The following contains spoilers for Immortality, available now on Windows and Xbox Series X|S.
Sam Barlow’s latest full-motion video game Immortality offers players an entirely distinct experience. Piecing together clips of movies and studying footage allows players to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a leading actress. While the main story of Immortality focuses on this puzzle, there’s another secret story unfolding that turns the game from a simple mystery into something much spookier.
Immortality follows one actress, Marissa Marcel, through three unreleased movies, from her initial discovery through her transition into more involved roles on set. Players uncover Marcel’s history by collecting scenes from her movies, behind-the-scenes snippets, and even interview and commercial footage. Each scene allows players to connect to new, unseen footage until, eventually, they gather almost the entire story. However, Immortality isn’t just a game about the past. As players learn more about these movies, they also uncover something weird happening to the film clips.
Some clips from Immortality seem to be haunted. Rewinding will occasionally reveal ghostly images of two people with short, slicked-back hair talking, kissing, or dancing. More unnervingly, sometimes scrubbing through footage will change the scene entirely, replacing the familiar actors with these phantoms reenacting the same scene or providing new, unsettling dialogue. To some extent, the unpredictable appearances of these specters turn them into minor jump scares — surprise encounters while rewinding that can completely catch viewers off guard. The changing music and haptic feedback try to alert players to their presence, however, and Immortality isn’t really just a jump scare kind of horror.
The phantoms of Immortality remind players that everything, without exception, changes. Even the static moments of Marissa Marcel’s movies, captured on film, cannot avoid alteration. The images that players piece together are memories, ghosts of people who have since continued to age and change. Each moment of playing Immortality is contending with these ghosts, so it’s fitting that an entirely different type of ghost inserts itself into the footage and the game. The resulting vibe is a melancholic type of horror, an exploration of what exactly gets to be immortal when a name or a story lives on in audiences’ minds.
Immortality may not be the same type of horror that gamers are used to from survival horror titles and jump scare-laden fright-fests, but it is perfect for fans looking to scratch that spooky itch. The idea of haunted film, of the medium itself as horror, has been a popular trend recently, with titles like Netflix’s Archive 81 (and the podcast it was based on) and the analog horror trope they embody. This is, after all, the point of Immortality — what is recorded on film is already a ghost, and Marissa Marcel can only haunt these scenes and the player’s memory.