Posted June 20, 2017 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature

E3 2017: Supermassive’s Hidden Agenda is Like CSI Meets Jackbox, and it’s Super Fun (Hands-On)

Not part of its main Press Conference at E3, Sony snuck in an interesting announcement in their pre-show about PlayLink – a new category of games for PlayStation 4 that utilise a smartphone app to allow multiple people to use their phones as controllers for games. Of course, party games like The Jackbox Party Pack series have been using this method for some time, and it seems like Sony has finally taken notice. One of the flagship titles for PlayLink comes from Supermassive Games, the developers of Until Dawn.

Hidden Agenda actually looks a lot like Until Dawn, and even seems to use the same engine, with the same fidelity of graphics and realistic character models. It plays out like watching a long cutscene, but at certain points the action will pause and players will be asked to help vote on their smartphone app to influence the story.

I played through a short section with three other players. At the outset, we were asked to vote on who would seem to be the coolest under pressure – defying all logic and reasonable thought, I was chosen. We then watched a cutscene with two cops cautiously entering a house. It felt a lot like a social version of Heavy Rain, in terms of atmosphere and style. At certain points, branching decisions were made available – for instance, splitting up or staying together, checking out a noise the cops heard or pushing forward. A majority is needed for a decision to be made, although every player also has three cards they can play to hijack the decision making process and choose an option forcefully (these can also be trumped by other players if they want to wrest back control, to hilarious effect if players decide to back-and-forth with their cards over an issue).

Eventually we found a woman being held and tortured by a man inside the house, and we were given the option to shoot him or not. Shooting him resulted in a Final Destination-style chain of events that nobody could have predicted, as eventually water spilled onto the floor in the vicinity of a sparking power cord. Unfortunately, the water was right next to both the victim and one of the cops. This is where the earlier decision that that I was the coolest under pressure came into play – Hidden Agenda gave me the sole control over who to save – the victim or the cop. Not wanting to think too much about such a responsible and difficult decision, I rather quickly chose the victim. Sure, technically that makes me responsible for the subsequent electrocution of the cop, I guess.

A second section showed a woman visiting the criminal from the house while he’s in jail, to learn more about a man called ‘Adam’ (not me) and extract information. However, in this section the game’s titular ‘Hidden Agenda’ came into play. One of the four players was given a hidden agenda in this chapter – a secret objective that only they could see on their smartphone’s screen. This objective was essentially a certain outcome they would have to ensure, by coercing other players into voting the way they want them to. However, they can be foiled – at a certain point, every player is asked to vote on who they think has the hidden agenda, and if the majority finds that person out, they wont receive the points bonus they would have otherwise. It’s a neat take on a multiplayer game, reminiscent of board games.

The developers are anticipating the game may only take a few hours to complete, but there are so many branching options and different paths the game can take, that they expect replayability to be a big, big factor. The developer from Supermassive with us for the demo described their hope that rather than just playing Hidden Agenda for one Friday night, it could be something friends come back to week after week to try again. It certainly was fun to play in a group of four, and in a party setting it could do quite well. It’s definitely a good use of the Playlink concept, as well as a neat follow up for fans looking for more dramatic and cinematic gameplay following on from Until Dawn. Hidden Agenda is currently due later this year.

Adam Ghiggino

Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.


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