Sony's PlayStation 4 will never have the same widespread appeal as the Nintendo Wii. It's a popular console with an extensive library, but it hasn't captured the casual market quite like Nintendo's machine did in 2006. Sony is trying to change that, however, with a slew of film-like experiences including Until Dawn and Hidden Agenda. The latest example is Erica, a live-action hybrid developed by London studio Flavourworks. It's not quite a video game, but the level of control is also far beyond what classic FMV (full-motion video) titles usually offer.
The story follows Erica, a young woman haunted by a traumatic childhood. She's contacted by an old family friend who believes her memories hold the key to catching a murderer. Everything gets more complicated, however, when the so-called killer contacts Erica directly and offers a different story. Suddenly, the game's heroine is forced to investigate and find out the truth for herself.
Jack Attridge, creative director at Flavourworks, took me through a brief demo at Paris Games Week. He controlled everything with a PlayLink-enabled smartphone, though the final game will also support the regular DualShock 4 controller. It began with a simple Zippo lighter, which Attridge slowly opened and sparked to life with his finger. It then jumped to a scene with Erica standing in front of a fogged-up mirror. Attridge swiped to remove some condensation before wiping a tear from Erica's cheek and brushing some of her hair away.
That last part made me uncomfortable -- it's the kind of thing a supervillain would do -- but it showed the level of interactivity Flavourworks is shooting for. It's certainly impressive, surpassing classic FMV titles like Night Trap and Dragon's Lair, as well as recent examples like Her Story and Contradiction: Spot the Liar. There are no 3D models or big-budget CGI effects -- according to Attridge, everything is "100 percent live-action." But the game offers a degree of control that would be hard to pull off with smartly arranged video files. When Attridge opened the lighter, for instance, he could slowly drag it open, or stop and watch the lid bounce shut.
The company is staying tight-lipped about the technology behind the game. "We want people to focus more on the output," Attridge said. "We like keeping the mystery behind it."