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The Occupation

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
The Occupation Game Poster Image
Politically charged thriller on freedom limited by glitches.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The story tackles divisive political ideas, including government power, immigration issues, and paternalistic decision making. It takes no firm political stances, but is clearly intended to draw parallels with real world events. It also encourages players to think about the consequences of both action and inaction.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The player's character is a journalist who investigates a controversial political movement. The player can choose how hard to investigate it, and what to do with the information unearthed.

Ease of Play

The controls seem simple on the surface, but a glitchy interface will leave players frustrated as they encounter buttons in the world that either don't work or require counterintuitive interactions. Players may also get annoyed in trying to figure out what to do next, how to do it, and how to avoid getting caught performing restricted activities.

Violence

Players read about and listen to people discussing an explosion that kills several people.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The player's character smokes from a first-person perspective. Players can purchase cigarettes from vending machines, and bottles of alcohol appear frequently in the environment.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Occupation is a political thriller for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. It puts players in the shoes of an investigative journalist in late 1980s Britain. He investigates a story about a new anti-immigrant law being tabled following a terrorist attack that has killed several people, and it's up to players to decide whether to play by the rules and wait for each scheduled interview or to go digging around in restricted areas trying to find the real story. The narrative examines several timely political subjects, including restrictions on immigration and authoritarian trends in governments, but it's up to the player to decide how deep to dig and what to do with the information uncovered. There's no combat, though characters discuss and players read about the terrorist attack. Note, too, that alcohol and cigarettes appear frequently, and the opening scene sees the player's character lighting and taking a deep drag on a cigarette from a first-person perspective.

User Reviews

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What's it about?

Set in an alternate history in which Britain suffers a terrible terrorist attack in 1987, THE OCCUPATION is focused on how political powers are marshaling to bring in new anti-immigrant laws. The player's character, a notable investigative journalist, receives an anonymous tip about the proposed legislation through a computer chat and heads out to conduct a series of interviews. The action takes place in real time, and players can choose how to spend their time. You can sit and wait for your interviews, or you can sneakily snoop around, eavesdropping on conversations and looking for evidence – crumpled notes, floppy disks, overhead acetates – that deepens your understanding of the situation. Get caught, though, and you'll be hauled up in front of security and scolded for breaking the rules as you watch valuable time tick by. You'll need to carefully plan out your spy-like activities by recognizing clues that inform you of when and how it might be safe to access off-limits areas. There's not really any losing, but instead only different ways of playing. You can decide how much effort you want to put into investigating the situation, as well as what to do with the information you collect.

Is it any good?

There's loads to both love and loathe in this smart but buggy political thriller. The Occupation tells a sophisticated and timely tale filled with interesting and controversial ideas that will leave players thinking about what they've experienced long after the game's over. How much power should the government have? At what point (if any) should national safety trump a country's civic obligations to the broader world? Is it okay for a reporter to disregard rules and even break the law in pursuit of a story he or she deems vital to the public interest? Politically savvy players will draw parallels between the game's events and real world news and personalities, including Edward Snowden, Brexit, the Patriot Act, Wikileaks, and more. And they'll have the opportunity to decide how to interpret and deal with these issues, whether to uncover secrets or let political powers do as they will. It makes for powerful and engaging storytelling.  

But The Occupation is also beset by a host of design and technical problems that create roadblocks to the player's enjoyment. For starters, it suffers from loads of bugs, ranging from interface glitches – which can make it almost impossible to do something as simple as play back an audio cassette on a recorder – to progress-arresting catastrophes that force players to revert to checkpoints nearly an hour in the past. And while the real-time shtick is clever and creates an authentic sense of urgency, it can become frustrating when you miss out on doing something you want to do simply because you ran out of time, probably because you were caught one too many times by Steve the security guard in situations where you thought you should've been safe to do a little snooping. The Occupation is a game with a lot on its mind, and it's bound to get players thinking seriously about current events and political issues, but it needed a lot more time in the oven to reach its full potential.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. The Occupation takes place in real time, resulting in the sense that you always ought to be rushing to do something, but should you consider taking breaks at the end of each chapter, when the game automatically saves? How do you give yourself a rest from playing this game, or others, for hours?

  • Can you draw comparisons in the game to current events in Britain, the United States, or other countries? How is it similar and how is it different?

Game details

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