Narcosis - Xbox One Review

Narcosis benefits from a unique environment and some really solid writing, though a short campaign and a story that loses steam detract from the overall experience. In the end, Narcosis winds up being decent, but not as great as it could have been.

For me, Narcosis was a particularly interesting title to review officially now that it has seen a console release, because I had already played the game on the Oculus previously. This allowed me to consider a) how much VR helped the experience and b) how the story holds up when you already know and recall most of what is about to happen.

To the first question: the lack of virtual reality does hurt a little in my mind. Narcosis is a beautifully dark game set down at the bottom of the sea. Your character is part of an underwater team when things go wrong and the base of operations becomes compromised. Instead of the dark passes of a haunted house, you have the watery, dim corridors of a flooded underwater building. The water element does allow for greater range of movement, adding a vertical element to the game's level design, which I could appreciate. However, the play of light, the ripple of water and the depths of darkness all carried a little extra weight when viewed through virtual reality glasses on the PC. That being said, the Xbox One version of the game is still atmospheric and creepy, benefiting from the claustrophobic nature of being underwater and the unique setting employed.

The action here is only so-so, with the need to manage your air (and by extension, your stress levels). Encounter something horrific, you breathe more and your oxygen levels can become endangered. There is some very basic, rather clumsy combat available to stave off whatever odd creatures (and there is not a great number of them) you encounter during your journey, but a lot of your effort will focus more on exploration.

It is during exploration that Narcosis is at its best. The unique setting and an interesting story serve as fantastic motivators to keep you moving through this survival horror experience. While the oxygen levels seldom became a real threat to me, knowing that they were there in the back of my mind as a looming if not immediate threat did a nice job of adding a layer of tension to the experience.

While you are moving around the watery depths on your own, your protagonist will sometimes talk a bit, adding a sort of sense of comfort to the proceedings. It is the sort of monologue that many of us would likely go through, to help stave off the sense of isolation and loneliness. It works to help along the title's immersion while adding some character to our protagonist and context to things that are and were happening below. This is really assisted nicely by the quality voice acting for the primary character. Other voices are adequate, but our lead is convincing and makes a good effort with the content. Side missions of a sort really help to add texture to the story as well. You can proceed straight through to the end - Narcosis is not a very long game after all. However, take the time to explore and find the related item that matches up to one of the deceased members of the underwater headquarters. These missions have the dual benefit of not only helping to make these fallen characters feel more like they were actual people, but these brief segments are well done and really help to shape the rest of the world around the current series of events.

Now, having played through Narcosis twice nice, I can say that the replay value here is pretty minimal. It is not a very long game, nor is there any real variation in how the story unfolds except in whether or not you complete the side-objectives. This coupled with the short duration do hold Narcosis back despite an interesting premise.

I enjoyed Narcosis enough the first time that I had no reservations in properly reviewing it upon console release. This is still objectively a solid horror game with a unique story and setting, and those are not insignificant details in a genre filled with the same environments and tropes. Instead of relying exclusively on cheap jump scares, Narcosis builds a healthy amount of tension over the duration of your experience. However, I did enjoy the experience more in virtual reality on my PC, and Narcosis has little to no replay value either. Ultimately I wanted more, which is the sign of a good game, even if I wish there was more game to be had.

Game Information

Xbox One
Honor Code, Inc.
Honor Code, Inc.
Single Player
Other Platform(s):

Provided by Publisher

Article by Chris H.


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