‘SOMA’ review

Frictional’s new game sets horror standard

By Chris Mudd, Staff Writer

Frictional Games has established itself as a leader in survival horror games in the past, and their latest foray may be their most ambitious to date. “SOMA” rivals some of the greatest works of science fiction and may be the greatest genre-defining psychological thriller the video game community has seen in years.

Frictional’s previous installments in survival horror revolved around a classical spooky setting – a scary mansion where an evil scary man does evil and scary things. In “SOMA,” the scariest part of the experience is the integrity of consciousness itself.

Hidden deep in the ocean, the Pathos-II facility harbors the remaining human life after an asteroid wiped most of it off the surface of the Earth. A cheery enough setting, except that the life on board the facility may not be as human as first thought.

In the universe of the game, human cognizance has become digitized. A person’s brain can be scanned, copied and implanted into a machine. In the first sections of the game, I found myself holding conversations with a conveyor belt. It was entertaining at first, even funny, but as I got closer and closer to the end of the game, I found myself becoming quite uneasy.

The primary enemy of the game is a corrupted artificial intelligence that manifests itself by infecting the robots, and even some humans, in the facility with some form of organic oil. These half-human, half robot abominations roam the halls, always on the hunt for the player.

While the monsters are freaky, and some even downright disturbing, the impact of the game psychologically is staggering. For days after completing it, I was forced to consider what consciousness really is. If your mind was in a robot, was it still human? Were you still you?

Beyond the excellent execution of psychological horror, the sound design in “SOMA” is unmatched. You never stop feeling the pressure of the ocean looming on you, and the pained and forced screams of the monsters are never far away.

The lasting impression the game made on me is well worth the price. If you are the kind of person who likes to think on abstract psychological concepts, I can’t recommend “SOMA” enough.