I wasn’t sure what to expect from Supermassive’s latest title Hidden Agenda. I was certainly impressed with Until Dawn, but the incorporation of the PlayLink feature seemed a bit gimmick-y. If you’re not familiar with PlayStation’s PlayLink program, it’s essentially a way to have friends and family connect their smartphones for a couch co-op experience. I’m not sure about other games that have used PlayLink, but Hidden Agenda pulls it off impressively well. It manages to be fun to play alone, but a blast to play with friends.
Game Name: Hidden Agenda
Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Publisher(s): Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer(s): Supermassive Games
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Hidden Agenda has you playing as officer Becky Marney and district attorney Felicity Graves as they try to track down a serial killer known as “the Trapper”, who has been rigging bodies with explosives to blow up the responding officers. For a game that fully commits to the “interactive movie” genre, it should have a good story, and it does. It’s a solid crime thriller with compelling performances from the cast. It looks and plays a lot like Until Dawn, with even better graphics. Although, the motion capture was maybe not quite as strong; some of the characters’ facial movements fell into uncanny valley territory a few times.
Collect clues and review them on your smartphone, and also see how your choices have influenced the story so far. Certain decisions bring you closer to finding the Trapper, and others will set you back. Plenty of games will tell you that your decisions will drastically alter the story, and often this is an exaggeration. The narrative may split off in separate directions, but ultimately you get the same outcome. However, I will tell you that I’ve noticed significant differences in the story and its ending during my playthroughs. Becky or Felicity can either die without ever learning the true identity of the killer, or they live to find them with plenty of different paths to take along the way. It gives Hidden Agenda great replayability for when you want to play with different groups.
It should be noted that the dualshock cannot be used at all, even for the single player mode. I don’t think this was made quite clear in the marketing of the game. I was initially let down by this fact, but it really didn’t affect my experience at all. The companion app is free, it connects to the game quickly and easily, and it’s simple to use. You just swipe in the direction of the choice you want to make. My only complaint about the single player experience is that it’s difficult to find all the clues in a given time limit when playing by yourself. However, Hidden Agenda is at its best when played with others anyway.
There are two game modes – story and competitive mode. Story mode can be played with 1-6 players, while competitive mode requires at least two people. For story mode, you make choices to affect the outcome of the story. When playing with multiple people, majority vote applies to the decisions. However, there are a few additional features in multiplayer story mode. Periodically, the game will ask players questions like, “Who is the coolest under pressure?” Players then vote on their phones and the winner will get to make a key decision in the following scene. You can also accumulate “takeover” cards, which allow you to override the other players when making a choice. As the name would suggest, competitive mode has you competing with the other players. One person will have a hidden agenda that they need to keep from the other players, and achieving one’s hidden agenda gives you points.
Hidden Agenda‘s ability to appeal to a casual audience is a strength, not a weakness. If you want to play a game with friends who don’t own a PlayStation or play games at all, they’re not going to be comfortable with the dualshock. But everyone knows how to use a smartphone, so it’s much easier to get people on board with Hidden Agenda. Additionally, because the game is intended to be played in one sitting, it clocks in around 1.5 – 2 hours. You won’t have to worry about getting the same group of people together over the course of multiple nights to complete it.
We’ve seen many “interactive movie” type games in the past. Supermassive appears to be becoming a key player in this space, but there’s also Quantic Dream and TellTale projects. However, Hidden Agenda was smart enough to translate this movie-like experience to a couch co-op game. These games can act as a gateway between games and movies, making them appealing for all kinds of crowds.
Is PlayLink going to be the next big thing for PlayStation? Probably not, but it works incredibly well for Hidden Agenda, and it was clever for a game of this genre to support this feature. Supermassive is doing interesting work for PlayStation on PlayLink, as well as some upcoming PSVR titles. At $20, you can’t go wrong with Hidden Agenda. It has great replayability and will keep both the hardcore and casual crowds invested.
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Hidden Agenda is worth a purchase if you like Until Dawn, or if you’re a fan of insanely fun couch co-op experiences. PlayLink’s incorporation of smartphones may or may not catch on for PlayStation, but it works well for Hidden Agenda and becomes one of the game’s strengths.
- Compelling story
- Branching narrative
- Companion app is easy to use
- Great replayability
- A few drawbacks to playing solo, but ultimately forgiveable