Have you ever heard of Project MK Ultra? If the answer is “No” then don’t worry, you’re safe for the time being. If that rings a bell, however, I’d suggest you check your floorboards for a cash box full of fake passports, international currency, and handguns. You may be an agent in disguise.
Project MK Ultra is a conspiracy theorists dream come true. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America conducted honest to goodness mind-control experiments on its own citizens. Many of these “volunteers” were patients in mental hospitals and treatments included electroshock therapies, hallucinogenic narcotics, and a Freddy Krueger tool-chest of other brain altering machinations. MK Ultra was officially shuttered under president Richard Nixon in 1973, but the horrifying ramifications of the undertaking still echo today.
Now, if you think this would make a great movie you’d be absolutely right (and you should check out my screenplay for Eraserheads: A Mind Is a Terrible Thing To be Laced starring Vin Diesel’s even stronger brother, Hank), but it would make an even more impressive virtual reality experience. Enter Construct Studio and their freshman VR title: The Price of Freedom — available now on Steam for the HTC Vive.
I had the chance to try The Price of Freedom at our offices in San Francisco and it was one of the most memorable VR demos I’ve been put through in a while. I can’t get into too much of what I saw inside that HTC Vive without ruining your own play through so let me just start by setting the scene.
You find yourself in a dimly lit elevator on your way up to an unknown location. You can hear the voice of what seems to be a commanding officer instructing you on the details of your apparent mission. Your orders, if you chose to accept them, are to enter the apartment of a rogue reporter that knows too much and silence him before he can share what’s in his head. Preferably by putting a bullet in it.
The Price of Freedom is a visually arresting piece and, despite a short playtime of 15-20 minutes, it manages to set up and execute one of the most unsettling and powerful narrative moments I’ve ever seen in VR. This title is about questioning what it means to be “the player” and toys with the notions of choice and video game plotting in a way that’s reminiscent of the original Bioshock. There are puzzles to solve, drawers to search, and a mystery to unravel, but it all happens fairly quickly. There may not be a lot to do in The Price of Freedom, but trust me, you’ll remember it long after the credits start to roll.
Construct Studios wants The Price of Freedom to be an episodic series of games with what is available today on Steam serving as “Episode Zero”. The young team has therefore gone out of their way to build a successful infrastructure for future installments. To that end, Construct has stacked their studio with a board of experienced advisers and already begun filling out a tremendous cast of voice actors including Jason Douglas (The Walking Dead, Dragon Ball Super) and Christopher Sabat (Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, Dragon Ball Super, One Piece, every other freaking anime every made).
The Price of Freedom is completely free to download on Steam right away for the HTC Vive. There will also be a Chinese version released through HTC’s Viveport platform. Construct has also confirmed that Oculus Touch support will be coming “later next year”.
Disclaimer: Upload co-founder Will Mason serves as an adviser on this project. Neither he nor the site receive any money from either this game or its creators. This article was written on the merits of the title alone by Joe Durbin, a Staff Writer that’s unattached to the project.