As you all know by now, I'm a huge fan of horror games, and since it's October, I thought this would be the perfect time to review no other than Narcosis, a survival horror game set underwater - a different but ultimately terrifying take on horror games. The game relies on its unsettling & unusual setting for scares rather than on jumpscares, but does it work out well in the end? I've spent several hours below the surface, fought many sea creatures, replenished O2 a lot of times, and I definitely have some things to talk about.
Platform: Xbox One S.
Introduction The game begins with the protagonist standing in what seems to be a pool made with the sole purpose of training divers for their mission, also serving as the tutorial part of the game, as I was tasked with moving around, checking my oxygen status, my thrusters, as well as target practice with flares. After a while, the screen uncomfortably transitions from the pool to being somewhere deep under the surface in the ocean, where I'm instructed to move forward to find my way out of the current place I'm in in order
to proceed with my mission, which is also where I'm introduced to the one and only combat mechanic that Narcosis features, a foldable knife. Fast forward some seconds later when having progressed a bit, I'm suddenly back in the pool to further train me, but it doesn't take long for it to teleport me back to the frightening deep depths of the pacific ocean again, on a mission to drill for methane. All while hearing Kip Mattas, someone that is presumed to be the protagonist, narrate the experience, I move ahead through the mysterious yet peaceful enviroment riddled with rock formations, corall and fish for a while and is met by a fellow, waving, diver. I follow him up to a walkable platform,
and as we're both moving along, there's something not quite right. A sudden force begins wreaking havoc, destroying the platform we're standing on, sending both of us down the dark & unknown depths below. This is where his nightmare begins, and where I, the player, is forced to set out on a haunting journey that is never to be forgotten. It's a start to the game that is really perfect - not too quick, but quick and abrupt enough for it all to feel like one of the most downright scary openings to any horror game ever, without even including any jumpscare or supernatural being. Visuals/performance Narcosis is definitely not an ugly game, and I wasn't expecting it to be of an visual treat, yet it is. Part of it is simply due to the already beautiful setting that the game takes place in, but it's also
cause of the great textures, realistic lighting, well designed animations, good level design, clear shadows, and actually very authentic looking character & animal models. The thing with horror games is that they can end up looking pretty bad, but then there's those that surprises us with some really amazing visuals, and Narcosis is one of those games. Pair it all with a native resolution of 1080p while running at what feels like a 60fps, a very stable one at that (I only ran into a dip one time that lasted for some seconds, which has to be a bug), framerate, pretty much zero bugs, and you'll get a very crisp looking as well as stable game.
Audio is equally as stellar, and constantly made me feel uneasy while roaming the depths cause of how immersive it is - making use of nature and its terrifying sounds. A nearby spidercrab will be heard from several meters away by a distinct clicking sound, effects like hitting something with the knife sounds very authentic, almost as if you're actually there, and the general ambience when moving through the levels, is far from pleasant. It literally sounds like you're really there. You never know what to expect either, so a jumpscare that isn't anticipated will have a certain high noise level, but at the same time it won't cause of the fact that you're in a diving suit, but that just makes it more scary. Something that can't go unnoticed is the beautiful colors that the ocean depths can offer in Narcosis, almost to the point of me forgetting about the horrifying nightmare that the protagonist is in.
The voice acting is a part of the game that I wasn't expecting to be so good, especially from the main character; he's narrating in the background sometimes, and I was stunned to hear such a good voice actor, talking in a way that almost convices me that he's really a diver that's been through all of this, and that has lost a lot of colleagues. Hearing him narrate while I'm controlling him, is both a weird and cinematic experience. So, in general, the graphics are very good and crisp, the audio design is amazing, and the performance is super stable. Gameplay A lot of the gameplay saw me roaming around and trying to find a way to safety, but it's not all just a "walking simulator", as the game is in fact a survival horror experience with combat. My main objective is to find my way to the surface, and to search for other survivors, while evading hostile wildlife,
replenishing 02, finding flares, and keeping my sanity intact. The game contains around 14 levels to go through, with some being short, and some being longer, but the game isn't just consisting of several hours of gameplay, it also dragged me in from the moment that I became lost after the earthquake. Narcosis isn't like other horror games, cause it doesn't need jumpscares or something that is unrealistic to become scary, and it's made clear by the narration alone that it's a high budget game. After the earthquake hits, I'm left with the harsh reality of having to constantly search for O2, an aspect of the game that is repeatedly present, and one that is always there in the back of my mind in order to survive, and if that wasn't enough to scare the living hell out of me, the highly hostile wildlife guarding its territory throughout the game, like the cuttlefish, octopus, anglerfish & spidercrab, are sure to. I do feel like there's too many
O2 capsules available in the game, though. Throughout the game, there were times where I had to defend myself from these creatures, and the only way of doing that is by swinging with a foldable knife towards the danger. If I ever wanted to run away from them instead, or just distract them, flares did a great job with that. I'm glad that the game does have combat, and it's not really some half-assed mechanic either, as combat happen rather often, and it's well implented into the game - when a cuttlefish rushes to attack me, two outcomes can happen: I'll either swing the knife right before it can grab me, or it grabs me but I repeatedly stab into its body with the knife until it gets off. I genuienly had a fear against them, especially the spidercrab due to its size as well as how dangerous it was, which just shows how immersive the game really is. It's first and foremost a first person game. Using the LB/RB buttons to shoot flares, X to attack, LT/RT to use thrusters, LS to walk, RS to move the camera, and A to interact with objects,
it's a simple & straight forward game, but at its core, it's a highly claustrofobic, creepy, and cinematic experience. The game is scary due to the setting that Kip is in, stranded deep down in the pacific ocean, surrounded by wildlife that can end his life very quickly, and the odds of him getting out of it alive being very low, but there is also jumpscares. They're mostly in the form of a colleague (colleagues) that pops up sometimes unexpectedly in his diving suit, from behind, besides you, sometimes as several divers, with instances where I was chased by him, and although they're pretty freaky, I'm honestly more scared of the setting in the game than the jumpscares. Speaking of colleagues, the levels can have a tendency to include deceased fellow humans, mostly in the habitats, and it all just helps in creating a very haunting game,
as I saw hallways, labs, outdoor facilities and more where the incident sadly had striked. I nearly panicked at times cause of the claustrofobic feeling, too, so is the game something for people with a fear of that? I'd highly recommend not playing it if that is the case with you. The game never gets boring, and neither does it ever repeat itself too much - there's a stable balance when it comes to jumpscares and repeated combat scenarios. Is it an enjoyable game, and is the gameplay good? Yes, all the way: buy this game. Story The game isn't just a contender for a "Best gameplay around" competition if there ever was or will be one, it also withholds a very narration driven and amazing story that kept me wanting to find out more about what's going to unravel next. The story presumably centers around Kip Mattas, an employee of
an underwater complex called Oceanova that focuses on mining for methane, but then one day, something terrible and unpredictable happens; an 8.0 earthquake has gone off 50 miles away, hitting and severely damaging the area some hours later. The protagonist in company with a fellow diver is out on a drilling mission as the incident occurs, and is hit hard, so hard that the other diver sadly does not make it out alive. Our survivor, realizing what is happening, slowly starts making his way towards one of the habitats in hope of finding other survivors. He soon finds out that he's the sole survivor in this whole ordeal, but hardens himself and embarks on a nerve-wrecking "journey" on finding a pod that can take him to the surface. I honestly haven't played a game that has absorbed me into its story and cinematic story-telling as much as Narcosis;
it starts slow, but ramps up the pace fairly quickly, sending shills through my body from beginning to end. I mean, when I think about it, there isn't that much of a story, but the concept is just amazing, which is probably the reason to why it's such a big deal. Throughout the game, the main character, clearly losing his sanity due to the situation he's in, finds himself suffering from hallucinations that haunts his mind on several occasions, hallucinations that range from a decapitated head, a deceased diver named Russ that pops up in different ways (right at my face while shaking his head furiously, for example), levels that alter themselves, to seeing his grandfather (apparently) in an old diving suit guiding him, as well as several other divers at times.
They're perfectly inserted into the story, partly as sort of a guilt, but also as a way to spice the creepy vibe more, especially since they appear more often during low O2 amounts. The story in Narcosis is one of the more interesting and better ones in the horror genre, I'm very impressed by it, and I was hooked up on the story in every way possible - I wanted to learn more about the backstory of Oceanova and the aftermath so bad. The biggest surprise, however, is the ending of the game, acting as a huge and jaw-dropping plot twist that I sure as hell wasn't expecting, and one that put the whole thing into an entirely different perspective. A very creative and gut-wrenching ending to an awesome game. Now, Kip Mattas, a survivor of the whole thing, chimes in occasionally with a few words about the experience,
as he's sitting in a radio talkshow with a woman that is having him on as a guest, and after realizing what is really going on as well as who Kip is, I was close to turning the game off, cause of how insane it got. Not only is it a great piece of narration by two great and believable actors, but it also fits all too well into the gameplay. Narcosis is one superb horror game that sews cinematic narration and a great story concept into one entity. All in all Narcosis is one of the few cinematically great, and scary horror games I've ever played. It showcases a highly visually attractive set of graphical aspects, but also performs in a very stable manner, all while looking very crisp with its native 1080p resolution. The heavy puncher in the ring, however, is its way of telling a story, an amazing one at that, with a mind bending plot twist to end it all that I'll never forget. The narration is perfect, the concept is so interesting, and the simple yet horrifying take on horror games is exceptional. This is all paired, of course, with gameplay that also is very engaging and enjoyable, making use of mechanics like thrusters to move around, flares to see better, combat to defend myself, and a constant need to look for O2, even though there might be a bit too much of it. Combat is highly terrifying to take part in, but that's the thing, too, as it's not forced on you, but pretty recommended in order to survive. I've enjoyed every single second spent in Narcosis, and I honestly only want more out of this IP. Thank you for a great game, Honor Code.
Narcosis is available digitally on the Microsoft Store for the Xbox One, and is priced at a reasonable price of $20. Are you interested in buying the game? That can be done here: Narcosis - Microsoft Store. A review code was provided by Honor Code for review purposes. This review is written by Jesper Ingemansson, and is based on his honest opinion about the game.