Person on a phone call

Still Wakes the Deep review

Still Wakes the Deep is more than the sum of its horror parts, thanks to one of the best stories I've played through in a very long time.

(Image: © The Chinese Room)

Our Verdict

An emotive story that is equal parts terrifying and traumatic.

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Need to Know

What is it? A first-person horror game where you have to navigate a sinking rig and an incomprehensible monster.
Release date June 18, 2024
Expect to pay $35/£30
Developer The Chinese Room
Publisher Secret Mode
Reviewed on RTX 3070, Core AMD Ryzen 5 5600G with Radeon Graphics, 16GB
Multiplayer No
Steam Deck Not verified
Link Steam 

Going into Still Wakes the Deep, I was confident in my ability to withstand the horror cliches that I knew were about to come my way. But, instead of just dealing with your typical chase scenes and jumpscares, The Chinese Room decided to pull something out of its sleeve that I hadn't experienced before—the most traumatic dialogue and voice acting I've ever heard in a horror game.

You play as Caz McLeary, an electrical engineer on the Beira D oil rig running from the law and some stupid decisions. Despite his past mistakes, Caz is a breath of fresh air for a few reasons: he's likeable, funny, and quite pragmatic when making life-and-death decisions, which happens to be what I value in a protagonist. But the best part of playing as Caz is that he's already been on the rig for a while, so you don't have to worry about getting to know your co-workers—meaningful relationships have already been established. Still Wakes the Deep skips the usual slog of tutorial-like character introductions and just throws you into the meat of the story, and all of the interactions feel natural and worthwhile.

Entering the canteen for the first time was surprisingly sweet. Sitting down at a table with Brodie and Rafs, I found out that it was Rafs' first dive and that he was more than a little scared. While I wouldn't trade places with him, he seemed like he was in good hands with Brodie, someone with more experience. Then there was Trots' passionate speech to Gibbo and O'Connor about unionisation and how the Beira D was falling apart because Westminster was too greedy for its own good. These short interactions told me everything I wanted to know about my place on the Beira D and only made what came next all the more traumatic. 

After drilling through something that was probably best left alone, the rig descends into chaos. With communication patchy thanks to a selfish manager named Rennick and decaying safety mechanisms making escape impossible, you and the crew end up putting out fires in the hope that someone will notice the radio silence and come help. 

People sat around a table talking

(Image credit: The Chinese Room)

No one takes charge, so most of the time I just darted around the rig desperately trying to save as many people as I could, all while fixing the Beira D, which mostly just involved pressing buttons in a certain order or flicking the right switches. Usually, I enjoy having more complex puzzles in horror games as a way to break up the action, but I didn't miss them this time as the excellent story made up for it—it's more interesting than any keycode puzzle I've come across. Plus, if you don't fix everything in a timely fashion, the rig will explode into a flaming ball of gas and oil, taking you and everyone else down with it.

But even with all your expert button pushing, you can't rescue everyone. In the chaos and fear, sometimes all I could do was try to ignore the blood-curdling screams for help echoing from the people I'd grown so fond of as I ran to my next objective.

The hardest moment had to be a short phone call I had with a friend who was trapped in the lower levels of the rig. As the small room he sat in filled with gas and water, all I could do was listen as he came to terms with his death and then let out one last panicked whimper for help as the water finally touched his leg.

Weather the storm 

Lumps of flesh melted together

(Image credit: The Chinese Room)

The monster that arrives on the Beira D isn't as novel as Still Wakes the Deep's surprisingly emotional story and superb voice acting, as most horror games involve some kind of bizarre and violent creature. But that still didn't stop me from breaking into a cold sweat every time it got too close. 

The interior of the rig is constantly morphing and breaking around the creature, which means it could be anywhere at any time. But once I realised that the strange bubbles and colours around my screen signified where and how close the monster was, I found it easier to make my way through the rig undetected, mostly by hiding in lockers or under debris or by throwing cans and bottles I found lying around to distract the monster so I could make a break for it. 

But even with all of that, getting chased through dark hallways or flooded areas by something recklessly barreling down the rig took at least a couple of years off my life—it never got easier. At one point, I was cowering in the vents after I thought I had outrun the monster, only for its grotesque head to burst through the vent cover like Jack Nicholson in The Shining and almost give another heart attack. 

Thankfully, Still Wakes the Deep isn't as exhausting as some other horror games, which are full of relentless jumpscares and chase sequences. For example, while I liked Amnesia: The Bunker, its psychological horror pushed me over the edge too much for me to even think about playing it again. Whereas Still Wakes the Deep strikes a good balance between horror and action, which meant I wasn't constantly petrified. Venturing outside the rig gave me a break from the monster's terrifying antics as I dealt with the adrenaline rush of jumping over broken walkways, reacting to quick time events, and clambering over rusty pillars, all while terrified of plummeting into the icy cold ocean below me. 

Swimming through foggy water towards a light

(Image credit: The Chinese Room)

My time split between inside and outside the rig was just right, so I never got bored or overwhelmed with either. This impressive achievement helped make Still Wakes the Deep feel very concise. I never found myself grumbling over pointless action or horror, which felt like it was added to pad out the run time.    

Still Wakes the Deep also looks superb. I spent a lot of time taking pretty pictures around the rig, even when I was on the verge of death. The loading scenes between major locations never lasted too long (most of the time, I was just happy to have a break), and I only experienced one black screen towards the end. There's also a lot of settings to customise, almost all of my advanced graphics were scaled to the highest option with no issue on my RTX 3070, and you can also remap keyboard bindings or adjust controller settings easily. 

I also really appreciated the granular accessibility settings. There are tons of options for subtitles and interface appearance as well as three kinds of colour blind modes (deuteranope, protanope, and tritanope). For me, the motion sickness adjustments were a lifesaver. I always scale down the FOV and while the head bob and roll may seem very realistic, it was just too much for me to handle while also staring out on a rocky sea. 

If you can bear with the emotional toll and terrifying moments, then Still Wakes the Deep is an experience that I couldn't recommend more highly.  Its unsettling monster and horrific setting are elevated by something that's rare in horror games: meaningful relationships with other characters. (Sadly, your friendships don't tend to last long.) 

The Verdict
Still Wakes the Deep

An emotive story that is equal parts terrifying and traumatic.

Elie Gould
News Writer

Elie is a news writer with an unhealthy love of horror games—even though their greatest fear is being chased. When they're not screaming or hiding, there's a good chance you'll find them testing their metal in metroidvanias or just admiring their Pokemon TCG collection. Elie has previously worked at TechRadar Gaming as a staff writer and studied at JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs about Smash Bros. or any indie game that crossed their path.