Review – Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo
Video games that are licensed after successful films and TV shows are always hit and miss (usually miss). That being said, a lot of the success often comes from the quality of the source material. No one expected Race with Ryan to be a masterpiece, seeing as how it’s a game based on the Ryan’s World YouTube channel. Then again, no one really gave much thought to a game based on a very old French comic book series, but Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! turned out to be an unexpected delight. So what about a game based off a highly revered property, like Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo? The stakes are certainly a lot higher with something so well known and respected. So when I heard his beloved film was being adapted into a video game, I was curious to say the least. Would Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo manage to do justice to its source material, or would it be another licensed title to fall from grace?
Spanish developer Pendulo Studios certainly had their hands full when trying to adapt an adored classic into a video game. After all, not just anyone can replicate the magic of the masterful film director, Alfred Hitchcock. Still, I have to give credit where credit is due – at least they had the good sense to not just copy and paste the events from the original film. Instead, Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo takes the core concept of the film and uses it in a brand-new story. This game might have its share of issues, but at least this aspect was done intelligently.
Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo follows Ed Miller, a writer who survives a terrible car crash. Despite claiming that his wife and daughter were in the car with him, no one else was found at the scene. The ordeal leaves Ed suffering from a severe case of vertigo, which leaves him unable to leave his bed. In order to get the bottom of things, a psychologist is brought in to help Ed uncover his lost memories through hypnosis. Meanwhile, a sheriff is investigating the strange events surrounding Ed’s accident, hoping to find connections to the crash and a tragedy in Ed’s past.
The story is told through several viewpoints: Ed’s, the psychologist’s, and the sheriff’s. I appreciated the story unfolding in this manner, as each character has their own observations and revelations along the way. The story itself was actually really interesting too, for the most part. I will say that Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is unbelievably stretched with unnecessary sections in order to pad the runtime. This game runs about twelve to fifteen hours, depending on how thoroughly you investigate everything. Honestly though, this game could have easily been cut down to an eight hour experience without sacrificing anything important. For example, at point you’re tasked with putting away all of the groceries into their proper places in the kitchen. This has absolutely no bearing on the story whatsoever. Was the inclusion of these types of menial tasks really necessary?
Even with the game being ridiculously overinflated, it still does have an intriguing narrative. Were Ed’s wife and daughter really in the car with him when it crashed into the canyon, or are they figments of his imagination? What really happened to Ed during his childhood? Are the events of his past even connected to this incident? There are a lot of good questions asked throughout Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo, and thankfully, most of them are answered in satisfying ways. Yes, there are a few plot holes along the way, but for the most part the story keeps you guessing. There are several twists and turns along the way, and not all of them I saw coming, which is refreshing.
It’s fortunate that the story is so compelling, because the other aspects of the game have some serious issues. For starters, in terms of gameplay, there really isn’t much. If you go into Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo expecting a game, you’ll be very disappointed. It’s more of an interactive movie. You’ll move the characters around an have them interact with different points on the screen, but there are no real secrets to discover or anything that’s even remotely hidden. The bulk of your time will be clicking on the highlighted points of interest and watching cutscenes.
Occasionally, you’ll encounter a QTE, but there’s almost no penalty for missing them (if you even miss them at all, that is). In fact, there really isn’t a penalty for anything you do. Regardless of how you respond to people, the outcomes are always the same. Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is as linear as it gets. You’ll go exactly where it instructs you, answer however you want, and the end result will always be the same. This is disappointing as it never feels as if there are any sort of stakes throughout the game. Plus, it completely kills any sort of potential replay value it might have had if there were branching paths or multiple endings. Not that you’d necessarily want to play this again.
Visually, Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is a mess. Some of the character models and environments look decent enough, but the game suffers from pop-ins, environmental glitches, and massive framerate drops. By far the worst offender in the visual department though, is the lip syncing. Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo has some of the worst lip syncing I’ve ever seen. Often times the characters lips move like they’ve been animated for another language than what you’re hearing. I actually thought this was the case for a while, since Pendulo Studios is based in Spain, I was wondering if the dialogue had only been animated for Spanish. However, there are also many times were the character’s mouths remain closed when their voices are speaking, or moving when nothing is being spoken. It’s baffling to say the least.
The sound design is serviceable, with the musical score clearly inspired by Hitchcock’s works. The vocal performances are pretty good for the most part, although the child actor who voices young Ed is cringeworthy in certain parts. At least all of the other main characters deliver fairly solid performances, which is important in a game that’s more movie than actual game.
It’s hard to recommend Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo. On one hand, the story is interesting, at least interesting enough to have made me want to see it through to its conclusion. But on the other hand, it’s incredibly padded with unnecessary sections, rife with bugs and glitches, and has some distractingly bad lip syncing issues. At least it’s playable, unlike the developer’s last game, Blacksad: Under the Skin. If you’re not really into gaming, but like a compelling story, then maybe give Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo a chance. I’d highly recommend waiting for it to go on sale though, as the price tag is a bit steep for a messy one-time playthrough experience.
Some of the characters models and environments look decent, but the framerate drops are terrible, there are tons of bugs and glitches, and the lip syncing is atrocious.
It’s more of an interactive movie than an actual game. It’s as linear of a game as it gets. There are occasional QTEs, but they’re nearly impossible to fail.
The vocal performances are mostly strong, with a couple notable exceptions. The soundtrack is reminiscent of various Hitchcock films.
Fun Factor: 5.0
While the story is interesting, it’s bogged down by unnecessarily padded sections, little gameplay, and no challenge whatsoever.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.
Reviewed on PC with an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb of RAM.
A copy of Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo was provided by the publisher.