With the release of We Happy Few on Aug. 10, there are sure to be a lot of opinions floating around as to how good the game has actually turned out to be in its final release. If you would like to see what we think of the game as a whole, check out our review. For now, the question on our minds is how well it lived up to its incredibly exciting E3 trailer from earlier this year. If Compulsion Games was able to hit the same level of intensity from the trailer over extended gameplay, it would act as a baseline for an incredible experience within the final release.
After playing even an hour of the finished game, you begin to get a sense of how accurately the trailer represents the final product. Early on, a gang groups up on you. Before they start their ultra-violent attack, their dialogue is a direct play on Alex and his Droogs from A Clockwork Orange. The voice acting really sells these encounters. Despite the heightened atmosphere and over-the-top campiness of the dialogue, you begin to understand, and more importantly, become immersed in the world around you. These elements work astoundingly well. The game is full of allusions to popular media and intriguing characters, all of which are just as exciting as the trailer makes them out to be.
Another aspect of the trailer that works incredibly well in the finished product is the overall aesthetic of the world throughout the game. While each section of the game has its own unique stylistic elements, they all hold true to this darkly cartoonish, fever dream aesthetic. Between your vivid hallucinations from taking Joy, to your vivid hallucinations from the withdrawal from the drug, you may have trouble even seeing the world around you in the game. This design choice was the perfect complement to the story, and is sure to impress.
Now, that’s not to say that the trailer is entirely accurate in showcasing what the game is at its core. While We Happy Few surely has the same aesthetic that draws on some of the greatest pieces of pop culture of the past century, the trailer makes everything feel much more cohesive than the game is or could ever truly be. Had the game functioned in a more linear fashion, the story-heavy trailer would have been a more accurate representation. Instead, the game functions as an open world adventure. You’re expected to pursue side missions and objectives for additional story and resources for the lackluster crafting system. Because there is such a heavy focus on the narrative-driven gameplay, these elements end up feeling tacked on and even intrusive at times.
Due to We Happy Few opting for survival-based gameplay in a semi-open world map, the narrative ends up falling a bit flat. Had it been a bit more focused in its scope, this may not have been an issue. But, as the game began as a survival-sim, many of these past mechanics are still left over. The trailer from E3 does not showcase the need to eat, sleep, and drink. It almost feels like these elements could have been done away with, and that the developer knew this when working on the marketing for the game.
On top of the wholly unnecessary elements, We Happy Few has a few underlying issues that may leave a sour taste in your mouth as well. To start, the combat is incredibly unimaginative. Generally speaking, you will be using melee combat throughout the game. You will simply left click to swing and hit enemies, and that’s only if you can hit them. If you miss the enemy you may find yourself quickly overwhelmed. Like the combat in Dark Souls and Breath of the Wild, your attacks are tied to your character’s overall stamina. While this works fine in the Souls series, here it ends up being a hindrance. Much in the way players complained about the stamina system in Skyward Sword, there is just not enough stamina to make this a well-balanced system.
To counter this, you may end up needing to rely more heavily on the stealth-based elements of the game. However, this is much more hit-or-miss. The AI of enemies is incredibly clunky, which leads to stealth functionality working as normal or failing miserably, seemingly at random. This often leads to the same issues that the combat system as a whole suffers from. Oftentimes you’ll find yourself running away from enemies to regain stamina before stopping to attack, only to have to repeat this process until the encounter is complete. Much like your character in-game, this combat ends up just leaving you tired. If all you had seen of the game had come from the E3 trailer you may not even think the game features combat. Throughout the trailer there is only one short, throwaway clip that shows off any sort of action in the game. Perhaps this is another sign that these mechanics were not thought of as polished enough to be included in the marketing as well.
In the end, while the game itself may have faltered in some regard, it is safe to say it lived up to the elements that were in the trailer itself. The additional aspects of We Happy Few that are not present in the trailer, however, act more as a detraction from the great aspects that really should have been the focus of the final release.