Valiant Hearts is confused game, and one that seems to have two distinct ideas as to what the Great War was about. On one hand, it respects that the conflict was, essentially, hell on earth; boundless slaughter stockpiling bodies ignominiously in the mud, a war where lingering, savaged corpses were used as makeshift defenses and grim stepping stones to higher, somewhat safer ground.
On the other, it seems sure that during the Somme a man in a vest fought a comedy German Baron on top of a tank in no-man's land, before QTEing him the fuck out.
This tonal inconsistency is the main problem at the heart of an ambitious, unusual, and outright interesting take on war, from Ubisoft, of all people. It makes The Room look like The Old Man and the Sea. It exposes you to a conflict which reduces Vietnam to little more than an extended episode of Pee-Wee's Playhouse, then you're throwing grenades at Baron Wario in a Metal Slug zeppelin, or partaking in Wacky Races style into-the-screen racing.
It's a huge shame. When it's focusing more on the ghastly realities of the war and less on being The Somme of All Fears, Valiant Hearts is superb. Moment-to-moment play is largely based on point-and-click style puzzles, combining found items with elements of the world to advance. It's rudimentary and repetitive, but it enables the world to tell the story: whether trudging across battlefields, silent apart from the screams of fallen soldiers, or running petty errands to try and escape a POW camp, at its best Valiant Hearts asks you to reflect on the Great War as a whole, rather than just the bullets in your magazine.
This excellent world-building is augmented by the juxtaposition in the Tintin-style art direction. Again, however, Valiant Hearts doesn't make the most of what it's got: the four playable protagonists (the dog is essentially a tool for fetching things) each offer different perspectives on the war, but their stories are predictable and too dependant on coincidence to really engage.
No matter. Valiant Hearts may be confused, but it's also brave.
Version Tested: PS4.
7 / 10
- A war game that doesn't include the phrase 'Tango Down'.
- Setting is used well.
- Bizarre tonal inconsistency.
- Narrative is too fond of coincidence.