35MM is a less fantastical, more sedate STALKER. It is tempting to call it Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture meets Russian post-apocalyptic fiction, but it is not a walking simulator: it has action and horror and much more besides. I beseech you to play it.
It is a journey through a post-disaster Russian wilderness, in search of life and hope, in an attempt to survive.
Sometimes it is a train ride through a post-disaster Russian wilderness.
It is more interested in questions of humanity than it is questions of science-fiction.
It is restrained about light and colour, but what starts dour steadily blossoms into eerie beauty.
There is a companion NPC by the player’s side for the majority of the game, but somehow it feels solitary nonetheless.
The companion rarely speaks; when he does it is with a short directive to aid the pair’s survival or quiet reflection about their existence.
The game’s nature changes sharply on several occasions: it is a walking simulator, it is a horror game, it is a shooter, it has gentle puzzles. It has an awful quick-time event fistfight. It has a bear escape scene. It even has an optional jigsaw mini-game. It is deeply, determinedly unpredictable.
It is a journey above all else, but a filmic one, with beats and setpieces.
35MM is ugly-beautiful; I don’t mean graphically ugly, but in terms of the stark Soviet-era architecture, the grey weather and the lingering menace. Like STALKER, it conjures a place, a real place, but unlike STALKER it is designed to make us admire it without regular distraction; slowly, increasingly affectionately. 35MM makes grey beautiful.
35MM is a game in which the arrival of sunlight really means something. As does the sound of the rain and the glimmer of a lantern.
Screenshots do not convey how striking and how tangible 35MM’s landscape, particularly during its mid-game railway line section, is.
Screenshots do not convey how 35MM made me feel.
The attention to detail, both in recreating a place and in creating moments of horror, is hugely impressive. 35MM began as a game I thought cheap and throwaway, and built into something I thought often magnificent. It is meticulous and determined.
Even in terms of vegetation.
Its first and weakest 15 minutes aside, it is not a walking simulator. It is a set journey with scenes of action and drama and horror and choice, and some freedom to go off the beaten path if you so wish.
There are multiple endings; these depend on your willingness to perform certain actions, and to find those actions in the first place.
It builds into some extreme strangeness and heightened action; there were times when I thought “this is what it would be like if Bioshock were made in Russia.”
At times the tension was so acute that I had to stop playing for a while.
Its sparing use of music is perfectly-judged.
Its Russian-English translation is terrible, but it just about gets away with it: it reads like broken poetry, adding to the feeling of a world barely holding itself together.
35MM lasts three to five hours, depending on how much leave you give yourself to explore and admire the sights; my playthrough was closer to the latter. I wish it could have been longer, but I appreciate that the density and fidelity of the scenes it shows would have made that effectively impossible without an enormous budget.
It is a mystery and a journey you should experience for yourself, and that is why I have resisted detail.
I happily add 35mm to the swollen pantheon of RPS’ highly-recommended games from the first half of 2016. It is janky at times, but it is something special.
35MM is out now for Windows.