Out of the Box is an odd one, for sure. On the one hand, you have a repetitive gameplay loop that is prone to catching you off guard, forcing a game over and a restart. On the other, there is a somewhat compelling narrative that makes it mostly worth the effort. Playing as the recently released convict Warren, you are hired as your old crime boss’ security guard for his popular night club The Box. Despite Warren’s request to stay out of the shadier side of things, things naturally start to go awry.
In dealing with the public you are often presented with a choice, be it help a lady seemingly being abused by her boyfriend, to stopping members of a rival crime gang from causing trouble. Depending on your actions, people’s opinions of you will change. This never seems to develop too far outside of a basic consequence (they either like you, or don’t), but it does add to the experience. Certain choices can affect the story, though again, it’s always a binary yes or no type thing; one example has you agreeing to bug your boss’s office. When the time comes, you have a split second to plant it, or chicken out, thus affecting the story later down the line.
What starts out as a pretty trite story setup, soon gets its hooks into you though. While the translation can leave a bit to be desired, it’s generally well written, if generic at times. Characters fill their roles well, and bit part characters give extra life to the world. In terms of the actual gameplay, things don’t fare quite so well here. As a bouncer, it’s a case of checking I.D’s, kicking out drunks and stopping fights before they escalate. All simple stuff, each action assigned its own button, but working through the dozens of punters each night soon grates. Select someone, press A. LB for I.D. LT to enter – RT to refuse. Rinse and repeat.
To be fair, other variables are thrown in to try to keep you on your toes. Fake I.D’s, events requiring specific tickets and I.D, arguments in the queue and many more mean keeping an eye on everyone and everything at once. As someone who spent 15 years doing this exact thing I could appreciate just how much the game apes the actual requirements of the job. Of course, when things go wrong and customers want to have a go, you have the option to try to talk them down or just get into a fight.
Not advisable, as too much trouble may cause you to be fired which means game over. Game over. In a story-based game. Yes, it caught me off guard the first time. You see, as well as progressing the story by completing successful shifts, you also have to earn money to pay rent, child support, medication bills and your gym membership. Get behind on one of these and you’ll find yourself fired. Or dead. Money is earned through several factors; how many people you let in, any tips for quick service as well as bribes or special requests being fulfilled.
Don’t get too cocky though; let underage people in, or troublemakers, and it’s you who foots the bill. Every four shift you have to choose where you split your income. Any outstanding balance is carried over to the next month, meaning you have to work even harder to cover that too. A bit too much like my real life for comfort now… Don’t pay your rent, and you’ll get fired for being a homeless bum. Skip your meds and you might die of a stroke. Thankfully, each day is saved so if you do fail, you simply need to repeat the last day, hopefully with a better understanding of where you went wrong.
It’s here that my biggest issue with the game rears its head. As well as the aforementioned requirements you need to follow, there are other factors to consider. Let a group of friends in together and you’ll get a bonus. However, if one is drunk or underage you’ll be fined. Most of the time the groups of 3 or 4 will have someone not allowed in with them, rendering their appearance a waste of time. Or your boss will be yelling at you to let more people in as the clubs fullness meter is low, but everyone in the queue is drunk, underage or fighting.
On more than one occasion I literally went minutes without a suitable customer, causing me to make little money and get fired. Or someone would sneak past at the end of the night with a weapon, instantly failing the night. Game over. My bad for not spotting the weapon, but flat out failing and wasting the time spent on the evening is annoying. This may not be so bad if the gameplay wasn’t so repetitive. On regular nights, it’s possible to start to recognize regulars and letting them straight in, but the slight clunky selection process slows things down, further hampered by the I.D checks, breaking up fights and random spawning, working against you.
Out of the Box’s story is oddly compelling, with its characters just interesting enough to keep you going. Its gameplay loop leaves something to be desired, but if you can work through it, there is an enjoyable time to be had here.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.