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Immortality PS5 review: a masterfully crafted mystery maze

The DualSense controller isn't the best way to navigate Immortality, but you shouldn't miss this masterpiece
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There was a moment where, while playing Immortality, I remarked “okay, they’ve stopped acting now” after the on-screen director screamed to cut. I mean, yes, that’s the intent: the on-screen stiffness of the characters slips away as they take on more relaxed, natural body language. But they’re still acting. This, too, is part of the performance; a meta-layer, an actor playing a character playing a character. In that moment where I slipped out of the immersion and became hyper-aware of what I was seeing, I was even more impressed. Immortality’s talented cast, intricate set design, and smart framing make it so much more than the sum of its parts.

Its roots trace back to Sam Barlow’s first breakout success, Her Story, a revolutionary FMV game. In it you watch multiple clips of a woman talking to police, only her story and name changes as often as the dates. All the player has to do is type in a word, and the game will bring up five entries where she uses that word – the more specific you get, the rarer the clips you’ll find. It’s a detective game, in a sense, but it doesn’t nudge the player in any direction, it just lets them loose and hopes that their curiosity will see them through.

Telling Lies evolved that formula, and Immortality revolutionized it once again. Your mission is to find out what happened to beloved actress Marissa Marcel, a woman who has appeared in a handful of movies, decades apart, and hasn’t seemed to age a day. She carries herself with grace and dignity, even when stripped naked, even under the camera’s lecherous eye. But there’s also something unnerving about her and the different appearances she takes on. In some clips she’s the most talkative person in the room, in others, she’s entirely silent.

What path would you take? The glass? The microphone? The pencil?

What path would you take? The glass? The microphone? The pencil?

Unlocking clues to her situation and motivations is the primary goal, but it’s not done by typing in words – instead, it all lies in the objects in each frame. If you’re too engrossed in watching a clip, you might miss a character slip a key behind their back, or a conspicuous painting on the wall. Tapping onto certain objects will take you through to a different clip, one that could be entirely unrelated to the one you left. Tap on a lamp, and you’ll find the camera focused on another lamp in a completely different scene that you can now watch – or explore.

The game is a maze of clips, and objects in each video are the doors that guide you through the experience. What relevance do these objects have in each clip, how do they relate to the characters, or even the characters they’re playing in a given scene? There are layers to finding the truth, and while navigating the maze, I suddenly realized why Immortality has been restricted to systems with touch and mouse inputs until now. Immortality isn’t made to be played with a controller.

What happened to Marissa Marcel?

What happened to Marissa Marcel?

With a mouse or touchscreen, the available menu is literally everything. The entire frame of every shot has something in that can be used to navigate to a new time and place, and being able to touch or click your way into new places is organic, with one of the lowest barriers to entry I’ve seen in any game. However, as soon as a controller is introduced, so are button shortcuts, complicating things slightly.

In order to select objects and move through the clip maze, you must use an on-screen pointer, which highlights with an eye when you’re hovering over an object you can use. Unfortunately, this transforms the way you navigate the game into simply hovering the pointer over everything in a frame, and then selecting whatever was highlighted like a more traditional menu. This truly organic aspect of the game, one that benefitted from the way players interacted with the game, is sadly lost on the PS5 version. However, anyone looking to play on PS5 will already be more than prepared to handle PS5 button prompts and an on-screen cursor.

Marissa persists for decades, unaging.

Marissa persists for decades, unaging.

The way I’ve described the game is simple enough – I hope – but the game will sometimes break the fourth wall just to catch you out. While rewinding through a clip a haunting still image suddenly took up the entire screen, forcing me to stare at it. As soon as I thought I understood that the way I interacted and navigated the game was predictable, it decided to throw that back in my face.

I won’t speak about the story of Immortality or the fate of Marissa Marcel – hopefully you’ll know that it’s good thanks to how immersed I was – but I will say that I had a notepad present, on which I wrote “Vampire???” before scratching it out five minutes later. Even though Sam Barlow gave me hardly any information on how to investigate this mystery, I think that was his intention all along.

You have to decode the meaning behind each frame to solve the mystery.

You have to decode the meaning behind each frame to solve the mystery.

Even when a trophy popped up thanks to what I decided to look at, it gave me no hints. Was I actually on the right track? I have no idea. I’m not sure there ever was a right track, like I’m on an investigative rollercoaster with no preset route. That’s a feeling I’ve not had in any games but the ones Sam Barlow makes.

Immortality on PS5 is hampered by the console’s controls – the way you interact with Immortality is of paramount importance – but the game itself, the experience, the acting, the immersion: it’s best-in-class. Immortality is a truly unique game, and even if this isn’t necessarily the best way to play it, I’m glad that more people get to experience it. There’s nothing quite as glamorous and haunting as Immortality.

Score: 9/10

  • Presentation: 10/10
  • Story: 9/10
  • Gameplay: 8/10
  • Music: 7/10

Version tested: PS5

Immortality PS5 technical performance

Immortality is an FMV game, but the framerate of the clips smartly matches conventional refresh rates – which is pretty much the only thing that the team would really need to think about. The PS5’s SSD loads the clips in a timely manner, and aside from the aforementioned controller input quirks, Immortality works flawlessly on PS5.