A few months back, I got hands-on with a creepy supernatural thriller I likened to Alan Wake and Prey.
Those Who Remain left a pretty decent impression on me and I’ve been very keen to see more ever since.
The good news is that the very same tension I felt in my brief preview holds up throughout.
It never gets any less threatening and intimidating having thousands of beaming eyes peering through the darkness, all looking in your direction.
Put it this way, after I stopped playing, I made sure every light was on in my flat.
And oh my goodness, I thought I’d seen the worst of the terror it in my preview but how wrong I was.
The thing about Those Who Remain is that the core mechanic that really excited me from my preview – being able to move between worlds, having one affect the other – kind of loses itself relatively quickly.
It becomes less about puzzles – un-entangling your car with vines and moving barrels to move in the other world, and more about finding clues while hiding from monsters.
You get occasional hints and traces of it – one sequence has you turn a lamp on in the other world so you can explore the area in the real one. Another time you have to move boxes outside allowing a flow of light through.
But ultimately, Those Who Remain turns into quite a different game, taking a really unexpected turn, and becomes a bit jumbled as a result.
It becomes more of a murder mystery – which, I guess, still fits into the Alan Wake theme – but you find yourself as something of a judge, jury – and if you want to be – an executioner.
Throughout Those Who Remain you learn about different people who are involved – directly or indirectly – with a murder, and you get to decide whether to forgive or condemn them to hell.
It’s an interesting shift in gears, essentially allowing you to play God, but it doesn’t feel fully fleshed out. Players only get around two pieces of evidence to put together in order to make their decision. Personally, I would have liked more to think about.
Adding to the pressure, your choices will make a difference on the ending you get, so that obviously adds a bit of consequence to your decision making, though you can also affect things right at the end as well.
Those Who Remain is quite compelling in that regard, you’ll definitely find some interesting plot strands to latch onto, and you might be interested to see different endings, but the game itself certainly has frustrations.
Its checkpoint system feels like something out of last-gen, with one wrong move turning you into a shish kabob, often requiring you to start the entire sequence over including re-finding everything.
The game is also pretty jittery, with the frame rate often struggling, and loading screens really dragging their heels at times.
The movement also makes you feel as if you’re walking through sludge, which, when being chased by big scary, screechy monsters, isn’t a great combination. I had to turn the sensitivity right up.
And I also really struggled to find the right balance with the lighting, often having to change it up several times in my game because it was just too dark. A great example features a water valve which was almost impossible to see in a certain light and is essential to your progress.
But all that said, there’s an intriguing game hidden underneath all the imperfections. I was interested to see how my judgements would ultimately affect my character, but it also brought up some intriguing moral dilemmas.
There’s also some really smart use of lighting to both hinder and aid your progress – like the lights of a police car being used to guide your way. The mechanic remains one of the best parts of the game.
True, Those Who Remain was not the game I thought it was. As it turns out, it’s nothing at all like Prey and it scarcely resembles Alan Wake. It’s certainly not as accomplished or polished as either of those games.
Having said that, this is a scrappy, occasionally interesting horror, that has the capacity to creep you out and make you jump. And it plays with some unexpected, fascinating themes that will at least give you something to think about.
For those who remain and see it through to the end, that is.
Those Who Remain is now available on PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Tested on PS4
Code provided by Wired