The Occupation is a single player video game experience, from developer White Paper Games and publisher Humble Bundle; which has just released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC. Set in the 1980s, in a single government building, the events of the game follow a horrific terrorist attack – one that has claimed over 20 lives. Alex Dubois, an immigrant, has been ousted as the perpetrator.
The attack appears to have been pinned on Dubois in an effort to push a new immigrant rights limiting bill – something almost poignantly topical in today’s political climate. Players don’t enter the game a hero, merely a reporter looking to ask questions. As Harvey Miller, players will be not just be interviewing for titbits of information, the ability to do a little investigative journalism is well within reach.
While some sections of the game are linear, The Occupation shines when it presents gamers a plethora of options, and opportunities. Finding a desk full of stuff isn’t just artistic flair, some of those items are likely to be interactable, with little trails to follow – be that literally like a map or information you’ll need to follow up on later. Unlike many titles with a puzzle vibe like The Occupation’s, levels are played in real time. If you don’t rush in, waiting for the coast to be clear to find a vent to sneak in by, valuable time could have been wasted! The clock is constantly ticking down, something players are always aware of – building tension and urgency in one swoop.
The visual style works well for the game, while it isn’t of AAA standards, it still lets gamers sink into the game world. It also has the added advantage that it’ll age well. The key to The Occupation’s world however is not the graphics, nor is it the endless things to find: it’s the characters that roam the halls, corridors and more. Their movements and actions go some way, but it is the phenomenal voice acting that makes them truly human.
Take even a humble security guard at an entrance door. They’ll need to get a job done, need the toilet or get hungry, and will occasionally leave their post to sort that thing out. Whilst it may still be a scripted event it feels much more purposed, than seeing them just off on a random wander – though some still patrol, so watch out. With the AI of the world doing actual things it makes it much easier to believe the game world, aiding the narrative of needing to find out more!
One playthrough is never going to be enough for The Occupation, and going into the game with this in mind will help. There is simply too many areas to properly explore, leads to follow up on and routes to take. There were multiple side rooms that given the timer constantly ticking down, I’ve yet to properly investigate – just passing through them to get from A to B. Players can experience the narrative their way, being a honest or nosey writer, and the game deserves multiple plays – so you can explore multiple methods.
Puzzles and security guards aren’t the only things to stand in your way. Bugs and glitches seep in throughout the experience, often making something simple frustrating not. At the other end of the spectrum a guard once bugged to the extent I could wander past them unchallenged, completely negating a normally exhilarating part of the experience. Worse yet, there have been times when a full reset has been needed, after clipping into an object and becoming one with it for the rest of time.
What makes this experience even more painful is that it always seems to happen when it’s been a good 20 minutes since the last save. This is when the real time brilliance of the game actually comes back around to haunt the game. Instead of having to simply re-do something or solve a puzzle, often you’ll have to just wait around for minutes until something occurs – like guard movement. Waiting the first time is fine, as it is all about managing something and timing it right. Repeating it due to a bug not only leaves a sour taste, it also breaks the immersion of the game.
The Occupation could, should and would be easily a gaming experience to recommend. Alas, the experience is tarnished with not just little, forgettable or mildly acceptable, bugs. It is a crying shame that a wonderful, intriguing storyline and a game world full of believable characters has been let down in this way. It is playable and I’ll soon be doing another playthrough, which shows how good the game could be without the issues. Despite everything The Occupation is something to play, perhaps after a few patches though.
[Editor’s Note: The Occupation was provided to us by the developers for the review.]