Late Shift Review: Your Decisions Define You…For 70 Minutes

Wales Interactive
Wales Interactive /

A mixture of choose-your-own-adventure and fish out of water drama, Late Shift offers the viewer an interactive experience that’s more movie than game.

Developer: CtrlMovie

Publisher: Wales Interactive

Platforms: PC (Version Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Apple TV

Release Dates: April 18, 2017 (Console + PC)

It’s been a while since I’ve played a full-motion video game. Decades, perhaps; most developers these days opt for a graphic adventure game with its own animated style. “Your decisions matter” has been the prevailing focus of the narrative adventure genre ever since Telltale Games released The Walking Dead, and you can see the (strained) attempts to craft it in a compelling movie.

It’s hard to do so, however, when you have a few movies rolled into one.

Late Shift centers around a young man named Matt as he begins his…late shift as a parking lot valet. Everything suddenly goes wrong as he gets caught up in a heist scheme trying to retrieve an expensive porcelain cup. Despite being thrust into a harrowing situation, it becomes clear that greater forces are at work, as a night job is never as easy as it looks.

Strictly from a gameplay perspective, Late Shift is barely a video game. The player is given a choice between one of two or three options a few times throughout the story, sometimes going minutes without a choice. Depending on the playthrough, you can go several minutes without interacting with the game, letting you sit back and watch these actors showcase a narrative for you.

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Not only that, there are few moments that can technically be constituted as gameplay. Most decisions can be summed up as “agree” or “disagree;” rarely do you ever have to create a solution to a problem at hand beyond “which direction in the elevator do you chose to take?”

If anything, Late Shift is akin to the butterfly effect, where the game presents different scenarios based on major choices you make. There are no quick time events, player interaction or true “exploration within a space” opportunities provided to the player; this game is on rails, and it’s up to you to hit levers to switch tracks.

Late Shift Screenshot
Wales Interactive /

I would consider this decision fine if the developers (director? writer?) offered up even a good story, but Late Shift isn’t winning awards anytime soon. The writing is grating, pushing forth the idea of decisions, probability and game theory 101 dialogue in an overbearing fashion. While the fast-paced action kept the story at a great pace, it doesn’t excuse some remarkable leaps of logic.

Why is this random late shift valet capable of spy movie action stunts?

Why would a pudgy, middle-aged security guard be responsible for a prime staging area of valuables worth millions of dollars? How do people who see you commit crimes (potentially) not recognize your face? Wouldn’t a potential robbery incident have police poring over crime scene footage and providing photos to local media? Why is this random late shift valet capable of spy movie action stunts?

I wanted to love Late Shift, as the concept as a new advance in cinematic entertainment is quite enthralling. However, even the production quality is second rate, with a crescendoing score making it impossible to hear the dialogue at times. The cinematography is quite slick and immerses you into the driver’s seat of an action movie, but if I can’t hear what the actors are saying, what’s even the point?

Late Shift screenshot
Wales Interactive /

What I did find fascinating is the divergence of the narrative. You will need to play the game from the beginning multiple times to find the breadth of story options this game can take, as you can come out with one of seven (arguably more, if we’re counting sub-options) different endings to this story. Concerning the narrative, none of them are outright disappointing as beginnings, middles, and ends, logically flowing from the choices you make.

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As a filmmaking venture, this is quite noble. You could miss out on entire chapters of the story in one playthrough, making you miss out on characters completely removed from the story (or have lesser parts later on). It makes the story’s tone shift slightly depending on your playthrough, giving a bit of variety on replays.

Unfortunately, Late Shift also commits the cardinal sin of choice-based video games; a lack of scene selection. If you complete the game (which takes 70-90 minutes, depending on your choices), there is no option to pick up from a defining middle point and finish off the story from there. You must sit through 30 or so minutes of gameplay to get back to where you want to diverge your path.

Late Shift screenshot
Wales Interactive /

Right there, that is what kills a choice-based adventure game; wasting the player’s time. If a player completes an adventure game (or episode) once, they should be given free reign to rewind back to specific scenes. The same goes for cutscenes, as they should be skipped ahead so that your choices register a complete ending. Failure to do so represents a lack of service to the player’s long-term experience.

Considering that this was an option on Apple TV version of Late Shift that was released in 2016, it’s a mind-boggling step backward for a console and PC experience that should be considered a bit more prestige as a video game service. It shows the lack of polish that went into the release, focusing more on making the movie look good for as a game visually than operating as a game.

Late Shift. 5.5. There were plenty flashes of brilliance throughout Late Shift (Richard Durden offers a remarkable, understated turn in his brief time onscreen), but it appears this “game” works better as a first draft. Considering recent FMV games have offered more in terms of player agency as opposed to a series of logical checks to chose forks in the narrative path, Late Shift’s B-movie effort can’t prop up a shallow gameplay experience.. CtrlMovie.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.