Title: SOMA
Platform: PS4, Windows, OSX, Linux, Steam

Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Horror, Puzzle
Players: Single player


Written by Whistler 3rd October 2015










In all honesty I wasn’t sure what to expect with Frictional Games’ latest project, I still haven’t really forgotten the aftertaste that Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs that left me unimpressed. But after 5 years in development and with Frictional Games back at the helm could SOMA be the next horror sensation?

SOMA sees us sit in the driver’s seat of one Simon Jarrett, an average joe who after a fatal car crash loses one of his closest friends and is left with severe brain damage and cranial bleeding. Being left with an uncertain lifespan and due to lingering effects Simon agrees to an experimental brain scan in the hopes of finding a solution. However something seems to be a miss as you awaken in a derelict lab facility called PATHOS-2 with no clue as to how or why you’re here. To make matters worse the facility seems to be stricken by a case of killer robots and a strange cancerous black goo seemingly suffocating the machinery.

























Now sadly I will admit SOMA does not succeed where its predecessor did, while there were some unsettling and chilling moments I rarely felt scared and honestly it barely rated above A Machine for Pigs in terms of scares.
That being said however while SOMA doesn’t set the heart beats to overdrive nor does it feel geared towards quenching the thirst of the ever homogenising Youtube crowd. Instead SOMA crafts something a lot more meaningful that leaves a far stronger impact.


SOMA swaps out a shade of horror for several coats of dripping atmosphere and deep philosophy exploring some of the great questions of humanity.

SOMA’s overarching story is slowly revealed layer by layer until the gravity of the situation comes down on you like a twenty ton train. The story has its occasional hiccups but the plot certainly compels you to press on with a plethora of pinnacle moments sending ripples through out your consciousness of all the moments preceding them.


That being said however the voice acting is somewhat lack lustre, it does somewhat improve towards the game’s latter half. While arguably there could be reasons for it Simon just always seems oddly disconnected from his situation, he takes in his surroundings but rarely feels phased by them.

There’s even what I would consider the most pivotal moment in his development and it’s brushed off so quickly that I felt like I missed something, but overall I didn’t feel like voice acting pulled me out of the engrossing world.

























Graphically I will say SOMA has somewhat fallen behind the herd, low resolution looking textures are plentiful and models aren’t exactly next gen where both can be an eye sore under scrutiny.
However Frictional have done a great job in painting a rich environment despite this flaw. The environments carry both a sense of dread and wonder where Sevastopol meets Rapture with claustrophobic steel-clad corridors and a distinct personality. Visuals are aided by some fantastic use of lighting, areas are simply made dark to enforce horror but instead gel organically with the setting to tickle the visual cortex.

Gameplay isn’t SOMA’s strong point though. While of course people tend to see these games as ‘walking simulators’ or great works of narrative and never something in between, quickly loathed the ‘outdoor’ sections as they tended to lack either direction or enough visual stimuli.

Oddly when the game enters familiar territory with the hide and seek elements I found myself somewhat conflicted. The monstrous beings and decrepit machines never even come close to Alien: Isolation’s dynamic predatory AI and have a habit of being locked to the typical A to B patrols. There are some variations which helps a little like a creature that only harms you should you stare into its glowing face, or one that reacts only to sound.

However the initial impact and feeling of danger would either fade rather quickly or transition into mild annoyance.


Should they knock you out, you merely lose a life or take damage then rewound back to a state before they found you. This causes the screen to tear similar to a visual glitch and after one or more hits you’ll limp then be finally forced back to the nearest checkpoint. Oddly I began to dread these sections after a while not due to actual fear but because it halted the story’s development.

























How SOMA presents the player with strong philosophical themes is what left the longest impact with myself. Without revealing too much as it’s integral to both the story and various developments, SOMA’s narrative challenges points of views on human nature, individuality, morality and other deep conflicting arguments. These are what made the experience shine for me, these moments kept me thinking throughout and beyond my sittings with SOMA which actually brought about a more organic fear.


SOMA is a fantastic piece of science fiction horror (to a point I’d be very interested to read SOMA or a novel with a similar narrative) that tackles some interesting elements. It delves into the human condition and conveys a fascinating narrative that sadly I felt could’ve have benefitted from being painted with a different coat of genre or at least a different shade of horror.
It shows Frictional have transcended above the fast food horror sensation that gained them initial fame where I’m very intrigued to see where they take their narrative building skills to a different world.


Despite a few faults SOMA is not a game to pass over for those who love a good sci-fi tale.



Pros:   

Intriguing narrative,

Engulfing atmosphere,

Good pacing.


Cons:   

Average voice acting occasionally dampens the experiences,

Enemies are more of an annoyance than an experience,

Somewhat lacking visual textures.

   

Final verdict,

SOMA despite a shaky start scores a sound 8/10.


Written by,

Whistler


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