Video games have been employing more and more long stretches of audio in games, and it's not always for the better. In Fallout 76 it was a huge problem, and unfortunately it's not any better in Unheard.
In this game, you are a detective traveling between crime scenes, but things don’t add up. Basically you’re either a bad detective, or the game purposefully won’t allow you to use real tactics. But you have an ace up your sleeve: you can astral project yourself and go back to hear everything. It’s basically like CSI, but instead of hard evidence, you rely on audio that could never be submitted in court. It’s a cool gimmick, but I solved two of the cases I played before going through many clues. It’s predictable, but if you’re new to crime games, it might be a challenge.
On the PC the controls weren’t bad. By chance I also had access to the Switch version for a bit, and it generally followed the same pattern of hovering around and listening. Lots and lots of listening. At times it stopped being a game and I didn’t even need controls. The game relies a lot more on logic and thought than gaming skills.
Graphics are extremely limited. Aside from some scene transitions and some stills, the whole game takes place on a blueprint-like map. You go around to different rooms and follow the clues with this little shadowy icon going about as you do it. What they have is pretty good, but man, is it limited.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward. You go across these maps to find/listen to clues, you build up a list of names, and then you piece it together. Then… on to the next case. It’s nothing too complicated. Listening for clues is unique, but it also really pads out the run time. I don’t know why a lot of recent games rely primarily on audio with no graphics, but it wears thin pretty quickly. Even if it’s interesting, employing a “show don’t tell” dynamic in a primarily visual experience seems like cutting corners.
There is a lot of audio in the game, most of which is coming out through listening in to clues. They’re performed decently; I’d describe it as a job… done. But I wish more of the music was there. The game has this scary pulse pounding music, like a chilling version of Rockstar menu music, and there isn't enough of it. There was just… soooo much talking. I completed the game in somewhere around 3 hours. It felt like padding. It was a good job overall, but there should have been more content.
There were no real glitches or frame rate issues. With so little action, how could there be? Audio did mess up a few times, but overall it was pretty on point.
Unheard hinges on the listening clues gimmick, but sadly a lot was sacrificed to make this a centerpiece. Missions could have been harder, better graphics could have been employed - just something more than constant listening. The game turns you into Gene Hackman from The Conversation. You keep obsessively listening to everything, and in the process, you lose out on a lot.
Final Score: 5 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.