Hidden Agenda is a new game for PlayStation 4 from developer SuperMassive Games (Until Dawn) and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment that utilizes the PlayLink feature. Up to six players can participate and vote for how the game progresses via an app on their mobile device. A “choose your own adventure” format for adults, it brings interaction to a group while essentially watching a movie. With some great actors, dark storyline, and impressive motion capture graphics, Hidden Agenda could be the future of gaming?
Interaction in movies isn’t new, back in the 1990’s I remember the “voting” theater at my local cineplex. Viewers would press a button on their seat to vote on what to do next. It was short lived but kinda fun for someone who’s friend worked at the theatre and could go back and see every outcome. Yes I had lots of free time as a teenager. Hidden Agenda brings this feature to a game, but still feels like a movie. So at Thanksgiving this year while a bunch of people were watching sports, a few of us more nerdy family members sat down, downloaded the Hidden Agenda app on our phones and dove in.
Hidden Agenda stars Katie Cassidy (Arrow’s Laurel Lance) as Becky Marnie, a cop who managed to collar a serial killer known as “The Trapper”. His modus operandi was to not only kill his victims but booby trap them as well, to kill first responders. After his arrest and confession, just days before his execution, he recants this and explains he was just part of a crazy plan the real killer put in motion. Enter district attorney Felicity Graves (Christy Choi), who believes there is more to this case. The story bounces back and forth between these characters, both actors do a fantastic job portraying them, even if they are a tad cliche.
Hidden Agenda offers two different play choices, Story mode, and Competitive mode. Story mode has up to six players working together to vote on how the story progresses. At certain points in the story, the game will pause and two boxes will appear. Players use their mobile devices with the app to slide the indicator to their choice. Majority wins most of the time, but sometimes everyone must agree to move on, this seemed counter productive to me, and made a couple of my players upset because they felt the group was forcing them into a choice. I am not sure why this gameplay choice was made, I assume to incite conversation within your group, but really it just delayed things. At some points players must also vote who is the most trusting, brave, or other traits, in your group. That person will then be given a choice later in that chapter that only they can participate in. This was another feature I am still unclear why it was added, taking away interaction and trying to add some levity to an otherwise somber story?
Along the way, players will also use the movement on their apps to scan rooms for clues. Takeover cards are given to the players who find them first. These can be used to force another player’s answer to change. I did like this, as it added some excitement to the room as we all searched as fast as we could, laughing and taunting each other. The second mode, Competitive, I found to be a little more enjoyable. This is where the game gets it’s name, as one player has a “hidden agenda” where they must try to convince the other players to make certain choices, and the others have to guess who it is. Definitely more fun in a large group.
Graphically Hidden Agenda was impressive given the MSRP of $19.99. I did not expect it to look this good. Granted it’s not up to typical major developer standards, some characters look better than others, as some voice actors were also more impressive than others, some sounded like they did not want to be there that day in the studio. Overall though Hidden Agenda does a good job of portraying the story and uses some pretty cool camera work to make it feel even more like a real movie than a game.
When it was over, we spent a good couple hours playing with family that day, finishing the story in about two hours. Later a smaller group of us went back and played again, with completely different results. All of us were impressed with how well made and interesting the story was for, as my uncle put it, “a video game”. The technology of PlayLink is really neat and I personally cannot wait to see what Sony does next with it. There are so many possibilities. Hidden Agenda however could of been better but then likely would have required more investment and in turn a higher price point for buyers. This low price I am sure was a major factor in getting people to try it. If you have a group of friends or family who would enjoy something more than watching a movie or playing a game, give them both with Hidden Agenda.
Hidden Agenda is available now on PlayStation 4. This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher for that purpose.