There are some stories that can only told as a video game. A unique understanding that can only be found in an interactive medium and wouldn’t work as a passive experience. Despite being a FMV game (full-motion video, i.e. video footage instead of 3D/2D/Game rendered) where you’ll be largely watching video footage from 3 films, Immortality has a story that needs to be in a video game. Immortality is a lot like The Beginner’s Guide or The Stanley Parable where the biggest surprises and reveals come from going into the game with as little knowledge prior. As such, I’ll do my best to both explain why you should play it and do my best to not spoil anything because you’ll want to find out what happened to Marissa Marcel for yourself.
Immortality is a lot like Sam Barlow’s previous games; Her Story and Telling Lies. You’ve a large amount of video footage to skim through and piece together the stories that are being told. There are stories that are bubbling beneath the surface and characters that continue between the films. The hook with Immortality is that you only have access to one video clip at the start but can pause any footage, click on an item or person and it will zoom into another clip featuring that item or person and unlock the clip to repeat the process. This results in a library of clips that can be automatically sorted into date or film order and given how many different types of scenes there are you’ll be zipping between them to find everything. You’ll be saving favourite clips to go back to later and starting to notice objects and people throughout, drawing your attention to every scene more than any TV show.
What starts off as a relatively interesting story of three different films gets very twisted very quickly. Although there are hidden stories in Immortality the way it doesn’t simply present the 3 films but as clips the way they were filmed gives you extra little behinds the scenes moments that connect you to the characters. There are hidden scenes that will only show when the original footage is played backwards and the tracking is ‘bumped’ with the analogue stick. You’ll be watching or skimming through videos listening out for a tone, feeling for the controller vibration to indicate something is hidden and then picking at that moment until the hidden footage reveals itself. It feels a lot like lockpicking in Skyrim/Fallout at times but the pay off is so incredibly satisfying you’ll be hunting for every clip.
Although the high of hitting those hidden clips is a fantastic feeling, Immortality will very likely leave you a little shaken. There’s an extensive content warning page at the start of the game and on the title screen and I recommend you give it a look before you even consider playing. Going in without knowledge of the specifics is fine but Immortality is not for the light hearted and it touches upon some very dark moments and themes. You simply cannot stream a game like Immortality and it is not one you’d want to play with your parents in the room. There are moments not just of sex but different attitudes towards it and how people react and change to it. It’s refreshingly adult at times as the focus isn’t primarily on the acts themselves but on the people in the stories and how they react to them.
While Immortality is visually incredible and the scenes are a work of art in their own right, what sets it apart from other games is how phenomenal the sound direction is. Background music not only sets the mood throughout but the tone played to indicate hidden footage is unsettling in the best way. Holding the moment over and over increasing both the volume and ambience only for it to cut away when you reveal a scene is unlike anything else. The acting is so good that you’d expect this to be a hit streaming show and every line of dialogue not only drips with subtext but also helpfully has subtitles that fit the period of the film. The subtitles not only making the clips more accessible but having the added bonus of making skimming between scenes quickly easy to understand.
The last game I wanted to see every single piece of content was Control (another 10/10) and with Immortality I didn’t just want to see every piece of content I wanted to understand it to. Immortality does a poor job of explaining itself early on and is in desperate need of a decent tutorial but that doesn’t detract from how good it is when it gets going. Immortality is at its best when you put little things together for yourself and realise there’s a way to get to new footage, only for your expectations to be subverted and learn something entirely new instead. If you get frustrated at the controls early on experiment and try something new because you’ll want to find out exactly what happened to Marissa Marcel.
10/10 – Immorality to a T