2023 has seen a resurgence for horror games across genres. Psychological horror made a comeback with titles like Layers of Fear. Survival horror was revived through the Resident Evil 4 remake. More psychological thrills are on the horizon with Stray Souls, Lazaret, and the hotly anticipated Alan Wake 2. Silent Hill fans hold out hope for a remake of the classic franchise. The year also welcomed innovative new entries like Abandoned Souls, a first-person “bodycam horror” experience created by indie developer JustTomcuk and priced at an accessible $4.99/£4.29. With releases spanning AAA franchises to indie experiments, 2023 is shaping up to be a standout year for scary gaming.
So, according to the Steam listing, Abandon Souls “is a realistic horror game created in the style of found footage”. The plot tells us we play as Tim, a video blogger with a love of exploring abandoned places. For this game we have gone to “explore an old abandoned hospital in the midst of a deep forest, to capture exclusive footage for his viewers. Rumor has it the hospital was somehow connected to a case of disappearances in the area in 1985”. The gameplay features are listed as
- Almost too realistic graphics!
- Extremely immersive sound design – almost every sound was recorded specifically for this project!
- Screamers and creepy atmosphere – the game has plenty!
- Game genre: Horror, Walking simulator.
- Made with Unreal Engine 5.
Abandoned Souls – A Look To See If It’s Worth It
Well, we have strong claims in the features, and for a small developer, have they created a game that can stand out? They have another horror called Silent Nights released in March this year. Steam gives a Very Positive rating for that game so I went into this expecting a good standard of horror. However, the question is, did the game meet my expectations? Remember the game is short, the listing does say thirty to sixty minutes of gameplay.
I could have improved my experience by lowering the graphics settings from max. This reduced occasional frame rate drops, which typically happened when switching between menus and gameplay. Aside from these minor hiccups, the game ran smoothly at a steady frame rate, which is a credit to the developer’s optimization.
The controls are simple and intuitive. Movement felt responsive, allowing me to easily navigate the environment. My only critique is that the default reticule was too small and difficult to see when using the flashlight. This was a minor personal preference rather than a detriment to gameplay. Overall, the polished visuals and smooth performance show the developer’s technical proficiency.
The visuals are undoubtedly the highlight of the game. Built on Unreal Engine 5, the photorealistic graphics convincingly place you in the creepy, isolated setting. The first-person view through the character’s body cam perspective heightens the immersion. Dynamic lighting stands out as exceptional, bathing the dark hospital halls in an eerie glow. While full ray tracing would have elevated the visuals further, the graphics remain top-notch.
The sound design matches the stellar visual quality, fully immersing you in the unsettling atmosphere. Eerie hospital noises combine seamlessly with the thunderstorm outside. The panicked breathing and reactions of the protagonist mirror what the player would feel in this situation. Every auditory detail sounds crisp and realistic, thanks to excellent sound mixing and recording. The audio is truly top-notch.
The story is simple but effective, leveraging impressive visuals and audio to create tension. While not reaching the narrative heights of classics like Silent Hill 2, the concise horror tale shows promise. The short length may have hindered plot development. With expanded runtime and creativity, the developer could craft a narrative to rival the greats. As is, it sets an intriguing premise with solid execution.
For its budget price, this brief but polished horror experience is well worth playing. The phenomenal graphics and sound design create an extremely immersive, terrifying atmosphere. While light on content, it shows the developer’s technical and artistic talent. I eagerly anticipate their future projects with more resources and scope. Though currently PC-only, this game deserves to be experienced by horror fans across all platforms.