Soma begins in modern-day Toronto, as Simon Jarrett awake on the day of his brain scan.
Since a horrific car crash, Simon’s been left with terminal brain injuries and as the clock ticks away to the inevitable end, Simon decides to take a risk with pioneering experimental work which will use a scan of Simon’s brain to create a blue-print to right all wrongs and give the patient their life back…
After taking a look around your apartment, you finally find and take the pre-scan medicine and head off to see your doctor, things don’t quite seem right, but soon enough you’re in the chair and ready to begin…
This is where things go pear-shaped, and while it seems like seconds, you suddenly find yourself in a bizarre location, only familiar with the chair you lift yourself out of, starting to explore you find that your now in Pathos II, a deep-sea research facility.
Rather than bustling with activity and staff going about their day, you’ll instead find Pathos quiet, derelict and barely functioning… This is one of the early signs of the depth of Soma, sure it seems like a simple first fifteen minutes, but you slowly start to realise the world building around you and nothing defines this more than your first real conversation with a robot called Carl.
Carl is very human in speech, and after what looks like an accident with a wrecking ball or nuclear bomb, it’s clear his robotic exterior is a little worse for wear, though through conversation you’ll find Carl’s quite a likeable fellow, but unfortunately intentionally causing excruciating pain and having to listen to Carl scream for mercy tips the narrative on it’s head once again as you, Simon, don’t quite seem as human as the robot you’ve just bypassed.
Soon after this area, Simon’s humanity is further questioned, especially when meeting another Robot who’ll provide much more conversation going forward. Sadly around this time you’ll also be aware of a mechanical reaper, who’s intent on destroying you, and while Soma is essentially a narrative story mixed with first person puzzling, there’s the whole hide and seek nature of keeping clear of your would be assassin.
With the Xbox One release, there’s the addition of the new safe mode, this new mode uses the same story, but means you don’t have to be quite as afraid of your pursuer as you can’t die, this does detract a little from the fear factor of the game, but you’ll find it’s still a creepy experience as without force you’ll still be trying to steer clear of any trouble.
the normal story will often leave you frustrated, hiding for 5, 10 minutes as you slowly progress from A to B so while safe mode might mean you lose some of the tension, it does allow you to enjoy and experience the story to a much greater level.
While some may feel a game without weapons, combat or even a dense level of exploration might not make for an enjoyable experience, Soma maintains your attention and affection with some fantastic storytelling and a deep immersive world that will leave you asking about the possibilities of future technology and which of the two realities is the real thing. On average Soma will take about 9-10 hours to get through, it’s a pretty good length for a modern game regardless, but you’ll find yourself wanting to take your time to enjoy the world around you.
While Safe mode is the new addition, I’d highly consider players give that a try first, I found enjoying the experience first made the second play through feel much more appealing as I was able to concentrate on the difficulty of keeping safe, rather than trying to keep up with the characters, mind-bending story and Simon’s safety while traversing each level.
While there’s no graphical enhancements, Xbox One X users will find reduced loading times, which prove to be a breeze and while loading sequences are few and far between, breaking up defined levels, there’s certainly a small improvement on the One X. There’s no 4K textures or HDR colours, it’s still an impressive showing with a vast, varied and detailed world, even with the derelict appearance of Pathos II, it still feels very realistic in a sense that you can almost feel the souls of it’s former inhabitants surrounding you.
Any game that has a strong story, benefits from high class storytelling and while the graphics do a fantastic job of doing this, the real highlight is the audio with some fantastic, eerie atmospheric sounds and it goes without saying, when a robot starts to feel human there’s obviously some top-class voice acting throughout.