Martha Is Dead – PC Review

Martha Is Dead – PC Review

Released on February 24th of 2022, Martha Is Dead offers players a heavily psychological thriller experience surrounding the events proceeding the death of one of two twins. Developed by LKA and published by Wired Productions, this riveting tale is certainly not for the faint of heart. I mean, seriously – this is for mature adult audiences only. But enough pretext, let’s review Spooki-photo-trauma-simulator-2022. and pick up some second-hand PTSD along the way.

How one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review Martha Is Dead through the lens of more objective metrics such as; graphical fidelity, characters/story, content/length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design & cinematics. This product was reviewed on a 3080 10GB, 32GB Ram, with an i9-11900KF 3.5GHz. For full transparency: this content was reviewed using a copy of the game graciously provided by the developer.

Graphical Fidelity

Martha Is Dead’s superb visual presentation won me over the moment I attained full control. In all honesty, just about everything in this game looks outstanding. It just really shines when it can be fully realized by player curiosity. I understand this sounds somewhat vague, but it’s related to an early pacing decision we’ll discuss later.

A major focus within Martha Is Dead is photography. Without going into too much detail, I was impressed with the photo-realistic visuals this game presents and how it utilizes these powerful assets within that context. I thought this to be an interesting use of one of its greatest strengths that often gets brushed off as merely superficial in value. I can’t really understate this enough: everything here looks phenomenal. From the little facial creases, hairs, and details, to the immaculate shading, foliage, or mesmerizing lighting, each moment is a treat to behold. Gruesome, as some of those treats may be. If you weren’t a fan of Aloy’s detailed uh…follicles, you may not be a fan of this immense detail either. But hey, that’s what photo-realism looks like.

As far as settings are concerned there’s nothing too wild here. Textures, shading, effects; the usual. I did, however, notice a massive performance tank when Ray Tracing was enabled – particularly with regards to input lag, which I found odd. That aside the game runs fairly well for the most part. I did notice moments of occasional hitching and gnarly frame drops, but nothing game-breaking or experience ruining for me. That’s not to say these hitches weren’t annoying, as when the game caught up it would ‘throw’ the screen in a direction. Overall, though, Martha Is Dead looks bloody incredible. I’d go so far as to say as good as P.T.; it’s up there accompanying the best with the likes of Death Stranding, Horizon, and co.

My only real graphical gripe is early on when looking down a viewfinder in a cinematic presenting segment, there’s a rather noticeably pixelated ring. In most games, this wouldn’t even be noticed, but contrasting against its other consistently high-def textures & models it’s a little jarring from the experience.

Characters & Story

Luca Dalcò, and the team of ten, have really put their heart and souls into this – and it shows.

Taking place during the Italian Campaign of WWII dated 1944, In Martha Is Dead players take the role of Giulia, and Martha (your twin sister) has passed away. The circumstances are murky, but it’s up to you to uncover what truly happened to Martha? I will strongly avoid spoilers as the tale woven here is this game’s main draw. And rightfully so. This tightly written story mesmerized me with each twist and turn. It’s an unflinching tale that repeatedly left me straight up speechless. A few times I mouthed “what the fuck”, yet I remained glued to the seat as these events were always contextualized appropriately.

One point of note that would be hard to avoid surrounding Martha Is Dead is the extreme violence and “that scene with the face”, censored on PlayStation along with a few others. To be clear, there is a choice to avoid a segment regarding self-harm. While some of the depicted scenes some could consider repulsive, I found this title to be unapologetic in both its delivery and intent. This could be to its simultaneous benefit and detriment as this could be far too overwhelming for some players, or they might just be along for the gore-ride while overlooking the beautiful complexity that lies underneath. I just found it funny that the censored bit wasn’t even the ‘worst’ part.

An aspect I found fascinating was the balancing between supernatural terror, the horrors of war, and psychological struggle. This dynamic keeps players on their toes and consistently engaged in the story, unsure of which factor attributes to Giulia’s reality.

The non-linear nature of this tale (or at least how it’s told) may be offputting for some. It must be said that this is not an experience for everyone. If players find visceral images of gore, mental illness, or self-harm disturbing, maybe take a swerve on this one. But if you’re looking for a narratively & character-driven cinematically oriented, personal story – then this is your golden ticket.

I enjoyed how Martha Is Dead utilizes the unreliable narrator trope to great effect, going so far as to make the viewer question each series of events within their varying contexts. This creates a relationship between the player and the story that encourages mental involvement, consistently challenging the player’s (and Giulia’s) perceptions in a satisfying and thought-provoking manner. It’s fascinating how this game juxtaposes beauty with the grotesque. I really don’t want to sound pretentious in saying this, but I believe there will be a portion of people who play this title who will not “get it” the way I feel the creators may have hoped. Not every experience is for everyone, but I found the interlocking threads of this plot magnetic. As players peel each layer back revealing a further thickening plot, that layer too will likely be stripped away to reveal even deeper complexities beneath, until its bitter conclusion.

I didn’t want it to end in all honesty.

Content & Length

Not gonna lie, this one felt like a bit of a slow burn. The first half-hour sort of dragged, but once it sunk its teeth in, it wouldn’t let go. My total playtime clocked in around five hours at 79% completion. to my knowledge, I only missed the completion of a single side quest regarding a telegram. There are likely more photograph-able locations elsewhere in the game for me to explore. Martha is Dead saves at the beginning of each chapter and offers manual saves for players to pick up from any point to complete objectives. A 100% run could be completed in six and a half hours, assuming players do little backtracking.

The game contains a few moments with binary choices. However, I’m uncertain if they would affect the outcome of the story as the conclusion appears foregone. I don’t see too much replayability here outside re-experiencing the plot.

Some of the quest design is rather fresh, for example, one involves the implementation of genuine morse code. Though most revolve around taking certain photographs – something this game mechanically excels at (offering a wide variety of realistic and in-depth options). Additionally in the latter half of the game there are these… interesting, interactive puppet shows for players to partake in. They vary the experience in a unique way, but get a little tedious after a bit.

Martha Is Dead offers a single-player experience, no more no less. Sorry Multiplayer and coop bros.

Controls & Gameplay

Generally speaking, controls are pretty standard for a first-person title. Or, walking simulator as some might refer to the genre – where the line between that and horror is, I’m unsure. Regardless, this in itself could be a bit of a “spoiler” to the sensitive, I suppose if one doesn’t play past the first 15-20 minutes. The game’s opening is on-rails for the most part, primarily involving heavy exposition with small moments of QTE involvement. This may mislead players into believing the entire experience is on-rails, and I’m happy to say there is much, much more to this experience. WASD to run and the regular, Q will bring up your handy camera, and B with open your bag to view your accrued items. All pretty simple – oh, and the mouse looks around. Crazy, right?

So What’s All The Fuss About?

Alongside navigating with the traumatic events of Martha Is Dead’s plot, players can complete side quests and explore the farmstead. The primary objective of the game is to get to the bottom of the mysterious set of circumstances that led our protagonists to where they are, and where they’re going. Players will also use their (relatively) historically accurate camera to faithfully capture scenes and imagery to be developed in a realistically virtualized dark room. When broken down into its core components, it all sounds somewhat basic, but it blends into a potent concoction bound together with compelling storytelling to keep you hooked.

Sound Design & Cinematics

In a unique point of note, Martha Is Dead is the first game to use native Italian as its default language (with subtitles) to fully immerse players in the setting. Other languages are available, of course. I played in its native language for maximum authenticity, and I’d never personally noticed how beautiful of a language Italian is. There’s something special about being immersed in the audio design presented here. The birds, radio, sounds of nature, all sound as if they belong effortlessly, subtly.

Contrasting these tones are the moody & suffocating melodies and grinding chords designed to strike fear into players’ hearts. Effectively so, I might add. The voice acting performances are incredible, motion capture looks flawless, and each performance lands as I feel intended. Directed by Luca Dalcò, Martha Is Dead contains some of the best looking cinematics I’ve personally witnessed.

Lastly, the music is all OST from Italian composers Femina Ridens and Aseptic Void.

Conclusion

Martha Is Dead is modern, irrefutable proof that the result of a collaboration between passion and technology is nothing less than art. Akin to the likes of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and SOMA as far as psychological thrillers go, if you crave intricately woven stories that ask hard questions and face brutal realities – Martha Is Dead’s got you covered.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this game, though I admit it took a moment to truly grip me. Solid 8.8/10 considering the intended experience. This isn’t meant to be an adrenaline-packed action set-piece FPS. But it sure as hell is exciting. I also take into account the £24.99 / €29.99 / $29.99 US (33.99CDN) price point at launch when scoring. Congratulations, Luca Dalcò and the team at LKA, this narrative & horrific drama smashes it out of the park.

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One That Will Surely Stay With You
  • 8.8/10
    Score - 8.8/10
8.8/10

Summary

+ Beautiful visuals + Outstanding Audio Design + Riveting Story – A Bit short

PC Review