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4PM (PC) artwork

4PM (PC) review


"Not the art house production you are looking for."


I’m glad that walking simulators like 4PM exist. I know they've been awarded that particular title as derision, but you have to admit; it fits. There are titles out there that are looking to either be – depending on your viewpoint – less or more than traditional games and that’s okay. I’m not about to spearhead the removal of anything that asks you to press B to jump; I’m just saying that because 4PM asks you to press Q to dance is no reason to dismiss it.



Not when there’s so much more to take issue with.

4PM bills itself as an interactive tale that should take you about half an hour to see through to completion. It’s not the best looking game but, sod it, I’ll be super charitable and chalk that up to design. You see the world through the eyes of a practising alcoholic, giving the lurching, clumsy interface at least some context. You wake up in last night’s clothes and wander around your apartment by following a dotted white path. It’s stringently linear, making you do one task after another in a strict order – first, go see what a mess your make-up is and bitch about it in a grimy mirror. This unlocks the ability to follow another dotted line and listen to your voice mail. You follow a paint-by-number list of chores which are unlocked by completing the previous arduous chore until the game’s ready to shuffle you forward to the next instance.

It’s almost impossible to defend this newly-fledged “interactive fiction” genre that the likes of Dear Esther have bestowed upon us when the case material you have to work with is as shallow and vapid as 4PM. Almost everything it advocates feels like a vain copysheet that works off the assumption that wrapping your game up in art-house pretentiousness is a sly shortcut to critical acclaim. Exploration is not so much discouraged as it is completely absent. Characters are poorly voiced and what little development they’re casually afforded only serves to dog-pile upon them assorted tropes served up painfully rapid-fire style.



Despite the minimalistic approach to gaming mechanics, it still makes time to awkwardly shoehorn in an awful stealth section because everyone already hates those, so why not? The illusion of choice is offered in a way that’s rarely been so insulting. You have two options – pick the wrong one, watch a scene telling you that you’ve chosen poorly then get whisked back to the choice again and again until you bloody well choose the once you’re supposed to, you ignorant gamer. There’s a story involved, but it’s seemingly been written in the M. Night Shyamalan train of thought in that nothing else matters as long as there’s a big twist in there somewhere. Doesn't matter if the twist makes no sense; doesn't matter if it sodomises everything that came before it in execution. Insulting twist ending -> ????? -> Profit.

I’m going to have to talk about the plot now, aren't I? All right, to hell with it; I can probably sum the entire thing up in one spoiler-heavy paragraph:

Drunken girl wakes up with a huge hangover and staggered flashbacks about driving a car into a cryptic oncoming light. Ignores answerphone message from mother asking her to visit for the holidays and swears at boss’ voicemail about how she’s late for work again. Has another flashback where she gets blind drunk at a nightclub and has thirty seconds to get to the bathroom before she pukes. Only the most visible path to the toilet is blocked by arguing Serbians because, yeah, so she’ll fail at least once and be sent back to the check point where she staggers to the stalls. But never makes it because the guy hanging about outside the ladies chatting up wrecked girls is considered suave and charming rather than creepy and rapey. Then she’s at work via taxi where her boss rightfully chews her out for being drunk and late and worthless before calling her a polar bear because she’s on thin ice and laughs at his own joke for what feels like three weeks. Then she drinks more but decides two bottles of smuggled hooch isn't enough booze to convince the narrative that she’s alcohol dependent, so decides to sneak out of her workplace to go to a nearby bar. Cue godawful stealth section all the way to the stairs where she meets creepy rapey guy on his way to the roof. Ignore him and got to the bar and… no, 4PM doesn't want you to do that. Back to the stairs and follow guy to the roof. But he’s going to jump, and in trying to find out why she discovers the two have been having an affair for six months, but she can’t remember it because she’s always so drunk she automatically forgets about it the next morning. Oh, and she drinks so heavily because she killed her Dad in a car crash. The tale concludes with the guy still chilling awkwardly on the ledge while she rings her mother.



I come away from 4PM unsure of what I’m supposed to take away. It’s hardly a cautionary tale on alcoholism, because deus ex machina selective memory is not one of the many drawbacks of that vice. Drunken girl retains her memory in its entirety aside from two facts withheld so they can be clumsily blurted out for concluding exposition. Should I feel sorry for the guy who has taken advantage of a troubled girl with a severe mental illness and lost his family in response? Because, you know, I kind of don’t. Drunken girl herself is too undefined and uncharacterised to garner sympathy for, a victim of her adventure’s brevity or simply the ridiculousness of the writing behind it. The hurried-along explanations on the rooftop are almost comical in their delivery as if 4PM was a biting satire of the feel-heavy experiences it’s been clearly inspired from. But it’s not; it’s all played out with striking seriousness, flaunting its ties to addiction and suicide like get-out-of-criticism-free cards.

4PM is to Dear Esther as Homefront is to Call of Duty. It’s a me-too game that thinks it understands the next big gaming trend and has jumped on the bandwagon woefully under prepared. Its idea of pacing is massive end-game info dumps. Its idea of plot is to poorly research a tragic condition then centre everything around it anyway. That games using the foundation of 4PM exist is a great thing that’s going to do wonders for the diversity of video gaming. That 4PM itself exists in its current form is unfortunate.

1/5

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (January 26, 2015)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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overdrive posted January 27, 2015:

This just seems hilarious. I mean, playing it wouldn't be, but reading this recap of the game definitely is. Hilarious because of its stupidity and more hilarious due to being able to imagine you meandering through it!
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EmP posted January 27, 2015:

Last year, I was really looking forward to this game. I sat on playing it for a while because I reviewed a # shortly before it was released and it was something I was honestly looking forward to. Christ, was I let down. There's nothing about the game that's been done well enough to give it any glimmer of pity-praise -- and someone out there has given it an award! I despair.

Thanks for reading. You and Joe owe me an awful game after tricking me into Galg, but even I'd think twice before shoveling 4PM onto someone.
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overdrive posted January 27, 2015:

Oh, you needn't worry about that. This Burning Heroes SNES RPG might be the most hilariously lazy and bad one I've played in some time.

You have 8 characters, each with their own story. Each group of two has essentially the same quest with minor deviations.

Most dungeons get done in 4/8 scenarios. Except for the final one in each chapter which is used in every single scenario.

Fuck me...

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