There’s just something sinister about the deeper parts of the ocean and strictly because of the unknown darkness. Not even our culture’s view on the supernatural or abandoned areas can be quite as frightful. Plus, I’ll be the first to tell you we humans have no business being anywhere out in deep waters. We’re out of our element, we can’t survive without specialized equipment, and frankly there’s terrifying creatures that could easily and gladly kill us. Now wrap that all up and add some mild insanity/hallucinations caused by isolation and you have Narcosis. It may not be the first to play upon our fears of being surrounded and pushed upon by the mighty sea, but the title does just enough to keep you afraid.
Narcosis follows a group of miners and scientists who are extracting valuable resources an untold number of depths below the surface. They have fancy, technological suits so they can walk on the ocean floor, without dying of course, and a decently sized base of operations in which they train, eat, sleep, and go about their business. However, after some weird sights befall our main character, a large earthquake occurs and causes all sorts of havoc on the ocean floor. Shock waves and ripples tear throughout the base and near immediately kill anyone not in a special suit or a submarine. Some poor schmucks in suits still get axed in some awful ways too. Our protagonist is then left with the fallback plan of surviving and making it to the surface all while deep and subtle narration occasional plays out. Naturally, some other survivors will be following the same protocols to survive and you’ll hear their scattered radio maydays.
The gameplay suits the game as one could expect for being at the bottom of the ocean, surrounded by water that could kill you at a moment’s notice. You’ll have a suit for the entire game as you make your way across the seabed and, now, underwater facilities. The outfit will keep track of things like flares being held and oxygen levels which you need to continuously find more of on your journey for survival. Tanks of the vital substance will be scattered around on dead workers, walls, desks, etc. As you get used to Narcosis though you don’t have to worry about drowning or stressing about finding air. Like the flares, they are marked with a noticeable blue light and appear quite frequently. As you’ve probably deduced the flares can be used to light an otherwise dark path or distract some of the sea life. A handful of creatures will be aggressive towards you which you’ll have to either kill with a knife, distract with an aforementioned flare, or avoid entirely. Also, let’s just say that Narcosis has made me deeply afraid of something I never knew I needed to be afraid of….large, underwater spiders.
Most of the title’s horror comes from the gameplay itself (other than being stuck in a hellish place you, as a human, have no business being). Annoying or deadly creatures aside, the isolation our hero feels will manifest itself in creepy hallucinations like ghostly sea suits with no one inside them, jump scares of near-Lovecraftian horror, and even alter an entire area itself. Then there’s just the casual finding of dead bodies strewn throughout the game in less than pleasurable situations. Which, along with all the other dangers, will deplete your oxygen levels faster because the stress and panic temporarily take hold. Narcosis does a wonderful job of playing upon the fears of being trapped in one of the worst situations imaginable. As a manly man I can say that my toes were curled and lower legs tensed a handful of times during the adventure’s two-hour running time.
Graphics are not the best the horror genre has seen, but they’re plenty fine to relay the creeping dread Narcosis does so well. Voice acting and sound effects on the other hand were superb. The click-clacking of spider/crap legs was so unnerving that the thought of being stuck on the ocean floor took a serious back seat until I escaped. Unfortunately, escaping and wandering around wasn’t always easy. The game isn’t terribly big and does mainly have a few paths to explore or follow, but there’s a terrible lack of direction in some places. Which wasn’t particularly helped when respawning faced you a complete opposite direction. There were two definitive times where I found myself backtracking somewhere unnecessarily. Another weird design flaw made it so you couldn’t pause the game for whatever reason. I discovered this as I returned to the game and a giant spider leg pierced my chest and filled my screen with blood.
Lastly, there’s not much replayability unless you want to see how fast you can beat the experience. I’ve seen some people clock in around ninety minutes. There are collectible ID tags to find which can give you a glimpse of other workers who have died. I say this because those ID tags are primarily on the dead bodies of your former co-workers. Enjoy! The database for this on your suit is in-depth enough to paint a picture of what was lost and how it effected our protagonist. Just something else to go along with the stinging realization of being alone in a place you shouldn’t even be in the first place.
Narcosis PS4 Review
Narcosis is a worthwhile entry into the horror genre. The complete darkness and encapsulating water that could kill you in seconds provides enough scares even without underwater spiders, vivid, level altering hallucinations, and corpses frozen in their respective deaths. The race to survival is fun, but not without a few, rather prevalent, design flaws. Horror fans will more than likely find their place here and people who work in the ocean might want to stay away. You shouldn't be down there anyway dammit!
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Reviewed using base PS4.