Listen up, agent. If you’ve played any of the I Expect You to Die (I Expect You to Die, I Expect You to Die 2) games before and loved the experience, then I’ll save you some valuable time. (The clock, after all, is always ticking.) Buy this instalment and it will delight, amuse, challenge, and thrill you the same way the others did. Go get it and start playing it now. You’ll love it.
FROM RUSSIA WITH GLOVES
Ah, I see that you’re still here. Probably want a bit more detail about the mission before pitching yourself headlong into the risky business. Well, fair enough. Here’s the briefing proper. I Expect You to Die 3: Cog in the Machine is the latest instalment in a series by Schell Games, dependably solid developers who have a very good handle on what constitutes a solid VR title. Just like the other I Expect You to Die games, it’s a puzzle-based escape-the-room type of affair that you’re expected to play seated, interacting with the levels using a nifty virtual telekinetic implant that allows you to grab, manipulate and freeze items in place while you work out how everything fits together. It’s a very well-wrought and designed system that feels intuitive and right and has remained largely unchanged since the first game.
YOU ONLY LIVE THRICE
Two things really define this series for me; the first is the satisfying and clever puzzles, which are beautifully realised and a pleasure to mess about with. The second is the setting; a really likeable 1960s retro-but-current James Bond parody, which also pulls in aspects of all the other well-loved parodies of such things, like Austin Powers, Despicable Me and Get Smart. And perhaps of all the possible influences it channels, The Avengers is the most apt of all. (The wonderfully wry 60s TV series, not the unrelated modern superhero extended cinematic universe shite bearing the same name). There’s a joyous confidence to the whole thing, from the voice acting to the utterly wonderful Bond-style intro sequence and bombastic theme song which puts a lot of actual Bond efforts to shame. Honestly, A Cog in the Machine features the best VR credits sequence yet, even compared to its sister games, and the song is a classic. The setting and atmosphere are absolutely crucial to what makes these games sing so beautifully, and it’s safe to say that Schell haven’t put a foot wrong here.
DOUBLE OH BLOODY HELL FIRE
The spy game environment may have a cuddly, stylised feel but there are some outlandish, sudden and shocking player deaths, as you may – ahem – expect from the title. This will really be the only bone of contention here for some players. The puzzles are superbly designed. You start every level with no real clue what you should be doing and the game centres around reaching an understanding of each setting and the objects and gadgets within. While you’re doing that and being made to feel very clever when you start to comprehend, there will be moments when you do something that will lead to you dying. Quite a bit.
With no mid-level checkpoints, you may find that dying repeatedly leads to quite a bit of frustration. But it’s not an oversight, it’s a deliberate design trope of the game and one I really enjoy. Sometimes it’s funny when the game sort of tricks you into self-destruction, and sometimes it’s enraging. But you’ll find yourself clicking restart with determination and the desire to be just that little bit more clever and mindful next time. The feeling of reward when you perfect a level is immense, because it’s been so hard won. And don’t think that because the game plays as a seated, escape room-style affair that it will not have thrilling action sequences because it does. No spoilers here, but some of the levels will have you grinning at the clever way they weave that spy action into the game’s structure. It’s truly excellent stuff.
There’s not much more I can say about I Expect You To Die 3 without spoiling something. And there’s very little I feel I can criticise about it, because it does everything it sets out to do with style and finesse, and for the core audience that love these games it’s more high-quality spy puzzle action that manages to have both a lovely sense of humour and a genuine sense of danger. There are no doubt some people who might say ‘It’s still just like DLC for the first game’, but this would be to demean the amount of work on display here, and the fun to be had. The first game hit upon a genre-defining formula which hasn’t been bettered and won’t be any time soon – it shouldn’t be denigrated for trying not trying to reinvent the wheel, any more than Tetris should be criticised for always using the same blocks.
I Expect You to Die 3
TLDR : Summary
I Expect You to Die 3 is a lovely, Swiss laser watch of a game that absolutely will not disappoint. We recommend it from the soles of our knife-concealing patent leather shoes to the razor brims of our bowler hats. Another knock-it-out-of-the-park hit for Schell, which deserves to be top of the charts.