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This is the Zodiac Speaking review for PS4, Xbox One, Switch


Platform: PS4
Also on: PC, Switch, Xbox One
Publisher: Klabater
Developer: Punch Punk Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: Leaderboards
ESRB: E

The first time I started up This is the Zodiac Speaking, I couldn’t believe how slowly everything moved. Moving your field of vision from left to right, walking forward, every single movement your character makes: all of them crawl at a snail’s pace. After about two minutes I’d had more of that than I could handle, so I quit out to the main menu (because you can’t access this game’s settings while in-game), improved the camera sensitivity, and started over.

This was a mistake.

In fact, not only was it a mistake, it almost literally broke the game. I quickly found out that the reason the sensitivity was so low was because that if things moved at a normal speed, the game’s world can barely hold together. I’m not someone who usually notices or cares all that much about frame rate, but even I know enough about it to know that this game performs exceedingly badly. Everything tears the moment you turn your head even the slightest bit. I tried spinning around in the living room during the game’s opening sequence, and I could practically see it moving frame by frame.

That would be unacceptable in any game, but it’s particularly bad for This is the Zodiac Speaking. It’s meant to be a stealthy thriller, a game that puts you in the shoes of a reporter hot on the trail of the infamous — and never caught — Zodiac Killer. Through a series of dream-like sequences, you try to uncover the killer’s identity, and occasionally you have to sneak around to avoid becoming one of his victims

Unfortunately, it’s hard to maintain a stealthy atmosphere when the game barely works. I almost made the mistake of turning up the brightness a little — partly because I like to see what’s happening, partly because I’m a wuss who hates horror — and that somehow made things even worse. Not only did the screen tear constantly, I also discovered all kinds of weird things happened with the game’s lighting, and not in a freaky, creepy way, but more in a “stand here and it’s nighttime, stand here and it’s daytime” kind of way.

There’s also not a whole lot of internal consistency or logic at work in This is the Zodiac Speaking. Early on, for example, you’re given the choice of taking a gun along to meet the killer, or not. It turns out that this is a false choice, since, when you stumble across the killer, your character curses the fact he didn’t bring a gun — even though I most definitely had opted for one when given the choice. Now, I have no issue if a game wants to hold your hand along a preset path, but if it’s going to do that, it shouldn’t pretend otherwise. It’s that sort of lazy design that typifies This is the Zodiac Killer.

What’s frustrating is that this game could have been really good. Setting aside the freaky true crime aspect of it all, the game creates a deeply unsettling atmosphere, as if you’re walking through a nightmare with a mysterious, unstoppable killer lurking somewhere in the shadows. If that doesn’t frighten you a little, I don’t know what will.

But again, none of that matters all that much, since the game here is a buggy mess. Whatever creepiness or unsettling story This is the Zodiac Speaking is trying to convey doesn’t really matter all that much, not when the game is literally falling apart before your very eyes.

Klabater provided us with a This is the Zodiac Speaking PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: D