Virginia PS4 Review - A Particular Walking Simulator

I've always been fascinated by creators who attempt to produce an entirely original product. Stepping out of an industry's comfort zone in order to pursue your personal vision is an extremely scary task, but it's exactly what slowly pushes art forward. After seeing a couple of videos about Virginia, I instantly knew I had to give it a shot. Numerous playthroughs later, I'm ready to talk about this imperfect yet fascinating title.

So...what is Virginia about? Well, it is a single-player first-person thriller set in a small town by the name of Kingdom. You control a newly-graduated, black female FBI agent by the name of Anne Tarver. Immediately thrown to the wolves, she must solve the disappearance of a young man while also investigating her partner. On the gameplay side of things, it's a notably peculiar walking simulator.

As soon as I began my journey, I was surprised by the simplistic, but ravishing art style. Reminiscing of Firewatch, the graphics are sort of cartoonish and full of vibrant colors. It's important to mention that it doesn't look quite as good as Campo Santo's paradisaical adventure. Some of the textures are more generic, and figures are made out of polygons. Having said that, the game's art perfectly strikes a sense of nostalgia and charm, which I believe the developers deliberately crafted.

Now, the uppermost feature that causes Virginia to stick out like a sore thumb is its lack of dialogue. From beginning to end, nobody speaks a word. This is particularly remarkable considering the nature of the title. If this was a racer, who in the hell would care? But since we're dealing with a detective drama, you would think a spectacular script is essential. Well, the fine folks at Variable State clearly didn't.

It's greatly admirable that a game tries to build an experience solely off atmosphere and sound. To be honest, they absolutely nail those aspects. The sound effects and score in here are phenomenal. Truly rich and fitting to each section. The atmosphere is equally impressive. Although the player models aren't overly emotive, Virginia continually presents the right combination of music and visuals for you to understand the specific mood.

Generally, this cinematic thriller is very straight-forward. Clocking in at two hours, the linear voyage knows precisely where it wants to take you. There isn't a whole lot of replayability, and gameplay mechanics are basically non-existent. You can move, look around, and interact with objects. That's why the title's most consequential asset is unquestionably its narrative.

Virginia's story is incredibly unique and shockingly weird. The devs were clearly inspired by TV shows & films such as Fargo, True Detective, and the X-Files. The game proudly wears its inspirations, which show at multiple instances. First off, there is a ton of editing. As a way to recreate a movie, segments will constantly cut off and transition into the next scene. For example, you'll find a crucial piece of evidence that will help your case, then directly appear at a dinner drinking coffee. While I eventually got used to it and even appreciated it, it occasionally felt forced. Some moments deserved a couple of extra seconds to be enjoyed, instead of rushing onto the next activity.

The narrative itself is mostly interesting, captivating, and emotional. Seeing the case develop as you learn more about your partner leads to many lovely, personal moments. Having said that, not everything is ideal. Our protagonist, Anne Tarver, endlessly experiences these bizarre nightmares that range from insane to somewhat plausible. These dreams can occur at any second, and that's when things get confusing. The line between reality and fiction is really blurry, and you start questioning whether what you're viewing is real or not. Sounds sort of fun, but it sadly isn't. You're overwhelmed with imagery, and it ultimately convolutes the plot.

Verdict: By the time Virginia's credits rolled, I felt like my money was well spent. Having said that, a part of me was confused, and not fully satisfied.

The Good
- Lovely Art Style
- Unique Premise
- Marvelous Moments
- Phenomenal Score/Atmosphere

The Bad
- Convoluted Story
- Occasionally Rushed

Developer: Variable State
Publisher: 505 Games
A review copy was provided by 505 Games

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