A strange mix of the best pieces from Life is Strange and the Telltale games, The Uncertain is a game that comes so close to offering something forth playing, but falls down in the most basic of areas that can’t be redeemed by its positive features.
The Uncertain benefits from a well-written story set in the distant future, where robots have broken free of the shackles of humanity and taken over the world by force. It’s not quite Skynet, but our protagonist Emily is part of a small group of survivors who scrape by with what goods they can find.
To begin with, you’re searching a drug store for painkillers and anti-inflammatories to take back to the group. While the overarching narrative is solid, there’s a tendency to jump from beat to beat – one minute, you’d be finding the medication to take back to the group, but then as quickly as it started that part of the story was finished. It felt quite erratic, and I just wish there had been a few parts, and characters, that I’d been able to spend more time with.
Glass Half-Full, but also Half-Empty
These robots aren't the brighest
The Uncertain is a game that’s full of potential, and at times was an enjoyable experience, but unfortunately, those experiences never lasted long enough before an issue slid into view to eclipse it completely.
A perfect example of this is when two characters would be speaking in a cutscene and without any prior warning, one character would talk about something completely unrelated to the scene at hand, and then the next sentence would go right back to talking about the original subject.
It feels jarring at times, and at any moment where I felt even slightly immersed in the story, which is arguably quite good, I was immediately yanked back out of that immersion.
Pleasantly Puzzling, Puzzlingly Perplexing
Get your maths on, or skip it
The Uncertain mainly focuses on puzzles to accomplish what you need to achieve, and for the most part, everything slots together nicely. Puzzles are pleasantly challenging, but not so challenging that you feel the need to use the helpful ‘skip’ function to complete them. A lot of them require some actual maths skills and a fairly logical brain too, but if you’re here for the story you can skip them, too.
Unfortunately, the occasional puzzle jumps out as being cheap. In one early scene, protagonist Emily has to slip through an ever-growing maze of security lasers to reach a power switch to turn on a refrigeration unit.
The issue is that, while it starts off challenging at first, at a certain point (after a particularly weird point for a quick time event) the lasers instantly swing across your location unless you have millisecond precise reactions to move to the next hiding spot. It was incredibly frustrating, and a section that should have taken me only 10 minutes to complete ended up taking nearly half an hour. And as if to top it all off, when all of the sensors turned on they tanked my game from a solid 4K 60fps to a much lower frame rate. It’s the only time I really had an issue with performance.
All Looks, Lacking In Personality
Visually the game really stands out. Robot designs are really impressive – geometric and imposing, they’re really quite intimidating, but a lack of nuanced sound design and a proper atmosphere makes any events with these a little bit comical. Animations also suffer and are full of jank.
The world on the other hand feels exceptionally bright and futuristic, with high contrasting neon signs and colours. In addition to this, the world inside the buildings you have the pleasure of exploring feels fantastically well lived in and has a huge amount of character. Unfortunately, towards the end of the game, this once again follows the trajectory as a whole and decides to throw in more pop culture references than your average Robot Chicken episode.
At what point does an easter egg become too much?
I get that you could consider all of this to be a homage, but I’m fairly sure that’s just Pathfinder on the ‘Havoc Legends’ poster, and the same goes for Master Chief (sorry, Hero 9), the Axe from God of War and the Doom Guy toy on the second shelf down.
There’s even a CS: GO game box on the table in the lower right. It raises the question of when does homage just become stuffing references into something just because you can, plus it also raises the whole legality side of referencing stuff so blatantly like this.
Plus you’ll see N Fillion, G Lucas and a whole band of famous names on lockers around the building. It’s almost like they made this building the home of all the pop culture references in their game.
Oh, and Clank makes an appearance too.
Falls on Deaf Ears
The voice acting is perfectly serviceable, with most voice actors put their all into their lines, giving some very convincing performances.
On the other hand, though it very much feels like all the lines were either recorded completely separately (given current world events this would make sense) or that the game seems to play the audio at the completely wrong time and it cuts over other lines.
There are also bizarre instances of wildly inconsistent audio levels, that one minute cause you to crank the sound up to max to even hear anything and the next to hurriedly throw your headphones off and crank the sound down again as footsteps (that sound more like gunshots in the distance) come crashing through at full volume.
The Uncertain is a difficult game to discuss because it seems so hell-bent on getting in its own way. For every great choice that has been made, a new issue is just around the corner – Good voice acting? Terrible sound design. Great world visuals? Poorly designed characters. It’s truly a shame, as this game had so much potential and definitely wasn’t awful, but overall it just seems rushed and unfinished, with a story that’s over way too quickly.
Review copy provided by the publisherReviewed on PC