Still Wakes the Deep Review

Still wakes the deep header artwork

The Chinese Room are probably best known for Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, a pair of games where you gently wander through the countryside and gradually uncover a deep mystery as you go. Still Wakes the Deep is the polar opposite of that game, a tense, cramped horror title that will have you on the edge of your seat.

It’s December 1975 and the decorations are up on the Beira D, an oil rig off the coast of Scotland. Our character, Cameron “Caz” McLeary, is not in a festive mood, though. Before he arrived on the rig something happened back on the mainland and it has now caught up with him, the police are here and he is about to be fired. As if Caz’s day couldn’t get any worse, a huge explosion then rips through the oil rig as some mysterious monster is released by the drilling.

The story feels like a mashup of Deep Rising, Dead Space and a prime time ITV drama – the last point mainly because all the cast are from northern England or Scotland, which makes the game seem genuinely authentic to the setting and time period. The flashbacks to a story on the mainland which really could have been lifted from a TV show. It also helps that the characters talk like real people and that means a lot of cussing, there’s more C-bombs ten minutes of Still Wakes the Deep than in the whole of Bulletstorm.

Still Wakes the Deep – christmas in the canteen

The game is totally linear, guiding you from one location to another as the story plays out and rather surprisingly there’s a touch of Uncharted in the mix as you clamber around the wrecked rig, albeit in first person. Caz has to hang from the ceiling, slide through tight gaps and make leaps of faith, many of which require a quick presses of a secondary button to stop him from falling to his death. There are a few puzzles alongside, but these a really simple and I think this actually adds to the game – having a “search and collect four gubbins in different areas to fix a whatsit” type of quest would have really broken the tension, while the simple solutions here mean you can keep on moving along with the story.

While some crew have survived the event, there are other things on board with a number of stealth sections where you must avoid some of the best designed monsters since Dead Space. They are truly nasty, eldritch horror creatures that bring forth screams from the depths of hell as they try and find where you are hiding. You can’t hide forever, though, and other parts of the game have you being chased by creatures and racing along obstacle laden paths, or swimming through flooded corridors desperately searching for pockets of air.

Still Wakes the Deep – horror twisted corridor

It is never boring, but it does feel like things have been padded out to reach a 6-7 hour playtime. I’ve never been on an exploding oil rig and I am sure the many tasks you have to perform to stop it from sinking are accurate, but after four hours of clambering around and turning on pumps and winches, it does start to remind you are playing a video game and break the otherwise superb atmosphere.

To say the game looks good would be a understatement. Built in Unreal Engine 5, Still Wakes the Deep is almost photorealistic at times and has some simply fantastic lighting. The sound design is also excellent with thumps and bangs raising the tension, while the monsters are deliciously wet and squelchy and talk directly to you while they are hunting – they are not afraid of good cuss word either.

While Still Wakes the Deep is much more than a ‘walking simulator’, this is very much story with a game built around it. The graphics and sound generate an amazing atmosphere drenched in tension and while all the cast put in superb performances, Alan Newman as Caz should be picking up all the awards. The script really does feel like it has been pulled from a high quality drama and doesn’t feel like a video game at all. It’s the small things, like when a character is shouting instructions at Caz from a distance and asks him to make some signal, any sort of signal, to show he understands, Caz flips him the bird. It’s exactly what I would have expected his character to do.

Still Wakes the Deep – outside the oil rig

So much work has gone in to the game to create the tense atmosphere it’s a shame there are two glaring issues which really drag you back to reality. The first is loading sections – moving between interior and exterior has the screen fading to black and a very short break while the game loads which is just long enough to break the atmosphere. The second is running, as Caz will briefly flail his arms in front of the screen like he is voguing at high speed before settling down to pump his arms in a weird jog. It just looks a bit silly and completely at odds with the gruff oil rig worker character.

Treat Still Wakes the Deep like a Netflix mini series and you will have a whale of a time. Its excellent script, acting, and atmosphere make it just as good to passively watch as to actively play, so grab your partner, turn off the lights and binge it over a few evenings.
  • Superbly atmospheric
  • Excellent script and acting
  • Horrific monster designs
  • Loading sections break the tension
  • Feels a little padded
  • Very stupid running animation
Written by
News Editor, very inappropriate, probs fancies your dad.

1 Comment

  1. Sounds good.

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