Nobody Wants To Die Preview - Xray Tool

Nobody Wants To Die Preview – An Intriguing Neo-Noir Mystery

With some expected and unexpected inspirations.

We all love to be detectives in some way. Whether in video games through the lens of characters like Batman or even the more action-heavy Max Payne. Or in our personal lives, spending time looking at old-school friends on social media. Something is engaging and thrilling about hunting down facts to discover what happened when we don’t have the complete picture ourselves. But what if we could do all that in a dystopic, futuristic version of New York City? That’s precisely the experience Nobody Wants To Die, from Critical Hit Games in Poland, seeks to give players. I’ve had some time with the game, and I think it’s shaping up to be a hidden gem.

For this preview, I was given twenty minutes of gameplay to get a better idea of the game’s atmosphere and how the gameplay and investigations work. I also chatted with Artur Jaskólski, co-founder of Critical Hit Games and producer of Nobody Wants To Die. Marcin Grembowicz, the lead writer for the game, joined him. It was immediately apparent to me that they’re both incredibly passionate about this game and devoted to crafting a world dripping with an atmosphere designed to immerse players.

Nobody Wants To Die Preview - New York City Skylines

Nobody Wants To Die takes place in a futuristic, alternative version of New York City. Speaking to Artur about the game, he mentioned that he wanted to set the game in New York out of a desire to tell a story centred around a big metropolis. The inspirations are many – players who enjoyed What Remains of Edith Finch, Firewatch, and Observer will no doubt find something to like about Nobody Wants To Die. But the biggest inspiration was a bit unexpected – Artur and his team were deeply inspired by Max Payne, which “hugely inspired” the game’s noir climate, atmosphere, characters and dialogue.

This preview opens in Manhattan inside a tower called Green Tower. We are introduced to our playable character. While we only view the world through his eyes, James, like any great detective, is a smoker. From how he speaks, I can tell he’s a cop who’s been around for too long. Speaking to the game’s writer, Marcin, about the game, I was surprised to discover something about this world. People live longer. James is 120 years old and incredibly depressed, lighting up a cigarette merely to “freshen up the air”. His fierce and rugged character is complemented perfectly by Sara, another detective fresh to the force who is in her late 20s.

Nobody Wants To Die Preview - Inside A Car

As James walks through some lavish doors, we’re introduced to the game’s first crime scene. It’s immediately obvious at this point that the team at Critical Hit have an excellent eye for detail and an immense sense of artistic flair. We’re in a marble-laden foyer with two large curved staircases on either side. Between them, a large tree, on fire for some reason. After I snap out of my sense of wonder from the scene, it’s obvious why we’re here. There’s a body hanging from the tree.

While talking to Sara over the radio as James investigates, dialogue options appear on-screen to allow players to craft the relationship between Sara and James. I found this intriguing, and while speaking to Marcin again, he highlighted how important it was that Sara be presented as a multi-faceted character just as much as James. Rather than just laughing at James’ jokes or making fun of his age or their age gap, how you speak to her will help shape and explore the relationship more than you’d expect in a game of this ilk.

Nobody Wants To Die Preview - Cherry Tree Foyer

From Sara’s instruction, James approaches the body. He takes a photo of it with his camera to identify them before tinkering with a device on his wrist. Using the triggers on the controller, you can either advance or rewind a section of the crime scene in an augmented reality-like reconstruction of what transpired. You can also physically move James through the reconstruction in real time, and James concludes that he must work out how the tree caught on fire.

Other tools are at James’ disposal, too. He pulls out an X-ray device and uses it to discover cables running from the tree to a nearby generator, perhaps even the source of the fire. This seems like a relatively basic use of tools we’ve seen done to death before in a game like this, so I asked Artur how Nobody Wants To Die changes things up, if at all. He assured me there was more to the game than tracing cables or using a UV lamp to track bloody footsteps. There will be different ways to use all of the tools at different crime scenes, and as you progress through the story, the crime scenes get much more complicated.

Nobody Wants To Die Preview - Xray Tool

As the demo progresses and we discover more, we’re introduced to the chief, who berates James and tells him to quickly write it off as suicide to get it out of the books. Not convinced, James and Sara continue investigating, using James’ device to reconstruct other areas of the crime scene. The victim was thought to have gone mad, with the reconstruction device showing him jumping off the balcony and hanging himself. Upon discovering more evidence and using the same reconstruction techniques after that, it’s revealed that the victim didn’t jump off the balcony but that he was pushed.

This idea that the reconstruction device isn’t perfect is something that I really like about Nobody Wants To Die. So often in games like these, the reconstruction tools perfectly recreate what happened for no reason other than contrived plot convenience. With the way it works in Nobody Wants To Die, we can’t just switch it on and solve everything immediately. Somebody shown to be hurting themselves in the reconstruction might, in reality, be physically forced to do so by somebody else, for example. Nothing is as it seems in the world of this game, and I love that the tech isn’t just some magic dust that can explain everything away.

Nobody Wants To Die Preview - Cherry Tree Explosion

As we draw closer to the end of the demo, James picks up an object that eventually morphs into a snake, crawling up and coiling around his arm. Sara yells to James over the radio, as she can’t see him anymore, as if he’s stepped into another dimension. A ghost-like woman walks across the room, whispering, “Come back to me”. It’s unclear what’s happening at this point. Still, there seems to be more to James’ personal struggles than we thought. It’s an incredibly intriguing hook that has me wanting to play more.

Time is apparently running out, as Sara reveals that the feds are coming. Sara asks us to clean the crime scene, but I noticed the objective marker says “or not, ” implying we have a choice. I asked Marcin about this, and while this particular choice wasn’t discussed in detail, he confirmed your choices will have some weight in how the story plays out. The overarching narrative has different endings, and player choices will also significantly impact how James and Sara’s story progresses.

Nobody Wants To Die Preview - James Drinking

The demo ends with James leaving the crime scene as he finds it as the feds approach, cockily saying to himself that “nobody will ever know I was here”. It raises so many questions about how James and Sara fit into Nobody Wants To Die and why they’re working in direct opposition to the feds. I can’t help but be excited to see how Nobody Wants To Die will continue to weave its web when it launches next month – it’s shaping up to be something unique and intriguing that I can’t wait to play the rest of.

Nobody Wants To Die launches for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC on July 17th 2024.