From the first day we heard Life is Strange had gone into development we’ve been salivating at the thought of getting our hands on this game. It’s not often that a game comes along that boasts not just top drawer production values, but an immersive story line that both challenges and entertains.
And when the day came that Life is Strange finally arrived at the office, everyone (including the editor) was grinning and rubbing their hands together like a randy uncle at a family wedding. And after a week playing the Xbox One version I can officially confirm the wait was worth it. Life is Strange is nothing short of modern day masterpiece.
Set in modern day Arcadia Bay, Oregon, Life Is Strange tells the story of Max Caulfield, a gifted and introverted photography student who returns home to Arcadia Bay so that she can attend the prestigious Blackwell Academy – a private school for gifted pupils. One day during class Max has a waking dream, or vision, of the town being threatened by a mysterious and deadly tornado that looks likely to destroy everything in its wake.
Upon waking Max witnesses a school bully being gunned down by a wealthy student and at the same time learns she has the ability to rewind time. A neat trick that comes in handy while solving many of the puzzles and mysteries of Life Is Strange. Too often with episodic games, developers often overload the first chapter in a desperate attempt to entice the player to part with their hard earned coins for future episodes. Not so with Life Is Strange. Instead DONTNOD Entertainment (the French studio behind Remember Me) have presented a balanced and thought provoking first chapter that does a fantastic job of introducing pivotal characters and telling their individual stories.
During the first chapter called Chrysalis, aka. Life is Strange: Episode One, we get to understand Max’s character and the relationships she has with her fellow students at the Blackwell Academy. We’re introduced to not just the tornado threat but also to a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a model student. We also get to meet characters such as Max’s former best friend Chloe, a troubled punk that promises to become a key player in future episodes. Life is Strange also manages to pace itself just right for a game that allows you the freedom to explore what feels like a real, living and breathing world. You can talk to pretty much anyone, take great pictures (the games 10 collectables), listen to music, read posters and make decisions.
However, it’s in the decision making element that Life is Strange really shines. Max’s ability to rewind time allows you to make a decision, see how it plays out and, if you’re not happy, rewind and try something else. Genius. The in-game graphics are also among some of the best we’ve seen so far. The character models are brilliantly drawn and the environments are packed full of painstaking detail. DONTNOD Entertainment are clearly aiming high with Life is Strange and, by doing so, they’ve raised the quality bar for other episodic titles to be judged by (are you paying attention Telltale Games?)
While playing Life is strange we did notice occasional frame rate issues and miss-timed lip syncing. But these are minor niggles that do little to detract from what is an absolute gem of a game.
If you take your time and poke your nose into every corner of Life is strange you’ll be playing the game for 4 – 6 hours. A bargain for the price of an episodic download. Highly recommended. What are you waiting for?
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9 out of 10
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