Michigan: Report from Hell is a survival horror game developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Spike. Directed by Akira Ueda and planned by Goichi Suda, the game focuses on a news crew for the fictional ZaKa TV, dedicated to covering strange phenomena. The game is unique in that it is played almost entirely through the viewfinder of a camera, and in that the game is lost if the player runs out of film before solving each level's mysteries. Because of this lack of direct gameplay, Michigan was denied a North American publisher by Sony. The game was however published in Europe without Suda's knowledge by 505 Game Street. Red Ant Enterprises also distributed the 505 version in Australia. Consequently, the localized versions of the game sell for much higher than the Japanese pressing.
Although the word Michigan by itself usually refers to the State of Michigan or, less commonly, the University of Michigan, the game takes place in Chicago, Illinois, and centers around Lake Michigan.
Michigan is played from a first-person perspective, viewed through the television lens of a television news camera. Players take the role of the cameraman in a news crew, and are accompanied by a reporter and sound engineer/boom operator as they explore the game's locations.
The main method of interacting with the environment is by "tagging" objects. This draws the reporter's attention to it, causing her to interact with it in some way. In battle, players can tag an enemy to have the reporter attack it with her weapon. Players can also attack an enemy by slamming against it with their bodies, although the effectiveness of this maneuver is fairly limited.
The object of the game is to film interesting footage by pointing the camera at objects and events of interest, such as documents, monster attacks, and live on location reports given by the reporter. Players can earn three types of points in the game: "Suspense," "Erotic" or "Immoral." These points are determined by the player's camerawork and what events and objects they choose to focus on. "Suspense" points are the most standard, earned for good camerawork and the recording of interesting events. "Erotic" points are earned for things like filming up the reporter's skirt and videoing pornographic magazines lying around the game's levels. "Immoral" points are earned for inhuman filming, such as recording people being attacked by monsters instead of helping them. The type of points the player focuses on determines which of the three endings they receive as well as the physical appearance of the player's character.
The game is notable for the inclusion of multiple action events in which the player can determine the fate of various secondary characters. Most prominently, the player's action or inaction can result in the death of the reporter, in which case the game automatically advances to the next level and she is replaced by a new character. In fact, other than the inability to finish out the level, the player is not penalized for allowing their character to die, and can even quickly skip to the game's ending by trying to get each of their reporters to die as soon as possible.
- The Cameraman - a rookie cameraman for ZaKa TV and the player character. He is a classic silent protagonist who does not speak or appear until the ending. His possible identities are Dwight Murdoch, Andy Stemboat, Teddie Snooker, and Diego Morales.
- Jean Philippe-Brisco - the outspoken and excitable sound engineer and boom operator, Brisco accompanies the player throughout the entire game. Unlike the reporters, he cannot be killed during gameplay.
- Ann Anderson - the first determinant and default reporter. Described as an ice queen, she feels a strong rivalry with Pamela Martel and is determined to have shocking events filmed in their entirety.
- Carly Reis - the second determinant reporter. Due to her careful grace and temperament, she has earned many admirers at Zaka TV.
- Justine Rhoades - the third determinant reporter. Experimental, but with a certain refinement, she causes friction among her colleagues.
- Paula Orton - the fourth determinant reporter. The youngest of ZaKa's reporters, she is depicted as timid and uneasy around the horrors faced by the crew.
- Mark Bockwinkle - the fifth and final determinant reporter. Unlike his female colleagues, he cannot be killed.
- Pamela Martel - ZaKa's star reporter. She serves as the reporter in the tutorial level.
- Nina Valkov - a non-determinant reporter who serves as the player's reporter in the cabin level. She is found outside the cabin by the cameraman and Brisco while searching for her boyfriend Dwight.
- Debora Flair - the cold and mysterious chief of ZaKa TV, she sends several television crews out into the horrors of the mist in order to cover the monster outbreak, holding more stock in notoriety than safety for her employees.
A rookie cameraman for ZaKa TV, entertainment division of powerful conglomerate ZaKa Group, is assigned to cover an outbreak of mysterious happenings in and around Lake Michigan. Brisco, an outspoken sound engineer, and Pamela, a reporter, are also put on the assignment. The three go forth to investigate a strange mist that has descended on the area. They quickly discover that the mist is somehow transforming people into fleshy, leech-like monsters with human limbs. Pamela is attacked by the creatures and later found in the process of turning into one. The cameraman, Brisco, and a new reporter are sent to investigate the source of the monster attack.
The crew eventually discovers that the cause of the monstrous transformations is a mutative virus developed by a scientist, Dr. O'Connor, intended to be used against the enemies of the United States as a biological weapon. The virus was developed with the complicity of the U.S. Military, the government, and the powerful ZaKa group for whom the protagonists work.
After unsuccessfully attempting to retrieve a vaccine for the virus, the camera crew attempts to evacuate the city by heading to an airport on the outskirts of the city where a military evacuation transport is supposed to arrive. At the airport, the group encounters a strange young man who appears to be mentally retarded. He somewhat disjointedly reveals that he was Dr. O'Connor's original guinea pig, and begins to run around yell immaturely in a bizarre manner. After the player instructs the reporter to shoot him, he transforms into a massive pile of mutated flesh before exploding, spewing his bodily fluids everywhere. With the man's death, the mist clears, and Brisco theorizes he was the cause of both the mist and the monster outbreak.
In the game's epilogue, the camera crew approaches a nearby lighthouse, which the military has ordered them to activate so that the transport plane can locate and pick them up. While the tired reporter waits outside, the cameraman and Brisco ascend the lighthouse and activate the light at the top. Suddenly, Brisco begins to mutate; the cameraman flees, and the Brisco-creature laughs maniacally before escaping through a window.
The game ends with a final film clip of the cameraman, whose appearance is determined by the player's actions, speaking in front of his camera. In three of the endings, the cameraman attempts to reveal the identity of the people behind the virus, but he's killed by an unseen assassin before he gives a name. If the player has obtained a high enough amount of "Immoral" points, the cameraman claims responsibility for the outbreak.
On October 23, 2009, Joystiq revealed Suda's interest in developing a remake or sequel of Michigan: Report from Hell. Suda explained, ""There's a Spanish horror film called REC, and when I watched it, I realized it was pretty much Michigan, right there. I still have a lot of ideas along those lines, and I'd love to work with Spike sometime to make a new Michigan or a remake."
- Japan disc – August 5, 2004 (Spike, SLPM-65480)
- Europe disc – September 29, 2005 (505 Game Street, SLES-53073)
- Japanese – ミシガン (mishigan), literally "michigan."
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Suda 51 wants to remake Grasshopper Manufacture's 'Michigan'. JC Fletcher. Joystiq. October 23, 2009.