The survival horror genre can be a tricky beast to tame correctly. Because there’s so many different things that scare so many different people, it can be hard to find a good balance. The One We Found tries to tap into the traditional formula; horror, combat, item management and exploration. These, ask any fan of the concept, are the four staples of any horror game worth its salt. Hell, it even says so much on the game’s official site. The question, however, is how well of a horror game does The One We Found translate to be.
Sadly, not a very good one. The One We Found has so many issues leaning against it, I honestly couldn’t count them all. I will credit the game for one thing, it’s resting on a decent foundation, but in the face of all of its problems, this unfortunately means very little. The game is based within the confines of Whisperwood mental institution. Following the recent discovery of a cave system beneath the facility, players take on the role of psychotherapist, James Ledgewick. Upon your arrival at the institution, things are clearly not all as they seem.
The newly discovered cave system appears to be home to an evil force, one that’s putting James smack bang in the middle of his own personal nightmare. Upon starting up the game, players are warned that the experience may make them feel anxious and uncomfortable. After even just thirty minutes of play I can confirm that this is indeed the case, though for all of the wrong reasons. The One We Found is a very poorly optimized game. Instantly, I picked up on framerate spikes, environmental bugs, hideous design issues and much more.
Armed with just a flashlight and an abundance of batteries, players will initially need to maneuver around the facility in search of answers. The crux of play will have you either finding items to use elsewhere, interacting with machinery, or, working out keypad and padlock combinations. Outside of some combat sequences and a few moments of hide and seek, the game never really evolves past those pillars. By and large, you’ll move around one small isolated area whilst solving its puzzles and killings its foes, before moving to the next.
Each area serves as a level, with ten to work through in total. Had it not have been for contending with the game’s faults, I daresay I would have run the entire journey through in less than three hours, and even so I feel like I’m being generous with that estimate. The Whisperwood mental institution is lights-out for the most part, meaning that you’ll need to rely on your flashlight to make it through the interior. The problem here is that your flashlight emits the most baffling lighting effects I’ve seen in a game in recent memory.
Everything from poor animation to the fact that most other effects (such as wall blood) will only appear if your lighting it with your torch, are things that you’ll need to contend with. I spent well over thirty minutes looking a fuse on one level, only to eventually find that the light from my torch was lighting it up that much, the fuse was blending in with the porcelain toilet that it was located on. Frustrating is an understatement. I can extend the same level of criticism to the game’s general lighting effects overall, even without the flashlight in use.
Then there’s the game’s technical issues fighting against your patience. Several times did I need to force a level restart due to some technical interference of some sort. Whether it was mandatory items disappearing from my inventory, unexplained deaths, or even crashing, I found myself staring at the home menu more times than I would have liked. It doesn’t help matters that the game’s loading times are ridiculously long. I feel the developer knew of this due to the six digit percentage that’s present – merely giving the illusion of quick loading.
Moving onto the game’s small variation of enemies, there’s nothing impressive here. The game is chock-full of copy and paste foes that all look identical to one another. There’s your standard zombie-like foes, some creepy vent-dwelling creature, an angry poltergeist and little else. Many of these can be taken down with a few bullets, though all of them can be circumvented by stepping out of their line of sight or by leaving the area that they inhabit. Oftentimes, that’s necessary. This removes what little tension the game had going for it.
Want to escape the vent creature? Step out of the vent and watch it stupidly claw for you as it remains confined to its scripting. Want to evade the poltergeist? Jump into a vent and watch it crawl at you at the vent’s entrance, as though an invisible barrier sits between you and it. The game’s UI and its menus are horrendous too, making even swapping a weapon out a lot more work than it’s worth. Yes, to equip a second weapon – unless it’s melee – you need to head to the menu to exchange and hope that you don’t die in the meantime.
Pressing onto the actual gameplay, the aim of the game remains relatively simple. In fact, the only difficulty sits with the problems that you need to put up with, rather than the little challenge that the game manages to throw your way. If you come up against a lock, the key or the combination is usually a room or vent system away, in plain sight. The puzzles are far too easy for their own good, and given that these puzzles are typically resting between you and the level’s end, it’s hard not to feel underwhelmed by the lack of innovation on show.
The game’s story is further complimented by a range of notes and files that can be picked up and read, lending the campaign and its protagonist a bit more character. It’s an interesting story to say the least, it’s just a shame that it’s situated in the midst of such a clumsy mess. Mercifully, the controls are easy to get to grips with, making it a fairly accessible title. There’s also some side-objectives to soak up too (tied to achievements) such as destroying a watermelon or killing a specific foe. Simple stuff, yes, but a reason to be on the lookout.
When you’re done with the campaign, there’s a survival mode to work through. Funnily enough, I had a better time here than I did elsewhere. In survival, you’ll take on waves of enemies and score points for doing so. These points can be spent on new weapons or ammo, stuck to the walls of the mode’s three maps in a very Call of Duty: Zombies sort of way. Enemies here will become gradually more formidable, forcing you to spend your points wisely before initiating the next wave. It’s a decent mode, indeed, but it’s hardly original.
Now, as for the visual and audio design overall, I don’t have much to say in the game’s favor. Stripping away all of the above problems, The One We Found sports passable level design, but unimpressive graphics. There’s a complete lack of polish on show here for both environmental textures and enemy models, making the journey even less pleasant. The same can be said about the audio design, which is to say that The One We Found recycles the same dull cues over and over (and over) throughout the entirety of play.
To its credit, The One We Found offers a fairly interesting horror story to get to grips with. However, much like Outbreak: The New Nightmare, the game is massively held back by a wide range of design issues and incessant technical problems. The majority of its faults are too obvious to go unnoticed, so much so, there’s absolutely no justifying the game being released in the state that it’s in.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.