As a series, Cognition has delivered some hard hitting, visceral and entrancing game play. When I first started playing the series, I was completely drawn in by the story of this FBI agent trying to track down the murderer of her brother and so many others. And as the series continued and the plot became more complex, I was very intrigued and interested to see how things would unfold.
Episode 3 saw a lot of the big questions in the series answered and as the episode wrapped up, I wondered how they could possibly make good on a fourth installment. I wondered how they could top the big reveal and how they could engage me with the same amount of intensity that they did in the beginning. The answer to that is that they couldn’t. Episode 4 is, overall, a disappointment to the series. It doesn’t live up to any of the previous episodes and it lacks the hard hitting punches and mind boggling intrigue that made the series so interesting to start off with.
The game begins with Erica trying to wrap up the final loose ends and bring the killers into justice. She goes a little off the deep end in the course of doing so, putting herself into a difficult position. We even get to see a little of her in the beginning of the whole sage, right before running to rescue her brother. As we watch her go about the course of her duties, we are introduced to the new mechanic for this game, a conversation system. In it, your interactions with other people affect how they respond to you. If you don’t properly respond to certain individuals it can end the game although in most cases it simply changes the way things play out at the end of the game. It’s a lackluster system that doesn’t ultimately change the ending of the game. If it was a little fleshed out with the capability of actually changing the ending, it would have been a lot more relevant.
In addition, the game centers around a few puzzles that are designed to heighten the tension but don’t really do a good job of such. For example, there are literally three puzzles that need to be solved back to back that do nothing but lead you to the next bit of narrative. They’re not interesting or engaging in the slightest. One puzzle is needed to open a container that needs puzzle pieces to finish solving. Another puzzle is needed to get the pieces and once you’ve got them you need to solve the puzzle inside the container. It’s handled in a clunky fashion and is more annoying than anything else.
Combining a lackluster new system with annoying puzzles wouldn’t be enough to tank the game, but add that to a story that’s dull, lifeless and generally pointless and you’ve got a losing combination. I wasn’t interested in what was happening and frankly, saw no point to it. I didn’t get any sense of closure or even accomplishment by the time I was done with the whole experience. Sadly, I felt like I could have been happy ending the game with the third installment. If the killer had walked off into the distance and the game just ended with a giant sense of justice never being served, I’d be alright with it. I felt that what I got at the end of the third game was more fulfilling than what I got at the end of the fourth. Maybe, possibly it wouldn’t have been so bad if the fourth was appended to the third and it was a three part series instead of four.
And just to top off the whole experience, I was treated to clunky animations and graphical glitches that made everything else more aggravating by association. There were some freezing issues with the game as well; though they’ve been fixed in at least one version by the time of this writing and I’m assuming will be fixed across all versions very soon. It’s a fixable issue, so it’s not one that I can be too judgmental of; I mention it because of the sheer frustration involved in playing a game that constantly froze on me and needed to be restarted.
Ultimately, I didn’t feel as if I gained anything from playing the episode. I could have stopped with the third and gotten all the story I needed. Barring the glitches and freezes, the game took me approximately two hours to complete and it’s two hours I’d like to get back. I felt very sorry for Erica being stuck in her own game; I’ve actually grown to kind of like the character and I felt it was a shame that she was ‘forced’ to participate. The game isn’t a complete wash, but it’s close. More tedium than fun and less relevant than any of the other installments, Episode 4 was a huge disappointment all around.