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Content warning for descriptions of sexual assault. Full spoilers below.
Oh, no. This is stupid.
People used to make jokes that Hideo Kojima never actually wanted to make games, and he was only in the industry because he couldn't make it in film. This is a very safe, paternalistic, mocking idea; the man includes a lot of cutscenes in his games, and — tonally speaking — they can be pretty silly, which movies totally never are. But it's a statement that's untrue. It ignores the contributions he's made to the field of game design. It ignores the way in which he uses the medium to paint his narratives, rather than create and pigeon-hole them into a video game post-facto. It ignores a lot of things about him to make a quip that'll make you seem epic and haughty when it actually makes you look like a rube.
With that said, I think Sam Barlow is only in this industry because he wouldn't be able to make it in film. The in-universe movies are constructed with an amazing amount of love, care, and technical prowess, and they're completely spoiled by two of the worst meta-plots I've ever seen.
God, can we put a halt order on media made by men where the entire framing device is "Wow, powerful men constantly exploit women! Not me, though!" Apparently this is the third time Sam Barlow has made a game about the voyeuristic portrayal of traumatized women, and I think the guy needs to take some time off to come up with a new plot. How many more self-flagellating men in the director's chair do we need to keep releasing high-profile shit like this while blaring it over and drowning out the work of women who have been talking about how badly society has been treating them for the past fifty years? Are we meant to be shocked when we see a titty for the nth time in Ambrosio, as if Doris Wishman wasn't already producing sexploitation films centered around misogyny and rape culture from a woman's perspective in fucking 1964? In a world where creators like Coralie Fargeat are making deconstructive rape-revenge films that take the entire industry to task for the shit that they've put women through, why the fuck does Sam Barlow feel the need to throw his limited perspective in? How many women do I need to namedrop before I get my point across?
What the fuck else is even going on here, anyway? Is the intent for me to feel disgusted when the reels swap in the middle of a sex scene and Marcel suddenly looks like she's about 50 instead of 18? Am I expected to do anything other than laugh my ass off when everyone is suddenly butt-naked during a table read while two people fuck on top of a copy of the script? Is there a point to any of this, or is it just here to "shock"? There's so much capital-I, italicized Imagery on display that your main means of interacting with the game is through a visual match cut system, and feels like it's in service of the most surface-level, meaningless symbology imaginable. An extra-dimensional being who is haunting the video game says that he invented "the snake and the apple" and then menacingly looks into camera while pointing a snake at me. Shut the fuck up!!!
Right, the match cut system. Conceptually very interesting. Forcing the player — viewer, I suppose — to pay attention specifically to props and background actors is an inspired choice. These are elements of a film that are often purposefully obscured and painted over; almost nobody watching a movie is actually taking notice of set design and extras unless they spent five years in film school, first. By gating progression behind the viewer's ability to break a shot down into its constituent parts, you force them to engage with the medium far deeper than they normally would otherwise. This game is likely going to make a lot of people feel very smart, because they're being encouraged to watch a film in a new way, and then being rewarded for their curiosity with more scenes.
And you do feel very smart when you're linking snake earrings to living snakes, or one actor in an older movie into one of their later appearances. You feel significantly less smart when you realize that this is all mostly just blind-luck fumbling around to try to uncover more clips, with little actually linking one shot to another. Despite being called a "match cut" system, the visuals of an object aren't actually matched; the objects themselves are. A spiky balloon ball links to an owl trinket on a dresser. An avant-garde, metal apple links to the same owl trinket. A gilded statue links to the same metal apple. This is because the game classifies them all as "sculpture". The match cut system appears to load in a clip with a "sculpture" in it at random, even when clicking the exact same object again.
Match cutting is also prone to breaking, or otherwise just not working in a way that a human would be able to comprehend. There was a painting in one scene that was clearly made by covering a woman's breasts in green paint and then stamping them onto the canvas; clicking on this inexplicably sent me to a zoomed-in shot of Marcel's face with her eyes closed. Her clothes were on, so it's not like it was linking "breasts". I don't have any clue how the game logic determined that they were connected. You can select accessories, but only sometimes. Wristwatches count as "clock", but only sometimes. Crosses and other jewelry around the neck can be selected, but rings around the neck can't.
As you're conditioned to keep an eye out for props, you'll inevitably start noticing ones strewn throughout the scene that look especially unique or vibrant, and then you try clicking on them and get nothing. It's not hard to feel like you've started thinking too far ahead of what the game is actually keeping track of, and it's frustrating. Why is the most reliable way of making progression not to keep a watchful eye out for unique props and actually pay attention to the movie, but instead to reel every clip back to its start and spam-click on the slates until Brownian motion sends you to a new piece of film?
Immortality has zero faith in its audience. A lot of what you're meant to click on gets long, drawn-out holding shots, where the camera refuses to break away for several seconds lest you miss out on spotting the special thing. It's like they hired Dora the Explorer to be the DP.
Even beyond that, though, the hidden "reverse" scenes start off interesting and end embarrassingly. The first one I discovered had what appeared to be an older, nearly-bald Marcel standing off in a corner while two actors rehearsed a rape scene. As the clip progressed, it zoomed in further on her face, and played distorted, echoed audio of someone yelling something to the effect of "hold the French bitch down" in German. The older "Marcel" then screamed, and the clip ended. I was intrigued. My immediate first instinct was that this was Marcel, decades later, reinserting herself into this old footage and releasing it to the public under the guise of an archival project to showcase how complicit many had been in the abuse she'd faced through her life, and how many more had perpetuated it.
I was wrong. It was sillier.
See, that wasn't Marcel, that was The One. Like Neo. The One is an angel, or demon, or God, or an alien, or something, and she's immortal. The One was Jesus Christ, and the Virgin Mary, and Eve, and all of Christianity was a story that she made up. Or maybe not, it's ambiguous. She's also Marcel, and also the director that Marcel was having sex with. Anyway, her entire thing is that she possesses humans and lives through them as a puppet master, carrying within her the thousands of essences of the people she's taken control of throughout her existence. There's another one of these entities, named The Other One, and The Other One is embroiled in an endless battle with The One. The Other One thinks that humans are all worthless monkeys, and The One thinks that humans have value because they can make movies. They kill each other a lot because they don't see eye-to-eye on this issue. I'm barely exaggerating. At the end of the game, The One deletes all of the clips and then possesses YOU, the viewer! You're now a vessel for The One! Metaphorically! The One is a cognitohazard! That's right, this was a fucking creepypasta all along!
This is the actual meta-plot stringing all three of the included films together, and it's fucking terrible. It's so bad that it retroactively sapped nearly all of the enjoyment that I had felt up until that point. I don't even think that it would be possible to rewrite this into something that isn't Daniel Mullins-tier. Scrap this entire idea. Get rid of the whole thing and try again. It sucks. It's so unbelievably bad. I don't know how you could see this and give it a pass.
Given how immaculately constructed some of these sets are and how few continuity errors I noticed, it doesn't seem like this was a production that barely made it out of the door because of COVID. You would expect that to be the case, but it seems as though the crew were able to work around it almost effortlessly, putting together some genuinely impressive film backdrops, faux-studios, and apartments for the sake of all of these shots. The actual films on display are the most polished things here, which is especially funny when you consider that, in-universe, they were never actually finished. If you really want to feel where the game has a limp, it's in both its writing and the fact that these actors seem to be getting inconsistent direction.
Less artistically and more objectively, however, technical issues abound. At one point, the game popped an achievement to celebrate me seeing "what happened to Carl Goodman". It was another hour before I even found out who Carl Goodman was, and another hour and a half after that before I actually saw what it was that the game thought I'd seen. Attempting to sort your clips by items and actors produces so many of them that the UI lags to the point of being borderline unusable. Sometimes unlocking new videos won't actually let you watch them, requiring you to back out to the main menu and reload back into the viewer. How in the world does a game where you do nothing but scrub through film clips still have issues that are both this obvious and this critical after a calendar year and boatloads of acclaim? You couldn't afford to patch the fucking thing with Game Pass money?
I admit that none of what's written above could be read as me being fair to Sam Barlow, but I don't think he's earned it. This is a game written and directed by the same guy behind the stories of Silent Hill Origins and Shattered Memories. Finesse, historically, isn't one of his strong suits. Ironically, I think the "and company" part of "Sam Barlow and company" did an outstanding job; I love how they managed to capture these faux period pieces, what with their matte paintings and their ever-shifting accents. I love the set design, I love the cinematography, I love some of the actors. Manon Gage does such a convincing job in the behind-the-scenes footage that it's hard to believe it isn't actually candid.
Honestly, I would have been happier just watching these movies. I would have been happier leafing through all of this behind-the-scenes footage in chronological order without the forced layer of meta-narrative and detective shenanigans looming over all of it. Ambrosio would have been a legitimately good watch; Minsky is kind of dreck, but the way production ended was interesting; Two of Everything is just bad. But I would have gotten more enjoyment out of just seeing the cast interact, and build and destroy their relationships, and build and destroy their films if they weren't all told non-linearly and chopped up like this. I'd seriously suggest anyone who's read this far and is still interested in Immortality to just watch a video online of someone putting the movie clips in order for you.
The worst parts of the game are the ones which Sam Barlow decided to put his fingerprints all over. If he could have gotten out of the way of this entire production, it could have been genuinely amazing. Instead, he manages to tank three entire movies with all of their extra footage by trying to tie them all up in one of the most embarrassing science fiction Christ parallels I've ever seen. Oops. Better luck next time. Hope your crew can find another director who can actually use their talents without making the fruits of their labor into a joke.
"I'm part of you, now." Give me a fucking break.

This game seems quite neat. The music's neat, the premise is good, and from what I can tell from the game its probably got the best first person platforming i've seen. But I can barely say more than that.
As an average controller enjoyer, I can tell you this game is just horrible with controller. It's blatantly designed with Keyboard in mouse in mind, and despite the various options with relation to auto aim and bindings, it just expects you to do too many things whilst moving the camera to really work on controller. It's almost like you'd need pedals to really play it with controller.
And that's fine! The game isn't designed with that in mind. Just bear that in mind if you intend on playing it.
This game existing on switch terrifies me.

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