Virginia a great little cinematic thriller but far too linear to bring me back for more
Virginia is a game of pleasant surprises, intrigue and scattered curiosities. It is almost exclusively narrative driven, a title that some may refer derogatively to as a 'walking simulator'. Branding it as such, however, would be as grossly reductive as calling Firewatch 'a game about stopping forest fires', because Virginia is so much more than what meets the eye.
Over the two hours of its running time, Virginia manages to tell a deeply engaging story about friendship, loyalty, betrayal and identity, without using a single word of dialogue. This is an act of creative courage, as well as an outstanding achievement in storytelling. The muteness of the characters creates a world that revolves around gut instinct, sublety and an experience imbued with a meaning far deeper than what is present in most video games.
Virginia has you take the reigns of protagonist Anne Tarver, an FBI agent investigating the disappearance of a boy in the prosaic, rural town of Kingdom, Virginia. Her partner, Maria Halperin, is leading the case, unaware that Tarver has been assigned to keep an eye on her by the internal affairs department.
Virginia is a series of short first-person vignettes, using frequent quick cuts to give it a dramatic, TV-like energy. You wake up in your bed, then a second later you're in a car driving down the freeway, then you're at the door of a house.
The editing is fantastic, and no scene ever outstays its welcome, although it can make the experience feel stiflingly linear at times.
While fantastic games such as Firewatch or Gone Home are similar in style to Virginia, these games allow you to explore and soak in other worlds at your own pace.
Virginia takes a different tack: eagerly pushing you from scene to scene, rarely allowing you to interact with anything other than the prescribed element that will trigger the next scene. With the exception of a few rare moments, the tiniest bit of exploring allowed to you by the game revealed nothing of any interest or intrigue.
Without giving anything away, I found Virginia's ending to be disappointing. I think it is probably a little too self-congratulatory from the developer's point of view, lacking in substance and bordering on the abstract.
Virginia is a great little cinematic thriller but the experience is far too linear to bring me back for more.