Fans of gritty, hard-boiled murder mysteries will be sucked into Hidden Agenda, a new PS4 thriller from the creators of Until Dawn.
Although billed as an adventure game, Hidden Agenda follows in the footsteps of Heavy Rain, Late Shift and other such console titles. You don’t so much play it as experience it.
Interaction is limited to the occasional moral decision or quick-time button push, while the bulk of the ‘gameplay’ involves watching events play out. However, the story is so engrossing and your choices have such a significant impact that Hidden Agenda should effortlessly hold the attention of any crime and thriller fans for its short duration.
At the beginning of the game, you have a choice of two options. Either you can play solo, or get some friends in on the action. Everyone can get involved without any awkward passing around of the controller either, as interactions happen through your humble smartphone. All you need to do is download the Hidden Agenda app for iPhone or Android and connect to the local WiFi network, and your phone pairs instantly with your PS4, ready to play.
The plot of Hidden Agenda centres on a serial killer known as The Trapper. This dastardly criminal has a nasty habit of rigging his victims with explosives or other deadly traps, to put a serious damper on the day of any cops who stumble upon the scene. At the beginning of the game, one of the key detectives on the case manages to apprehend The Trapper, who is quickly found guilty and sentenced to death. However, the District Attorney who helped with the prosecution then discovers, just a day before the sentence is carried out, that the culprit might not have acted alone.
For the purposes of this review we played through Hidden Agenda’s single player experience. This is a straightforward presentation, where you watch scenes play out and occasionally interact using your mobile’s touchscreen. Quite often this involves choosing between two responses, when speaking with another character. You might also pick between two or more courses of action, or sweep a scene for clues before a timer runs out.
During certain action scenes, you’ll also need to swipe your finger to a hotspot in order to dodge obstacles, or choose whether to fire your gun. These sequences are generally quite forgiving, so you won’t need killer reactions to get through in one piece.
Some games (such as the Walking Dead TellTale titles) give the illusion of true freedom, where your choices appear to have a serious impact on the overall story but don’t actually make much difference until the very end.
However, Hidden Agenda has absolutely nailed it. Although the running time is quite short (the length of a movie, basically), your actions have serious consequences on how things play out. Major characters live or die based on your input, while the story branches in quite different ways. In fact, it’s worth playing through more than once just to see what else can happen, if you pick a different person to save or try alternative methods of tracking down the killer.
Those phone controls work quite well, while you can also access character bios and plot summaries via your handset. For solo play however, a controller would have worked just as well.
Although Hidden Agenda is certainly more of an interactive movie than a game, it’s gripping enough to warrant the attention - and cash - of any crime fans out there. You can grab it right now for PS4.