Tyler Smith is a loser. After quitting his supermarket job in a fit of pique, he finds he can’t get work anywhere else. With no prospects and the rent overdue, his only choice is to pick up the hunting rifle stashed in the corner and embark on a new career as a professional assassin.
As Tyler, you shuffle around an empty apartment. The interface is simple, and there’s not much to do. You can look at a newspaper, go out to see some underground boxing or visit the gun shop, or get to the important part: reading your mail and going on missions.
Each mission gives you a situation and the distinguishing features of a target. (Most of the time, the target is the only person visible on the mission, so it’s easy to tell who’s who.) If you accept the mission, you equip your weapon and go shoot the target. If you don’t, you go back to the apartment and shuffle around until you decide to accept the mission after all.
The missions are simple. You look at the scene through your sniper scope, then line up your shot, taking wind and distance into account. The game shows you how to adjust for these factors, and gives you plenty of time to shoot. It’s almost impossible to fail.
After a successful mission, you collect your money, return to the apartment and start over. A few missions throw in variations, like a car bomb or an interrogation, but these are rare. The 20 missions are repetitive, and there are no significant decisions to make along the way. The game even tells you what weapon to choose and when to upgrade it.
Several parts of the game feel unfinished. Printed dialogue sometimes appears in confusing locations, leaving you to figure out who said what. There is little music and no ambient background noise, which means the visuals have to do all the work. Misspellings appear throughout the text, and a cut scene where you visit a friend in the hospital doesn’t make sense chronologically.
Add all the flaws up and you have a game that shouldn’t work– but it does.
The empty apartments and desperate messages evoke a compelling feeling of despair. The expressive stick figures have a lot of personality, even when you’re staring at them through a sniper scope. The characters grew on us, and when the game ended abruptly on a cliffhanger we wanted to find out what happened next.
Say what you will about games as art, but generally we look at games for how they play rather than as some kind of performance. But there is a place for games that use play to create a mood, and Clear Vision does this.
Not everyone is going to enjoy Clear Vision. Many of those who do are probably just blowing off steam by shooting some dudes. But if you approach the game in the right state of mind, the feelings it evokes will stick with you.