We Happy Few – the indie game about Britain that couldn't be more relevant

Fancy a thriller about a dystopian UK being destroyed by a vast group hallucination? The timing of this intriguing black comedy that won E3 perhaps couldn’t be better

There’s always one game at E3 that proves, counter to the general theme of the show, bigger isn’t always better. This year, a tiny studio named Compulsion found itself thrust into the limelight after its project We Happy Few caused a considerable splash at Microsoft’s press conference. But as a black comedy set in a dystopian Britain being destroyed by a vast group hallucination, it may now take on more profound and pressing connotations following last night’s result. For some, this strange combination of 1984, A Clockwork Orange and Bioshock feels very much the game of the moment.

The opening of the E3 demo, which momentarily silenced the usual energetic whooping, evoked the spirit of another wonderful introductory sequence, from Terry Gilliam’s seminal 1985 film Brazil. Wage-slave Arthur Hastings is sat at his desk in an extravagantly British office in 1964, surrounded by Heath Robinson vacuum-tube machinery and period furniture, balefully performing his job of erasing uncomfortable stories from back-issues of a newspaper. Suddenly he spots a story with personal relevance, but as he’s processing it a colleague sporting a Mary Quant dress and a white mask with a rictus grin, enters. Unlike his colleagues, it emerges, Arthur hasn’t been taking his mandatory Joy pills. This is a Britain in which drugged out bliss isn’t a counter-culture activity, it’s a legal requirement.

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