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Wot I Think: 35MM

Everybody's Gone To The STALKER

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.

About the Author

Alec Meer avatar

Alec Meer

Contributor

Ancient co-founder of RPS. Long gone. Now mostly writes for rather than about videogames.

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