One of the major surprises and highlights of E3 so far for me, was the reveal of We Happy Few. Displaying a very clear and wonderfully done, Bioshock vibe, mixed with the time and era of Britain in the 1950's, We Happy Few, instantly become one of the most compelling and unique games shown off so far at E3.
For a game to so clearly take inspiration from Bioshock is a welcoming sign for me. The original Bioshock after all delivered one of the most complex, rich, and inspired tales in gaming and a decade later remains one of the seminal games in the medium. Yet, We Happy Few seems to toy with our expectations of what a Bioshock clone would be. Taking its setting and sprit from Britain in the 50's, just as Bioshock did with America in the 50's, the look, feel, and sounds of the game all brilliantly transport you to that world and crucially that place in time. In the same way Bioshock was in many ways a nostalgic game for us here in America, We Happy Few looks to be the same for our British cousins.
Yet in it's own way We Happy Few, is crafting it's own wonderfully flawed utopia. The introduction of a world that is always happy, thanks to the help of a few pills, makes this a wonderfully different twist on the styles of 1984 and other Orwellian tales. To scrub the world of all bad news and push it away and instead only focus or rather pretend, that only good things happen is an interesting route for the game to take. The fact that right under this thin veneer there is a very creepy and off-puting feeling underneath it all, makes the game that much more of a must play. Just the way that the camera worked as the player strolls through their office, passing by as one of their co-workers is forced into taking a joy pill by a tall, lanky, masked man, only to then turn around and notice the player and wave as the masked man walks across the room and closes the blinds, shutting the player out on what happens next.
The final scene with the player attending a party and taking a whack at a pinta, only to discover the horrifying truth of what lays inside, is among the creepiest and most dread filled moments I've felt in some time. From the minute you walk in, you can just sense that something is not quite right with this party and sure enough your feelings are more then confirmed.
Perhaps the best way though, that the games gives an homage to Bioshock while also giving it's own unique twist on it, is in it's own creepy baddies. Whereas Bioshock had the hulking gentle monsters that were the Big Daddies, We Happy Few, has what I can only describe as the Joy Police. Those terribly creepy, tall, lanky, fellows in masks who ooze terror and evil just beneath their hidden faces. The perfect image of a creepy secret police type group, they seem to be in charge of making sure everyone is perfectly happy and joyful and that nobody forgets to take their pills. It all only further adds to the many layers and dimensions of We Happy Few and only furthers my own fascination with this game and the world it's creating.
We Happy Few, is a game pulling from many different, all excellent threads. From its clear inspiration of Bioshock and classic George Orwell tales, to it's setting and place firmly in 1950's Britain, to it's own take on classically flawed utopia's, We Happy Few seems poised to emerge as one of the most unique, narrative driven, and tense games of the upcoming year. However it turns out, the world it's built and the society in place there, are sure to join the ranks of Rapture and the world of 1984 as iconic utopia's gone woefully wrong.