Image by The Chinese Room

Still Wakes the Deep Is A Greatest Hits Anthology Of Modern Horror (Review)

Is Still Wake the Deep the horror experience we've been waiting for?

Phobias are a wicked thing, leading those who may live an otherwise normal life into a spiral of fear, anxiety, and worry after encountering something that may set them off. A fear of heights may be debilitating to someone who encounters a roller coaster, while a fear of death is something we may all have. Still Wakes the Deep made me encounter some of my greatest fears from the moment I set off on its adventure, and I left the experience astounded by what I had just encountered.

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While the Deep May Be Still, My Heart Is Not

Roy, the Chef upon the Oil Rig in Still Wakes the Deep
Image by The Chinese Room

Still Wakes the Deep thrust me into the shoes of a Scottish man, Caz McCleary, with a dark and seemingly criminal past. Caz had been on the run from his past, hoping to find his redemption on an oil rig in the middle of an unknown sea. I was surrounded by faces familiar to him but not to me — but I grew to know and appreciate the support network that Caz had built up on the Rig and wanted to learn more. Unfortunately for me, the time for chit-chat and dilly-dallying was soon to be done and over with, as an accident on the Rig quickly plunged this location into chaos.

Small moments of interaction can go a long way when telling a longer story, and knowing how Caz tolerates those around him made every interaction all the more intriguing to me. Taking the time to speak with other members of the crew in the lunchroom before being sent off to talk to a supervisor gave me a look into the daily life of the Rig and who I knew I could trust.

Roy, the “chef” of the crew, was an immediate favorite. Finley, the rough-and-tumble woman with a heart of gold and the mouth of a sailor, was always by my side. I knew I could trust them from the start, while other characters had me questioning their motives. Every conversation I engaged in felt human, with jokes and ribbing punching their way into their remarks. This was a tight-knit crew, even if they didn’t all get along.

Beyond the voice acting, which was a highlight for me, the sound design in general is quite fantastic. Playing through the game with a set of RIG HX 800 headphones, every part of the world sprung to life. The pitter-patter of rain peppered my eardrums as I made my way around the Rig, and helped completely immerse me in the experience. I strongly recommend playing through this one with the best pair of headphones you have around — it’s a game changer — especially after the “incident”.

Without spoiling much, things quickly turned south, and I found myself plunged into my greatest nightmare. Still Wakes the Deep does a fantastic job of making you feel truly alone, even if you know that something is waiting for you in the darkness beyond. Throughout my playthrough, my general fears and anxieties were exploited to make this one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever played through.

A Clash Of Bone And Sinew

Caz falling off of a platform in Still Wakes The Deep
Image by The Chinese Room

Fear is a powerful weapon and something that Still Wakes The Deep knows how to handle at a near-expert level. Throughout my time, I encountered a few specific phobias that are bound to send others into a frenzy, just as they did to me. Thalassophobia, Claustrophobia, Acrophobia, Vertigo, Aquaphobia, Basophobia, Diokophobia, Scopophobia — these may all be words for things we fear or experience, and little did I know that they would all be waiting here for me during my playthrough.

I like to consider myself a seasoned Survival Horror veteran, playing through games such as Outlast, Resident Evil, and even Silent Hill without breaking a sweat. For some reason, Still Wakes the Deep knew exactly what I would need to be afraid of and even awakened a few new fears I must not have realized that I had.

The first game to have fully frightened me to the point where I needed to shut it off and take a break was Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and it’s apparent that developer The Chinese Room is beyond ready to exploit my fears of the unknown in new ways. After watching those around me slowly transform into fleshy, organic monsters who still have a semblance of their former selves hiding deep within, I wasn’t prepared for what could happen next. Hearing the cries of pain from those former friends, all I could think of were ways I could try to put them out of their misery — but much like other survival-horror protagonists in games like Outlast or Amnesia, Caz isn’t a fighter.

I had access to a variety of tools, such as fire hydrants and a trusty screwdriver, but there was no way that I could utilize these in combat against such horrifying monsters. I don’t know if it was just the setting or my generalized anxiety getting the better of me, but something about Still Wakes The Deep had me completely enthralled in every close encounter. Its near master-class execution made every moment I was near these frightening creatures all the more terrifying.

There were times I would find myself not breathing in real life because I was on the edge of my seat during these intense moments. It was like I had myself in the shoes of Caz, thinking that my breathing in real life would somehow pinpoint my location for the creatures in the game.

There were times I would find myself not breathing in real life because I was on the edge of my seat during these intense moments. It was like I had myself in the shoes of Caz, thinking that my breathing in real life would somehow pinpoint my location for the creatures in the game. However, Caz does suffer a bit from what I like to call “videogameprotagonistitis”, where he tends to mumble under his breath, even at the most inopportune times.

Who Am I, Really?

Rennick, the supervisor aboard the Oil Rig, on the phone in Still Wakes The Deep
Image by The Chinese Room

However, after taking a moment to reflect, I think I would be in the same boat — if I just saw a former friend of mine turn into a fleshy mass of organic meat, I think I would need to do whatever I could to keep myself calm. A lot of the tension in Still Wakes the Deep comes not only from the sheer horror of everything happening around Caz but also from how he reacts realistically to the events unfolding, making him one of the more believable characters I’ve encountered in a while.

As I mentioned above, I played through Still Wakes the Deep with a pair of headphones, and I think this is where it slowly began making more of an impact. Hearing Caz shakily breathing while being hunted by a horrifying mass of flesh and blood made every encounter all the tenser, and hearing the sound of the Rig essentially disintegrating around me made every moment of panic feel more real — especially when I found myself underwater and the groans for air became all the more frantic.

A particular sequence near the halfway point of the game is something that will stick with me for years to come, as I was chased through a hallway that contained all my greatest fears — tight spaces, crawling through areas that seemed moments away from collapsing, all while being chastised by a monster chasing me. It was easily one of the highlights of this experience and made every second of it even more agonizing than the last.

This agony is balanced well overall with the sense of humanity and comradery that you feel when interacting with those lucky enough to survive. A particularly heartbreaking moment had me on the verge of tears, not from fear of what was to come but because of how human and real the panic in their voice felt.

Still Chugs The Deep

A hallway in Still Wakes The Deep
Image by The Chinese Room

While the emotional and physical impact from Still Wakes the Deep resonates for hours, if not days, after its credits roll, it’s hard to ignore some of the faults that it brings from the get-go. While Quality mode helps the beautiful and interconnected world shine through brighter, it’s nearly unplayable in its current state. Unnatural frame pacing makes every action feel choppy and slow, but switching to the Performance mode can help make things much more appealing. While it sacrifices some of the graphical fidelity, the trade-off for a playable experience is worth it.

It’s also a game that doesn’t overstay its welcome by any means but almost feels as if it leaves the party just a little too soon. I would have loved to see some added details scattered throughout the game near the introductory point, and while an average playthrough will take roughly six hours to complete, I wouldn’t have complained about an extra hour of content.

Beyond that, The Chinese Room has crafted something rather special with Still Wakes the Deep. It’s unsettling, terrifying, and most importantly, human. It isn’t afraid to make you uncomfortable, and I appreciate the effort that went into making this one of the most horrifying experiences I’ve had in recent years, if not ever.

Still Wakes The Deep will be available June 18, 2024, on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the sake of review. Played on Xbox Series X.

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Image of Shaun Cichacki
Shaun Cichacki
As a fan of RPGs, Action & Retro titles, Shaun has been gaming since he was a young boy. With an overwhelming obsession involving Metal Gear Solid and Pizza Tower, you know you're in for a wild ride when it comes to things he's writing about.