Screenshots and a teaser trailer was all I went on when looking at Those Who Remain for the PS4. Like the latest movies, a trailer will soon ruin the experience of a game when all the best jokes or jump scares are shown in a matter of seconds. Getting the impression that Those Who Remain was a title like Everyone’s Gone To The Rapture or Dear Esther, I wanted to experience the game first hand without any spoilers. Without knowing the premise, I dived straight in for an unadulterated experience.
If I had known that the game had horror elements, I might have chickened out of it. Instead, I went feet first into the game, sub-woofer turned up, with the lights dimmed down. After a brief introduction, it becomes apparent that your character, Edward, is having an affair and on his way to a motel to put an end it. Upon arrival, the area is void of any life. The radio still plays in the reception and looking at the guestbook, a couple of people should be present, but eerily, there isn’t. Cue the sly grasp for the remote as I look to my wife to make sure she doesn’t see the fear in my face as there’s a message waiting for me in room 2 to ‘stay in the light’. With that, the motel room door closes, and someone’s stolen my car, and I’m forced to brave it into the town of Dormont on foot, in the dark.
The eerie atmosphere was swiftly diluted as the screen was shaking very subtly with each step – not through natural movement, but as if you’re continually battling an invisible wall with a pinch of lag, though the game isn’t an online experience. There are two buttons at your disposal from the outset: X for actioning and O for picking up items. Assuming an attack was imminent, I picked up a chair, but the screen was jerking about, so I decided to throw it with the same button, only for it to fall directly in front of me. The physics were good as I couldn’t walk past the chair without moving it first, unlike many similar games where you could literally walk straight through it.
Light plays a big part in the game, and the effects are pretty good, but it puts emphasis on the fact that there’s not much out there to see and do. The ‘inhabitants’ of the town are represented by shadows where only their eyes are lit up. On first inspection, it was really cool to see these characters as they’d only appear in low light but switch on a light and they’d immediately disappear. While the physics for inanimate objects were good, throwing an item at these things would do nothing, yet venture forward and you’d be hit by one of their axes. A bit hard to explain as it didn’t make sense, as put in similar circumstances, most of us would probably throw items and dash it.
Interacting with inanimate objects throughout Those Who Remain resembles the same setup in Shenmue 3; it’s bland, fiddly to target the drawer you want to open with a full stop for a crosshair and when you do find something of interest, everything feels a bit anti-climatic. After what started with me sitting on my sofa like I was playing a rally title with only 3 seconds to go until a championship win (in other words, butt-clenching), it soon metamorphosed into teeth grinding. Those Who Remain felt monotonous with the back and forth searching for items and vague clues and news clippings of missing people. Instead of being on edge with the horror elements, I felt more frustrated with being unable to identify with Edward and the Easter egg hunt for items. It’s a shame as this Village of The Damned-like tale started pretty cool – like something from The Outer Limits.
A game with consequences will always leapfrog to being a top title in my books, and considering that Edward can decide whether some of the souls you encounter in the game earn redemption or not is a good touch. However, due to the disconnection with both Edward and third parties, it’s a little tricky to care about them. There’s nothing wrong with ambiguity, and in some respects, the unexplained is better left that way in a game world that slightly resembles elements of the Silent Hill universe but falls a bit flat in its application. That’s not to say that Those Who Remain is an uneventful game. In fact, after letting my guard down and putting the volume back up to a level a dolphin could pick up, I was once again covering up the fact that my heart felt like it would jump out of my chest as there’s a quite a few moments of jump scares that aren’t cheap shots either.
First-person horror games are growing in popularity it would seem. Of the more recent titles I’ve played, the majority seem to be flawed either in the controls, presentation or story. In the case of Those Who Remain, the graphics are very good (those that you see – the nasties in the game serve as crowd control should you wish to veer off the tracks). You can’t really go wrong with the controls as the interaction side of things is pretty bland, and like the opening comment, the screen does shake ever so slightly that it was on the verge of triggering a bit of motion sickness. It would have been cruel if there wasn’t the option to sprint, and thankfully you can do that all night long in the game. So we come to the story then, and despite having the potential to be a title to change the genre up a little, it falls on its face with a sketchy protagonist who we don’t get to explore as much as we could, and when we do, it’s never really empathy and feels a bit forced.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Those Who Remain Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 5/10
Those Who Remain has a genuinely terrifying vibe about it at times, but the monotony of turning on light switches, and being restricted in exploring both Dormont and Edward, mute the hard work that’s gone into creating a creepy setting, thus making it a little uninspiring.
- Genuine scares.
- Good use of lighting.
- Consequences for your actions.
- Quite a few technical issues.
- Illogical too often.