First and foremost, I want to preface this GGA Game review of Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo with a reminder to always check content warnings. Unfortunately, those listed on the game’s Steam page, “contains mature content: depiction of crimes, suicide, drugs,” is not nearly enough. Please be mindful that this game also contains self-harm, rape, murder of a child, child abuse, emotional abuse, discussions of mental health, animal abuse and more.

I’ve had a weird fascination with Alfred Hitchcock ever since I took a film class in my early years of college. Most notably, the 1958 noir psychological thriller, Vertigo. So, when I was given the opportunity to check out Pendulo Studios and Microids, Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo, I knew I had to take it. It totes itself as being freely inspired by Hitchcock’s universe while spinning a tale that will have you questioning if you can trust your own mind. But does it deliver? Or does it fall short?

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The official description states, “Ed Miller, a writer, came out unscathed from his car crash down into Brody Canyon, California. Even though no one was found inside the car wreckage, Ed insists that he was traveling with his wife and daughter. Traumatized by the event, he begins to suffer from severe vertigo. As he starts therapy, he will try to uncover what really happened on that tragic day. Prepare yourself for a most disturbing investigation inside the human mind: truth is sometimes worse than madness.”

DISCLAIMER: There will be spoilers going forward, so please be mindful. We will also discuss some of the situations mentioned in the content warnings.

How Disturbing is Too Disturbing?

Young Ed walking towards the lake house.

Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo

And disturbing this tale is. But when does it become too much? As a longtime fan of horror games, I will say that I have run the gambit of situations that left me feeling rather uncomfortable. Some I stepped away from for a short while, and others I never returned to. But no game has made me uncomfortable during a scene as in Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo. Early in the game, we are introduced to Faye through Ed’s memory. It seems like any meet-cute, one-night stand situation. But then, as the game progresses, we learn that it is much darker than that.

This is where the content warnings for drugs and rape come into play. While further exploring Ed’s past and trying to uncover if Faye really existed, we are forced to play as her. Through this, we see what was really happening that night. Her intentions and the events play a significant part in the overall story as she is essentially plotting to ruin Ed by resurfacing his traumas and driving him to insanity. But, I fully believe there was no reason that anyone should be forced to play through the events of date raping someone. There is no way to skip through this section or choose a different path.

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There are other situations like this throughout, including reliving Ed’s memory of the day his mother and sister died or the first time Faye attempted to sabotage him. Again, there is no way to skip past these events. And in the case of Ed’s mother and sister, we even go back to it more than once as we explore the event under Dr. Julia Lomas’ hypnosis. There are some lighthearted moments within Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo. They tried to attempt to balance the trauma pushed onto me, but I learned that even those memories of Ed’s aren’t entirely true. If it weren’t for the fact that I felt the need to know what was really going on, I would have dropped the game after learning about Faye.

Narrative Games Need Quicktime Events – Right?

Julia telling Ed to focus on the swirling tablet.

Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo

Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is a narrative tale focusing more on uncovering the story than providing action-packed gameplay for the player. And that’s fine. Some of my favorite games, The Dark Pictures Anthology, in particular, focus heavily on story and use Quicktime Events (QTE). This is no different. The first few QTEs felt like great teaching opportunities. It helped me understand what was expected and the various ways the joystick needed to be moved throughout the rest of the game. But then, it became repetitive and felt like every action had a QTE. Drinking water? QTE. Feeding the cat? QTE. I got to a point where I was afraid to take my hands off the controller.

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And not only was it a bit repetitive, but most of the QTEs weren’t actually timed. Some were just forcing you to interact for the sake of interacting. Had they kept the QTEs to events when tensions were high, they would have felt more rewarding when done correctly. Instead, I felt like I was always on my toes, so nothing was a surprise. Outside of the QTEs, I did enjoy the exploration portion of Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo. The game is visually stunning. I wasn’t completely sold on the art style initially; it definitely grew on me. I wish they had focused on allowing up to explore more of the world and a few other narrative-friendly mechanics than QTEs.

There Is Something To Enjoy

Nick and Julia walking in the parking lot.

Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo

I know that up until now, it doesn’t look like I actually enjoyed Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo. But there are parts where it’s a good game. Not enough to forget the trauma dump and incredibly unneeded situations I was forced to play through, but enough that made me want to come back and finish it. After much-needed breaks, of course. There is a lot to unpack regarding how Ed disguises his traumatic past to protect his mental health. It made me think a lot about how we misremember the events of our childhood, whether because we force them out or just not having been old enough to honestly remember what was happening.

Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo also introduces a story and characters that I wanted to learn more about. It wasn’t always because I liked them, but it made me question how their brain ticks. What was going on in Faye’s head? Why was she doing the things she was? I wanted to explore more of Ed’s family dynamics. There are even quite a few secondary storylines that you can choose to follow. My absolute favorite portion of the game is the possible relationship between Julia and Nick. Depending on the choices you make and how you have them interact with each other, they could end the game together or apart. I love the representation of an older couple and seeing them work together.

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Overall, the game has some good moments. But, it falls short when it comes to pushing the bar way too far into uncomfortable territory. If given the option to skip physically playing through Ed’s date rape, I would have chosen it in a heartbeat. There is a way to include it in the story and show how unstable Faye was without forcing players to be the ones to do it. One of my biggest criticisms isn’t even with the game itself, but the lack of proper content warnings. This game explores the disturbing side of one’s mind, but there is a line we all have to draw, and studios need to prepare players for what they are about to encounter.

Julia sitting outside looking out at the lake while working through notes from Ed's visit.

Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo

So, should you play Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo? It’s a tricky question to answer. If I had a more detailed list of content warnings within the game, I would have spent more time deciding if I was in the right headspace to play through the game. But at the same time, I chose to come back and finish it because I wanted to know what happened and why the characters made their choices. So there is something to say about how they told the story and narratively kept me engaged. So, my best suggestion – do your research and make the best choice for your mental health.

Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is available now on PC through Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch.

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