Crime based games are pretty common, but episodic ones are harder to come by. Considering how many television shows based on law breaking there are it is surprising that there seems to be such a dearth of episodic crime options in gaming. There are a couple of recent notable ones like The Wolf Among Us and Blues & Bullets, both which have their own style to them. Rival Games looks to enter the arena with its own brand of justice in The Detail, an adventure game set in a modern US city.
With inspiration coming from crime drama The Wire, Rival Games transfer some of the themes from that show to The Detail. The game tries to deal with the gang influence and activities, the police work involved to take them down, and all the shady stuff in between. In The Detail the divide between law and crime is various shades of grey, and sometimes decisions will need to be made that might not always be right but they get results.
The Detail is a choice based game where every path has various outcomes to it, and a number of characters to control too. The main face is Reggie who is an older detective that has been assigned a murder case, along with his partner Tyrone. For the majority of The Detail events are approached from Reggie’s perspective but his view isn’t always right, considering he has the option to be a little dirty to try and get results. Not that being dirty works all the time. You’ll also play as Kate, a rookie cop who joins Reggie’s team. There’s also the story of the informant who is dragged back in after trying to leave the criminal life behind.
The multi character approach works well for The Detail as it bridges the perspectives from both sides of the law, and you’ll become torn as you try to juggle the options available while trying to get the best outcome for each character. That is an impossible feat though since each one will go through their own successes and failures, sometimes due to actions you may have taken with someone else.
The story and writing are central to The Detail with the majority of it being very decent, though it can be a bit cliché at times. It does get its hooks into you though and soon you’ll be enthralled by the story. You’re always left guessing what will happen next and who will do what. The story is presented in a comic book style way with speech and thoughts appearing as text instead of being delivered through voice work. The Detail’s art style is distinctive and looks like a comic book, with the animated scenes in which you move characters looking like a page has come to life.
Everything is there for an excellent story and for the first two episodes things get better and better. Then in the final episode everything falls apart pretty quickly. Firstly, from a technical standpoint, there are a variety of bugs present which remove character bios, with choices made at previous points in the series failing to carry over. Then there were bugs where prompts wouldn’t appear, which required quitting and relaunching.
The biggest crime though was how the story came to an unsatisfying conclusion. This can be partly explained by the fact that Rival Games originally planned five episodes, but in the end the studio didn’t have enough funds to stretch The Detail that far. That meant trying to tie up the plot in the third episode, but when the credits roll there are so many loose ends. In fact when they started playing I was surprised considering how many lines still needed resolving, especially what was being presented as the central plot. episode one & two both do so well in creating an engaging narrative that episode three just doesn’t compare, especially the contrived ending which comes out of nowhere and feels out of character for those involved.
Rival Games started something very interesting with The Detail in the first two episodes. The story was immersive and the characters engaging. But because of budgetary constraints episode three undoes what the first two set up, with plot lines left abandoned and bugs that are very detrimental to a game based on choice. If the same calibre of quality was available from beginning to end then The Detail would be a well recommended game. As it stands, however, the game ends on a low note, just like this review.