Review: SOMA (PS4)

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Title: SOMA
Format: PlayStation Network Download (11.44 GB)
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Frictional Games
Developer: Frictional Games
Original MSRP: $29.99
ESRB Rating: M
SOMA is also available on PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

SOMA, like a lot of games that I have played this summer, is more about discovery and exploration. You aren’t armed with anything, so despite its first-person perspective, you will not engage in any kind of shooter combat. Instead you will be solving puzzles and trying to determine why you woke up strapped to a chair in an unknown research facility, when only moments prior you were visiting the doctor to check on a injury you received in an automobile accident.

What SOMA does introduce is an intriguing self-awareness survival-horror story that makes you question certain actions as you explore what it means to be “alive”.

Gameplay:
If you’ve played games like Alien: Isolation and Outlast, you will have an idea of the type of game SOMA is. But comparing it to those games without diving a bit deeper into SOMA distills some of the credit it deserves. This game is less about a giant acid-spewing Xenomorph (or insane inmate) chasing you down hallways (although there is definitely some chasing), and more about puzzle-solving, revelation, and atmosphere.

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As you explore the research facility, you encounter the antagonists of this game. They come in the form of androids with a strong enough AI that they believe that they are alive. More on their composition is revealed the further you play, but this element should be left for your own discovery.

At times you will find them patrolling the environment, requiring some stealth on your part, in order to avoid them. At others, you will find them in helpless situations. If you approach them they will plead with you, enhancing the mystery of their composition and their reason for being there.

… this is still a horror game …
A lot of the puzzles in the game are based on logging into computers and controlling devices or doors in the facility. While these puzzles make sense in relation to the environment and story, they do sometimes break pacing.

Although, admittedly, after an intense moment of running through lurid corridors, I sometimes welcomed a break from the madness. After all, this is still a horror game, just not in the sense of aliens and monsters.

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Visuals:
SOMA welcomes you into its terrifying world in a unique way: by starting off in the completely contrasting environment of your apartment. This makes the desolate, abandoned, research facility more visually impactful and, at times, makes you long for the serenity of your virtual home.

After all, initially you have no idea why you woke up in this terrible place. But terrible means beautiful, graphically speaking. Brilliant use of lighting, and the lack of, make for an unwelcoming environment that instills fear at every corner.

… an impression beyond its fear factor …
Audio:
I’ve always held the opinion that sound in a horror game carries more weight than visuals. The convincing factor in this is the original Silent Hill game. While Silent Hill looks very dated compared to any modern game, it’s fear factor still holds up because sound does not age nearly as rapidly in video games as visuals.

The same applies here. Sound plays a very large role in SOMA. It’s in everything from the environmental noise, to the almost unbearable screams coming from the aforementioned androids. Sometimes, they are in unfortunate situations where they feel pain and you can hear their screams from rooms away. It’s unnerving and complements the game’s atmosphere.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
It is the month of fear, and while there are some higher profile options out there for horror games, the pickings are slim this year. SOMA can hold its own against games like Until Dawn.

The game will run you about twelve hours or so depending on how quickly you can solve some of the puzzles. It will leave an impression beyond its fear factor, and for that it deserves some praise.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • greg

    Kudos! Very well written review! 🙂

    I wanna get this.