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Nobody Wants to Die

Nobody Wants to Die Preview: Blade Runner meets BioShock

Critical Hit is taking us to a futuristic noir New York City that feels like it belongs in Blade Runner or Altered Carbon.

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It has taken some time but we're starting to see more and more games really push the boundaries of modern game development and the graphically stunning Unreal Engine 5. Ninja Theory presented a visual treat in Senua's Saga: Hellblade II recently, and in July it's time for the small Polish developer Critical Hit Games to step up to the mark with Nobody Wants to Die.

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This is a narrative-heavy adventure game that is set in a dystopian and noir version of 24th century New York City. The year is 2329 to be exact and the player takes on the role of the detective James Karra as he attempts to solve a variety of interconnected crimes that seem to be targeting the city's elite. As this is the far future, New York City features flying cars, a neverending skyscraper horizon, the constant illumination of neon lights, but the style and theme is also very 1930s-esque, with Art Deco architecture, elegant and sleek car designs, and fashion that would make even Frank Sinatra jealous. Nobody Wants to Die has a really unique aesthetic that feels effortlessly cool and suave while at the same time gritty, dark, and dystopian.

The comparisons with the theme and style stretch further to projects like Blade Runner and Altered Carbon. There's a reason why the game is called what it is, and that's because in this far-future, death has been effectively conquered. People live far longer than ever before, across multiple lives thanks to a new technological innovation that preserves memory beyond bodies. Again, think Altered Carbon. However, people are still mortal, and with a bit of elbow grease, humans are still easily killed, albeit if it doesn't happen very often anymore. That's where detective James comes into the story, as in Nobody Wants to Die you're tasked with asking questions that others would deem unnecessary. The city's elite are dying in bizarre yet easily explainable ways, and while law enforcement is happy to gloss over any details hidden beneath the surface, James sees that there's more than meets the eye, even if asking questions puts him in serious danger.

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By visiting various crime scenes dotted across the city, James begins to piece together an overarching plot, and he does this through not just sleuthing knowhow, but also with the aid of BioShock-like gadgets that allow him to manipulate crime scenes in a multitude of ways. The Reconstructer allows James to literally reconstruct elements of the crime scene, but he needs clues in the first place to be able to do so, hence where player agency and intuition comes into the equation, as you'll need to scour the scene at hand and find anything that might hold some answers. You might find items that need to be interacted with to unlock further clues, or instead might need to pull out an X-Ray gadget to peer beneath the floor and follow hidden cabling, or instead a UV Light gadget to follow a trail of blood invisible to the naked eye. By combining a variety of detective and sleuthing technology and practices, Nobody Wants to Die is all about methodically piecing together what seems to be a cut-and-dry crime scene to find secrets within that the unidentified perpetrator and killer is working head-over-heels to protect.

While Nobody Wants to Die is primarily a linear game, there are elements of player choice incorporated too. There are minor dialogue systems allowing you to decide occasionally how James replies to his colleagues, and likewise using the Reconstructor, before leaving a crime scene you have to decide what state to leave it in. Should you give law enforcement more reason to suspect foul play or instead leave the scene in a state that screams suicide or an accident? The choice is yours but whichever you select will put you onto a path to one of the various endings that the game will offer.

Nobody Wants to Die
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From what I've seen of Nobody Wants to Die so far, it's clear that Critical Hit has really nailed the feel and aesthetic. The dialogue and performances seem to work hand-in-hand with creating this noir and gritty setting, and the striking visuals and graphics paint such a descriptive image that in combination with the first-person gameplay the immersive qualities seem to be off the chart. I do have a few questions in regard to how the gameplay is offered. The parts of Nobody Wants to Die that I've been shown remind me a bit of Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, in that we're due for a very impressive and high quality game that might be a little lacking in the actual gameplay and player interactivity side of things. Granted, this could all change as Critical Hit shows off more of the title, as right now this is all an impression based off of one crime scene in one level.

Talking about the Hellblade comparisons, towards the end of the level there was a brief tease of what seems to be some sort of psychological battle that detective James is facing too. Hallucinations and memories seem to be plaguing the sleuth particularly as he reaches key moments of crime scenes, begging the question as to whether we'll be faced with deciding what is and isn't real too.

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Either way, I'm looking forward to Nobody Wants to Die. This seems to be a very stylish and sleek noir adventure-mystery game, one that seems to have completely nailed the vibe and theme of a futuristic 1930s-inspired New York City. There are a few question marks that remain for me, but overall it seems like Critical Hit is onto something special here, something that could stand out and really thrive in what looks to be quite a barren July for video games.

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