A note: Immortality is an experience that is best enjoyed entirely blind. To that effect, this review contains zero spoilers and will not ruin the experience.
It’s been a long time since I’ve found myself so deeply drawn into the world of a game as I had with Immortality. The third game from the minds that brought us games like Her Story and Telling Lies, Immortality successfully builds on the unique mechanics in those games to tell a complex and engaging tale. It’s a shining example of interactive storytelling that can only be done through games, and it’s such an attractive and intriguing experience that I struggle to find much fault with. It’s a truly engaging experience and one of the most fascinating that I’ve played in years.
Immortality follows the model-turned-actress Marissa Marcel, who was fortunate enough to shoot three films over the course of almost three decades. The kicker here is that none of those movies were ever released, and the actress herself is missing. These components alone form a compelling enough mystery – what happened to this actress, or even why did she participate in three projects that were never released? But there’s so much more to Immortality, such a solid and intricate web woven throughout the premise, that it’d be utterly remiss of me to spoil it.
Suppose it wasn’t for this review or the advertising surrounding the game. In that case, none of the central premise is relayed to you directly. You play as someone looking at the footage from the scrapped films that Marissa has shot. There’s also behind-the-scenes footage and footage from the media circuits promoting the films. You simply begin your investigation into Marissa’s disappearance by watching a single clip. From that point, the game will explain how to play, and the actual intricacy of Immortality comes to the surface.
At any point in any clip, you can pause and choose to focus on a particular item in the frame. The game then zooms in, matches it to another clip that’s visually related, and zooms out to another clip. In my first instance, for example, I examined the face of a TV host as he interviewed Marisa. The system then showed me another clip of the same host interviewing someone else a decade later. Sometimes it’s incredibly specific – the faces of particular people will lead to clips that contain those same people. Other times it’s looser – highlighting an ashtray will show literally any other clip where an ashtray also appears.
It’s a natural progression from using keywords in games like Her Story and Telling Lies. Like those games, it feels immaculately constructed to ensure that you don’t uncover the core of the mystery too early. What I find incredibly endearing about Immortality is how non-linear it is. It feels like an open-world videogame experienced in a way we’ve never seen before. Every person will experience Immortality differently from another but ultimately come to the same conclusion. And what an unexpected and yet satisfying conclusion that is.
But you won’t just jump between clips. Using the controls, which have been set up to resemble an old-school moviola device, you can manipulate the clips to rewind or go through them frame by frame. Once again, without ruining anything, there is more to these clips than meets the eye. Other answers can surface by adjusting the controls to change their speed or playback. While I enjoyed this mechanic, once I worked out how to do it, there was little variation in how they played out. Listen out for a cue, perform a specific action, and watch the results of your work.
It’s a minor thing to draw attention to in a game that’s otherwise so immaculately crafted, but given how much Immortality already does a fantastic job of justifying its existence as a game on top of a killer story, it would’ve been nice to see more “game” to this game.
While it’s hard to properly quantify, Immortality contains a lot of content to sift through. A majority of the three movies that Marissa Marcel shot are included here, as well as a lot of surrounding footage shot of behind-the-scenes footage. It’s hard to definitively say whether there is three movies worth of content here, but your experience with Immortality will easily take at least six to eight hours. Given how diligent you are with jumping between scenes to discove what actually happened to Marissa Marcel, your time may be shorter.
But what really impressed me about Immortality is how engrossed I was in the whole thing. How, the day after “finishing” the game, I longed to return to it and continue to look through the compiled footage of the missing actress. How I could continue to find hours of content that I’d previously missed that explained either the central mystery or added more context to the events surrounding her disappearance. Even now, as I write this review, I’m sure there’s footage I’ve missed, but it does feel as expansive as ever.
What really brings together Immortality with great fervour is the presentation. Presented entirely with filmed live-action footage, each film is shot in a way that immaculately recreates the eras they’re from. Even the behind-the-scenes footage has been treated with care to not only visually look like it was shot in the past, but the audio has similarly been treated to give the sense that this footage has truly been unearthed from an archive that time has long forgotten.
What contributes to this strong sense of presentation is the performances too. Relative newcomer Manon Gage shines as Marissa Marcel, offering up a performance that is equal parts captivating and alluring. It’s genuinely fascinating to watch through the films of Immortality and the behind-the-scenes footage and see her develop as an actress in this in-universe setting. Almost the entirety of the supporting cast turns in great performances too. However, I can’t speak about the standouts in great detail without spoiling things.
Just trust me. It’s fantastic.
THE XBOX VERSION WAS PLAYED ON AN XBOX SERIES X FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Immortality ambitiously succeeds at evolving the formats introduced in Her Story and Telling Lies to offer some of Sam Barlow’s best work yet and one of gaming’s most well-justified open-world experiences. Bolstered by some fantastic performances and a compelling mystery to uncover, it’s engrossing and engaging from beginning to end. While it might assume some prior knowledge in telling it’s underlying story, Immortality is an experience that’s not to be missed and one that I’ll never stop thinking about. It is truly fantastic and well worth your time.