Review: The Occupation (PS4)

Developer: White Paper Games

Publisher: Humble Bundle

Genre: Stealth

Platforms: Playstation 4Xbox OnePC

Rating: Teen

Price: $29.99

In The Occupation, players assume two character roles, who are both trying to get to the bottom of a nefarious terrorist attack and prevent the “Union Act” which stands to threaten civil liberties in the name of security. Also swept up in the events of the game is an innocent man of whom you can try to uncover evidence to prove that he had nothing to do with the attack. So does this stealthy reporter game get the front page, or is it delegated to the classifieds? Read on to find out, citizen.

Content Guide

Drugs and alcohol:

Characters are seen smoking and drinking in-game and during cutscenes. Cigarettes can be purchased from vending machines.

Mature Themes:

Conversations center around a recent tragic event where lives were lost. Some characters call it a terrorist attack. Discussions of freedom versus security also come up.

Review

Played entirely in first person, The Occupation is primarily a stealth game. Yes, you’re trying to stop injustice and lies from being perpetrated by those in power trying to pass the Union Act, but most of your time will be spent sneaking into off-limits areas, locked offices, and air ducts. As you’re snooping about, you’ll be trying to get information via emails, floppy discs, or anything else you can use to leverage the next person you talk to. Having said items opens up new avenues in the conversation tree. If you don’t have any leverage, you’re left to letting them rattle off to their own devices, getting you nowhere.

Speaking of floppy discs, there are nods everywhere that the game takes place sometime just before the technological boom; computers take 3.5” “floppy” discs, the reporter character has a pager, and physical tape recorders and answering machines are everywhere. The world-building is great in The Occupation: offices feel inhabited, and notes and memos litter the desks and message boards. People are chided about their passwords or invited to social events, and they seem like notes to real-life persons.

The Occupation started out feeling like a walking simulator, but later added stealth requirements after the introductory mission. The penalty for being caught is minor; your character will end up in the security office getting a scolding, basically only setting you back minutes spent in real time. The reporter can check his watch to see or remind you how much time you have until your next interview or event. However, be careful when you do this. I once was scolded by a NPC I was talking to when I checked my watch, as he felt I wasn’t paying attention to the conversation.

The game does drop hints, such as a sign outside an office indicating when it will be cleaned, to give you an idea of when you might be caught if you are in there. Unfortunately, in this example, the janitor got “stuck” in the doorway and made it so I couldn’t infiltrate said office and get the information I needed to leverage in my next interview. Other NPCs walk around on patrol, giving you small windows to sneak in and out of areas.

Notice on the bulletin board his cleaning schedule. Unfortunately he got stuck in the doorway for about half an hour.

All of your interactions in The Occupation require multiple inputs, such as pressing “square” then moving “left stick.” It makes everything feel very tactile, and does a good job of drawing you in. It can be annoying or frustrating when you’re not sure if it’s working, like when you’re pulling on something heavy, but these moments are rare. Drawers can be opened, blinds can be closed, tea and cigarettes can be bought from vending machines, notes can be read. You can interact with almost any object, no matter how trivial.

The downside is that this isn’t a world I want to occupy for very long—where games like Hitman or Deus Ex reward patient stealth with an easy, rare kill, or less enemies to fight later, The Occupation rewards you with…better interviews? The sit-down interview feels like the least interesting part of the game, as you try to glean more information and present any facts you’ve found to your interviewee. The voice-acting and facial animation is okay, but not great, and the characters gave me a weird vibe since they look realistic, but not quite 100%. Think something between We Happy Few and The Sims. The uncanny valley is real.

Overall, if you’re looking for a chill game without any killing or violence, well, this isn’t it. The real-time crunch keeps you on your toes as you sneak about, trying to find more information. The lack of on-screen violence may appeal to some gamers, but in the end, I found myself a bit bored with The Occupation.

Review code generously provided by Humble Bundle.

The Bottom Line

 

 

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Andrew Borck

Christian/Husband/Dad/Gamer/Writer/Master Builder. Jesus saves and Han shot first.

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