Alfred Hitchcock: Vertigo Review – Untangling A Mystery

Alfred Hitchcock: Vertigo Review

The fingerprints of a handful of filmmakers are evident in cinema. Particular auteurs changed the landscape of the industry due to the innovation and execution of the craft that in turn influenced successors. Due to this, a certain level of quality is attached to icons of the medium. Not only does Alfred Hitchcock: Vertigo sport the name of a legend, but it is also based on his masterpiece. With such a mammoth task at hand, can Pendulo Studios create an experience that is both Hitchcockian in its implementation and able to capture the suspense and tension that washes through the source material? 

After a horrific car crash that claims the life of his daughter and wife, Ed is in despair. His life spirals out of control and so does his mental health. Suffering from a debilitating case of vertigo, he is now bedridden. Investigating the case are the local Sheriff, Nick Reyes, and psychologist, Julia Lomas. It quickly becomes apparent that all is not what it seems. The legitimacy of the existence of Ed’s daughter, holes in his story, and much more are questioned. This leads to further investigation into the case to unravel several mysteries in this captivating crime thriller.

You explore the narrative from the perspective of all three protagonists. The multi-strand approach helps the game maintain its pace as you constantly switch between characters. Due to this, revelations have more impact as your observations raise further questions to place you in a continuous state of skepticism. Not all is what it seems and you’ll experience twists and turns on your journey to a satisfying conclusion.

Dial M For Murder

When investigating as the Sheriff, you will explore environments in search of clues. This is similar to other narrative-driven games where you look for items of interest and interact with them to help you proceed to your objective. Gameplay elements in these segments take inspiration from Quantic Dream as you will maneuver your analog in a particular direction to perform a task. While its presentation is neat and subtle, the implementation isn’t as effective. The failure of Quick Time Events doesn’t divert the narrative and this lack of consequence eradicates the tension.

Hypnotherapy sessions involve discussion with the Doctor and Ed. Here you will delve into events of the past to analyze and interpret Ed’s description of key events. You will need to rewind and fast-forward a sequence to look deeper into his memories. Unfortunately, key areas are indicated which removes the investigative nature of the task. However, the clever storytelling device leads to some great narrative moments that help you understand the protagonist’s psyche.

Conversations include timed responses. This helps add urgency to discussions, and although the failure of this doesn’t affect the narrative, it does shape your own experience. The inclusion of multiple pathways and endings would have given more replay value, but it still manages to deliver a strong narrative experience that will leave a lasting impression. 

Stage Fright

Narrative games can suffer due to the quality of vocal performances. While the majority of Vertigo is strong, the delivery of some lines is perplexing. At times, the characters seem to react in an odd manner which doesn’t link to the scenario. This can hinder the flow of some conversations and as a result, immersion can falter. Although this is infrequent, it’s blatant when it occurs. In addition, characters are stylized with a cartoon aesthetic not too dissimilar from the Telltale games. This is well implemented and adds a level of polish to some basic assets.

Hitchcock’s DNA bleeds through and due to this, fans of his work will appreciate the game’s presentation. Distinct cinematography techniques are conventional in the icon’s work and this is present here. The use of the dolly zoom helps to accentuate the effects of vertigo, while the signature expressive close-ups harken back to his library of classics. Suspense is built through methodical timing, and while this is difficult to achieve in games, Pendulo Studios has done a great job. The use of the voyeuristic camera combined with the intense orchestral score truly captures aspects of the famed director. While this won’t affect those unfamiliar with his work, the love and admiration for the pioneer are evident throughout which helps make this an authentic experience.

Alfred Hitchcock: Vertigo weaves a wonderful mystery that is full of surprises. The direction and audio pay homage to its namesake and will please fans of the source material. It is disappointing that your choices have little to no impact on the story, however, this can be overlooked due to the lovingly crafted tale that will keep you gripped throughout.

*** A PlayStation 5 key provided by the publisher ***

The Good

  • Strong and Well Told Story
  • Hitchcockian Direction
  • Well-rounded Characters

The Bad

  • Inconsistent Voice Acting
  • A Little Longer Than Required
  • Meaningless Choices