Reviews  |  PlayStation 2


Michigan
starstarstar

By Chris Bound / November 21, 2007


Before Suda 51's Grasshopper Manufacture made art-house-film-as-FPS Killer 7, they worked on survival horror curio Michigan. Taking control of a cameraman in the employment of news network Zaka TV, it's your task to investigate a series of bizarre happenings and monster sightings in the city of Chicago, Michigan. So with only a video camera, a busty anchor woman and Brisco, the world's most disturbing soundman for company, you head into the city. Once on the streets, it's not long before hideous beasties start crawling out of the woodwork and all hell breaks loose in a typical survival horror fashion.


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The first thing that will strike you about Michigan (other than its rather lax approach to geography) is the first-person perspective; the game is played entirely through the lens of your camera, giving the proceedings an unnervingly voyeuristic feel. More peculiar are the location shoots themselves where the game begins to morph into some kind of cumbersome point-and-click adventure. I say cumbersome as the only way you can interact with the environment is through the anchorwoman. Say a door needs opening; she'll complain rather stiltedly that the door is locked and then wander off. In order to get it unlocked you must find the key, film a close up of it and then wait for the anchor to come over and bend down to pick it up. Similarly, on the occasions where monsters threaten your party, zooming and clicking on them will prompt her to pull out a revolver and blow their brains out. And while she's doing all the leg work, you can get down to your job as a cameraman. And film her knickers.


You see, whilst the real meat of the game involves simple lock and key puzzles to progress from area to area, points are awarded on each shoot in three categories: suspense, immoral and erotic. Suspense largely involves filming the anchors as they describe the horrific incidents taking place in the town or zooming in on their face as they console a dying man. Because you're a heartless bastard like that. On the other hand, crouch down and shoot hours of footage of the presenter's underpants and breasts and you'll be awarded immoral and erotic points. Bonus erotic points can be scored by filming the pornographic magazines that litter most areas or (in one memorable case) your colleague's arse when she's gagged and bound on a pool table.


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Of course, all of this would be morally reprehensible if it wasn't for the fact that the game is so laughable, both intentionally and unintentionally. The voice acting errs on the Resident Evil and Deep Fear side of dire and features possibly the greatest line involving armoires yet heard in a videogame. Similarly, getting your anchorwoman to do anything is painfully laborious, thanks largely to the fact that it will take her an eternity to find the item you're pointing at despite standing directly in front of it. Even more frustratingly there are some moments where the main character dies for no apparent reason (usually during the poorly scripted boss encounters) leaving you wondering precisely what just made the game grind to such an unseemly halt.


That said, Michigan still possesses the ability to unsettle despite its ridiculousness. Any player will doubtless feel something rather unpleasant within themselves after deciding to film their colleague as she's dragged kicking and screaming from sight by a hideous monster, just to capture that look of terror on her face for extra points. Or feel that little pang of guilt when a replacement host is assigned to you and at the back of your mind you remember how the previous one was ripped to pieces in front of your viewfinder.


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Despite the first person view, this is a game that makes you feel strangely distant from the action. It's survival horror in which, instead of controlling Leon gunning down a Ganado, you're left in control of the camera that captures that moment when the chainsaw ladies rip through his neck and cleave his head off. It's an interesting approach to the genre; one that forces you to direct rather than participate in the action, and it works to some extent. It's not edge-of-the-seat horror action, but it still entertains in it's own eccentric way. Conversely, the lack of any real interaction can make the game feel a bit tedious, giving you little else to do other than zoom in and pan over a string of poorly acted cutscenes. Albeit a string of poorly acted cutscenes with added breasts.



Michigan was released in the EU with a tragically bad cover and the subtitle "Report from Hell". It has yet to be released in North America.