for a comic-book style, make sure you keep a consistent art-style. Even the black & white switch to colour is a strange choice. The monochromatic approach is brilliant for this kind of story.
When you’re not talking to people you’re most likely exploring the environment, be it people’s houses or crime scenes. Checking all the hotspots gives you more conversation options, something that you need to at least establish probable cause, especially if you like playing loose with the rules. I’m lawful and play by the book, but Reggie is a bit more lax, focusing on the greater good, on what needs to be done, so in keeping an eye out for the hotspots I gave him enough evidence to rationalise his actions.
The music in The Detail has those grave notes you often hear in old-school detective and police dramas, the ones that follow the hardboiled detective as he muses about the unfairness of life. The deep melodies, particularly the piano pieces, add a grim tone to the game, one that matches its story perfectly. My only issue with the music is that quite often in my playthrough some tracks would overlap, the worst case being the ending track for the second episode. One of the piano tracks overlapped with the jazzy ending theme, combining into a dissonant piece.
On a final note, and the greatest annoyance in my playthrough was how buggy the last episode was. I couldn’t finish the game because of it. The cursor would often vanish, as would hotspots, such as a keypad I had to punch a code into to save a young prostitute named Kim from “The Basement,” so her concerned colleague and friend would cooperate with my investigation. But even having the code, I couldn’t complete the task because the game would kick me out of the close-up to the keypad. I tried over and over and it didn’t happen, a game-ending bug in the season finale of all places.
The Detail has a wonderful story, interesting and very real characters and a strong depiction of crime and law-enforcement. Sadly, jarring switches in art-style and quality, music glitches and a season finale severely lacking in quality bring down what could be a great choice-driven game.
3.5/5 – Good!