The heyday of survival horror was easily the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. Yet that genre is experiencing a bit of a renaissance with the modern remakes of many Resident Evil games and even Silent Hill reanimating itself. But sometimes you’ve got to look back to move forward, and that’s where Chasing Static comes in. It plays out like a classic survival horror with a late 1990’s aesthetic mixed with some more modern twists such as a first-person view and a more thought-provoking horror tale. After all, sometimes the horror is found in the things we can’t see, rather than a series of shambling zombies.
Whilst the look of Chasing Static is rooted in the glory days of survival horror, it is a much more psychological experience. In it, you play as Chris, a young man returning home from his father’s funeral in rural North Wales. After aimlessly driving, he pulls up at a local café for a pitstop. The waitress, Aneira, informs him he is travelling in the wrong direction for where he needs to be, but offers to point him back on the right track in exchange for a lift home.
They get on well, until Chris returns from the back of the café to see Aneira pinned to the ceiling. In understandable shock, Chris faints.
After coming to again, he realises the café he is in has aged, seemingly overnight. The cakes are mouldy, dust covers areas and there is a multitude of strange apparatus on the tables of the café. At this point, Chris just wants to get out of there as quickly as possible, and heads for his car for a quick getaway. Little does he know that his nightmare is just beginning.
After leaving the café, he happens upon a bunker door, finding inside a device called a Frequency Displacement Monitoring Device. A voice on a radio tells him that in order to escape he needs to secure three different sites using this device and whatever else he finds on the way. After this conversation, Chris is pretty much on his own.
Chasing Static absolutely nails this lo-fi setting with purposefully dated graphics and a general eeriness around the place. There is a lack of draw distance that really lends itself to the feeling of unease you have at all times. However, whether or not this is purposefully done, the jury is out. On one hand, it is perfectly in keeping with the rest of the way the game looks. But on the other, trees and other objects only pop in when you are almost on top of them at times.
Then there are the loading screens. Again, in keeping with the overall aura of Chasing Static, but up until a recent patch these could sometimes break and leave you in an infinite loop. This leads me to believe they are present more out of necessity rather than a cool throwback.
The meat of Chasing Static occurs when you pick up the Frequency Displacement Monitoring Device. It is basically a metal detector for abnormal frequencies; once you are lined up with one, the distance to the anomaly is displayed on the device. You will then be greeted by what appears to be a flashback, filling in the details of what has occurred, and what you are ultimately tasked with doing. Some of these are required to complete the story as finding one will unveil an object or a new area for you to explore. The others appear in any old order, meaning you will be piecing the backstory together. This non-linearity is a bit confusing in a first playthrough
It is only during the final few moments that things begin to make sense, but even this isn’t guaranteed. You may have an idea as to what is going on, or at least think you do, but there are multiple endings to discover. Some of these make more sense than others. Ultimately though, Chasing Static lasts around three hours for a first playthrough, and that feels like a good length without any unnecessary padding. To fully get to grips with Chasing Static, multiple playthroughs are recommended.
It isn’t without issue though, and my biggest gripe is with Chris himself. The majority of other characters you encounter are voice acted well enough, but even from the very first line Chris speaks it just feels incredibly wooden. It’s noticeable in every conversation that Chris has too.
It is easy to miss much too. Things as innocuous as trying to start your car can have a major impact on the ending. And then there is the instant camera. Chasing Static has an autosave system, but there is a manual save system too, but only if you pick up the camera. And there are more things as well. Games should have secrets and surprises, but in Chasing Static, they feel a bit obtuse at times, much like the story itself.
No matter which ending you get to in Chasing Static, there will be a feeling of dissatisfaction and confusion; dissatisfaction that things aren’t explained as well as they could be, and confusion that there should be perhaps a little bit more exposition throughout. Chasing Static certainly looks the part with its survival horror throwbacks mixed with more modern fixtures, but as well as the game is designed, it cannot shy away from the fact there could have been just a little bit more.
Find your way home in Chasing Static on the Xbox Store
- Well-designed throwback to the heyday of survival horror
- Does keep you engaged to the end
- Unsatisfactory conclusions on all endings
- Poor voice acting on main character
- Lack of explanation or exposition throughout
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Ratalaika Games
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 12 January 2023
- Launch price from - £12.99