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First Look Review - BETA TEST

A video game tester discovers his latest job is taking sinister, real world turns.





Review by Ren Zelen (@renzelen)

Directed by: Nicholas Gyeney

Starring: Manu Bennett, Larenz Tate, Linden Ashby, Kevon Stover, Brandy Kopp, Sara Coates

Beta Test opens in US cinemas July 22nd. No UK/ROI release as of yet.


While the effort to reproduce the real world into a gaming one should be appreciated, the reality is that, likely due to budget restrictions, it all ends up looking like something gamers were playing at the end of the '90s.


Movies and video games have long been attempting to mesh their wares together in order to attract the lucrative and ever-increasing gamer audience; Nicholas Gyeney’s Beta Test is the latest. Here a beta-tester gamer is given a new game to try, but he soon learns that he is actively participating in real-life events.

Well, this is a film for game lovers, or should that be ‘gun’ lovers, as the character actively lobbying for gun control in this movie turns out to be a duplicitous, conniving egomaniac set on breaking down world order and creating an army of obedient soldiers to do his bidding as he takes control  (pause for ‘Mwahahaha’ world-domination laugh) . Might have guessed, huh? Could never happen if we all had guns you see - you can’t trust a man who doesn’t love guns.

He is Kincaid (Linden Ashby) CEO of Sentinel, one of the largest video game companies in the world. His pitch is that, if you want to shoot people you should do so in the safety of a virtual game scenario, preferably in one of the games that his company creates - ‘Guns in Games’ is his slogan.



The movie opens with a televised interview, where Kincaid is promoting his gun control message. The interviewer then asks about Orson Creed (Manu Bennett) the chief security officer at Sentinel who, as rumour would have it, wants to take Sentinel technology to the military so the government can develop it for their own uses.

Kincaid dismisses the rumours and insists that Sentinel and Creed have parted company. Instead he is pushing Sentinel to develop games that give the truly immersive and interactive experience that every player wants.

Meanwhile, Creed is watching the interview at home while his wife Abbie (Sara Coates)is urging him to hurry, as they are rushing to catch a flight. Creed seems pretty miffed and, to get him galvanised, Abbie takes the time to tell him how much better a man he is than Kincaid - probably not the best moment for a pep talk as it allows time for a sinister gang of uniformed thugs to break into the house, smack Abbie around and knock Creed unconscious (conveniently done, as knocking him unconscious seems to be virtually impossible for the rest of the movie – no pun intended).

They rather clumsily attach a large and uncomfortable-looking microchip device to the base of Creed’s neck while he’s passed-out and promptly leave, taking Abbie hostage.



On the other side of town, video game champion and Sentinel products tester Max (Larenz Tate), receives a game that promises to be the latest thing in gaming immersion. Being an agoraphobic, he never leaves his house, so it’s the perfect job for him. Max performs his odd pre-gaming ritual, then settles in and starts flirting over speaker phone with his tech support operator (disembodied voice, Brandy Kopp) who then walks him through the set up.

He takes control of the game’s protagonist (who looks suspiciously like Orson Creed) and begins to play. The first mission is to infiltrate a bank and empty a safety deposit box. It’s pretty standard first person shooter stuff, so Max follows instructions, cutting a swathe through the personnel and making off with the money.

However, reports of a bank heist orchestrated by Orson Creed are being broadcast on his TV, including a number of deaths. Max is bemused; it’s exactly like the game he just played. Turns out the chip in Creed’s neck allows Max to control him just like a character in a game. Horrified, Max tries to back out, but is told if he doesn’t play the game, Creed’s wife Abbie will start to lose body parts and the flirty tech support will die.

Written and directed by Nicholas Gyeney,  Beta Test shares some of its premise with 2009’s Gamer, (starring Gerard Butler), that one person can manipulate another as if he were a character in a video game. Beta Test however, is committed to the gamer’s angle, so, when Max has control of Creed, everything on his screen is a graphic representation of the actual world that Creed is inhabiting - house, car, streets, buildings and action, are all reproduced like a real FPS game.



While the effort to reproduce the real world into a gaming one should be appreciated, the reality is that, likely due to budget restrictions, it all ends up looking like something gamers were playing at the end of the '90s. Also, we need to see Max as a credible super-gamer, and although I’m not a dedicated gamer myself, I doubt that this is actually the case – I expect real gamers to inform me on that aspect.

Manu Bennett plays the hulking, bearded, leather-jacketed Creed, who plays the part of game protagonist and outraged husband and betrayed employee well. I would however, like to mention the fight scenes - Beta Test will apparently set a new record for the longest single-shot choreographed fight scene ever recorded - eight minutes long (Oldboy clocked in at three and a half minutes). My problem was that, apart from the usual action movie nonsense which sees the hero taking severe beatings over and over yet still bouncing up again, fresh as a Labrador puppy, the ‘real world’ fights in Beta Test seemed as artificial and stilted as those in the video game, and yes they did go on a bit long and got very, very silly. But thank goodness, it was all put a stop to by the agoraphobic kid who finally got himself out of the house, but only because he had armed himself properly with a gun. ‘Never leave the house without one’ is the moral of this tale.

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