The Detail Review
Reviewed on PC
The Detail is a noirish point-and-click adventure game that takes its cues very much from The Wire, Law & Order and any number of other gritty TV crime dramas. Going beyond the limits of a traditional murder mystery, each of the three episodes fleshes out a world filled with rampant gangland activity, shady political manoeuvring and kitchen sink soap opera. Tough choices have to be made as you play as and interact with a full spectrum of characters on both sides of the law in order to solve each crime and climb out of the web of conspiracy you’re trapped within.
Like most good thrillers, the story begins with a murder. What seems to be a drug deal gone wrong opens further doors, revealing that there may be more than meets the eye to this not-so open-and-shut case. It’s this intrigue that drives the player forward, as you turn the pages of this interactive graphic novel that would give Frank Miller’s Sin City a run for it’s money. It’s a compelling plot told through three episodes worth of speech bubbles and comic book onomatopoeia. The dialogue does verge on cop show cliche from time to time, but we can let The Detail off the hook for this one, as it remains true to its gritty and dark roots.
Much of the game is played from the perspective of Reggie, a detective who isn’t afraid to bend, even break the rules from time to time in order to get the job done. Of course, his actions and the consequences that follow all rely on the decisions you make in-game. For example, entering the home of a potential suspect without a warrant may harm the fragility of your case, but playing by the rules could see you miss out on some incriminating evidence or testimony. All throughout, Reggie walks thin blue line between good cop and bad cop, and while his partner Tyrone usually offers hints or acts as the angel on his shoulder, it’s sometimes better to throw the rule book out the window if you want to see the story heat up.
On the other side of Crime Alley is Miller, a former criminal turned informant for Reggie and Tyrone. As one last favour to the detectives, he infiltrates his old gang only to become sucked into a deadly citywide crime ring that could potentially put his wife and daughter at risk. Many of the scenes where he is a playable character put the player in a tough position. Getting information often requires working outside the realms of the law, while keeping his family safe may involve telling a few potentially marriage destroying fibs.
The third main character you control is Kate, a rookie beat cop who is treated to some of the more action-orientated set pieces, in the first episode at least. Her path somewhat segues between Reggie and Miller, although she arguably doesn’t get anywhere near as much screen time as they do. But the greater problem at work here is that as a player, we’re treated to the big picture and while it helps build a living, breathing world, it also gives us insight into facts and consequences that the characters aren’t necessarily privy to.
The game is heavily decision-based, whether that be through actions or dialogue. Our choices may not necessarily be influenced by character personalities, but rather what we feel will lead to a satisfying pay off later down the line. Admittedly the game sometimes steers you in this direction, but when you have one character working alongside criminal masterminds then that can’t help have an impact on how you’ll play out the next scene when you’re trying to crack the case as one of the law enforcement cast members. The Detail echoes gameplay featured in the plethora of Telltale Games episodic adventures out there. So even if your decisions are a little biased thanks to the revolving door of characters, then at least you know that the consequences that follow may not necessarily always be the same. It leaves the door open for a certain amount of replayability and the tough subject matter means that “the right call” may be anything but.
Beyond the dialogue, there are also crime scenes to investigate and action set-pieces to fight your way out of. Investigating crime scenes generally involves clicking on every item in the vicinity until your character comes up with a theory or a cut scene initiates so it’s a bit lacking, particularly compared to point-and-click games from yesteryear, such as Sam and Max or Under a Killing Moon. The interface is clean and simple to interact with in each area, so really the only thing holding you back is your own detective skills. And that’s where things can get interesting. Clues generally can’t be missed, but taking shortcuts can impact the story and indeed the fate of your players so at least it’s a little more fruitful than your typical Telltale affair.
Meanwhile quick time events make up the action scenes, with a number of options available that will lead to a perp being arrested, killed, or even running away from the scene. Time is in abundance, removing the “quick” aspect of these events and negating any serious threat, but as with the dialogue, the wrong choice can have a devastating impact on the story. They’re also rather few and far between, generally book-ending episodes rather than being peppered throughout.
The comic book presentation keeps things at an overall manageable pace and sets an impressively grizzly tone at the same time. Not scared to shy away from the murky underbelly of organised crime, both story and visuals can be both difficult and engaging at the same time. Child molesters, drug-addicted teenagers, and gangland massacres are present and accounted for, but the hand drawn comic book graphics don’t make them any less disturbing.. The brooding soundtrack is also impressive although one can’t help but wonder if some spoken dialogue would have helped elevate the tone even further.
The Detail is a valiant effort to bring gritty police drama to PC. Aside from some dialogue issues, the tone is flawless while the story offers up plenty of intrigue to keep any wannabe sleuth entertained for a few hours. Each episode can be consumed in just a few hours and while the final chapter does feel a little on the rushed side, this brilliantly detailed world will have you strapping on your badge and gun, and hitting the streets for some good old-fashioned police work.