Those Who Remain Review

When horror and thriller titles are done right, there’s really not much that can match the tension and atmosphere they bring to the table. Even on repeat plays, it’s not so much what is chasing you, but how; sure, you’re a big ugly monster, but if I can easily out wit you and fight back most of the scare factor is diminished. Those Who Remain may be going for a creepy, tense thriller vibe, but more often than not I just found myself actively wishing for something to happen.

We play as Edward, who – as you may expect – has a tragic backstory that is revealed as we go through the story. Going to meet his mistress to end their affair in the town of Durmont, it’s this location that soon plays host to all sorts of strange goings on and embroils him in yet more tragedy, as we work to help solve a murder that took place here. Edward himself is about as dull and lifeless and the town itself, with his monotone delivery making even the most shocking moments fall flat, and a revelation about his past that we could see coming a mile away not doing him any favours at all.

Throughout, there’s plenty of creepy imagery, locales and monsters to come across, but none of it really hits home. In every dark corner of the town are ghostly apparitions, their piercing blue eyes following our every move.They disappear when exposed to light but in reality they simply serve to funnel us down the correct path, as getting to close sees us insta-killed. It does allow some mildly thought provoking challenges in trying to, for example, turn on a car’s head light beams to clear a path, but again, these are more often simply a case of looking for a key, or moving a stack of boxes over to let the light past.

Finding said key, or any item really, is an exercise in tedium too. In each of the fairly compact areas there are an abundance of drawers and lockers to open and search, but they require precise cursor placement to interact with – and 99% of them will be disappointingly empty anyway. It’s rare we’re under a time pressure to do so, but this lack of urgency just meant when I entered yet another office or kitchen with stacks of cupboards, I’d just let out a small sigh and start monotonously searching each and every one in the hope of finding the next obtusely hidden item needed.

On occasion we’ll enter an alternate realm, one that allows us to impact the current day by moving or finding items to help us progress. While there certainly is some sort of atmosphere here, it’s quickly drowned out as we run in circles trying to find what it is we’re here for.

Performance doesn’t help things either. Even on a One X the frame rate tanks when there’s even the most basic of effects on screen, the camera lags slightly behind inputs, and even the menus are incredibly unresponsive. It’s not all that much of a looker to begin with, especially as most of the time it’s covered in darker areas. There are a lot of physic based objects to interact with, though again the controls are so fiddly and sluggish that these elements could have been removed with too much impact. One late chase scene blocks us with a few things that need picking up and moving, but each time the item would automatically fall out of my hands, or the tiniest fraction would still be blocking my path, leading to a fail and restart – from way before the chase too. It turned what could have been a somewhat atmospheric chase into a game of frustration as I wasn’t running for my life, but out of sheer frustration at Edward Butterfingers.

There’s an attempt to bring some moral dilemmas into the fray at points, with the investigation into the murder at points tasking you with deciding the fate of those accused of being involved. I’m usually the kind of player who’ll take the high road, forgiving grievances or being perhaps too nice to those that have done wrong, but Those Who Remain presents a very one sided argument to whether to forgive or condemn each of the individuals. Sure, they may have wanted to protect their family, but they did it for the worst reasons and as such forgiveness would have just felt completely out of place. Multiple endings are affected by these choices, but I felt no desire to go back and see what could have been.

All of this isn’t to say that it doesn’t have any atmosphere at all; when first entering a new area there are definitely moments that put me on edge, but that incessant search through every cupboard and drawer soon made any tension turn to boredom.

Conclusion

Those Who Remain puts on a passable front, but once we get past that there’s nothing here that’s worth getting worked up over. With a dull story, tedious searching of areas using unresponsive inputs, scares that never really come and some technical hiccups that make it feel like a last gen title, you’re best off looking elsewhere for your pulse racing thrills.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.
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Good
  • Can get its atmosphere across well at times
  • Moral choices provide a little incentive to replay
Bad
  • Dull, monotone main character
  • Never really pays off its build up of tension
  • Technically poor
4.8
Poor
Gameplay - 5
Graphics - 5
Audio - 4
Longevity - 5
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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