A star rating of 4 out of 5.

Still Wakes the Deep is an immensely moving and bleak horror game from developer The Chinese Room. It will tug at your heartstrings and send your heart racing, as you navigate the foreboding Beira D oil rig off the coast of Scotland in 1975. But, unfortunately, a few shortcomings hold it back.


Protagonist Cameron ‘Caz’ McLeary finds himself on the rig after getting into trouble with the police on the mainland, hoping for it to all blow over. Back home, his wife Suze threatens to leave him for getting himself into a mess and abandoning his family.

Unfortunately for Caz and the rest of the crew, things go from bad to utterly desperate after the drill disturbs an entity lying deep within the earth.

The oil rig is already falling to bits, owing to its cheap construction from owner Cadal, and the entity helps hurry the job along — by consuming the rig and its crew as it exponentially grows and creeps into every corner until the game's ending. But don't let it stop you from unlocking all the achievements!

The real star of the show isn’t Still Wakes the Deep’s gameplay, graphics or sound design – though these are all great and something I’ll touch upon later – it is instead the simply sublime performances from the cast of the game.

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Everyone's thick Scottish brogue is left intact vocally, so as to not lessen the authenticity of the characters, with gallows humour in full effect. If these accents had been dulled to be more understandable, I would have been raging and disappointed, for the game intrinsically feels Scottish — something I have never experienced in the medium of gaming before.

Immediately, I found myself caring for (or loathing) these characters as they truly felt like real people, in no small part owing to the wonderful opening that introduces you to them.

Living on an artificial island floating in one of the most dangerous seas in the world is a humbling experience, and it’s clear from the onset that all the characters deeply care for one another, which only serves to make the events unfolding all the more tragic.

There are a number of occasions where you listen to a fellow crew member succumbing to their fate over the phone, and though we don’t see it, the acting on display tells you everything you need to know. It is truly heart-wrenching stuff.

At one point, a close family friend begs Caz not to leave him, but admits that he wouldn’t blame Caz if he did. This came as an absolute gut punch. It is not often in the medium of video games that you see moments of such vulnerability handled with such care and poise.

It also lends an intensely unpleasant and unsettling familiarity to the monsters, who still have elements of their hosts intact, such as their voices and faces. One of the characters — Addair, played by Stewart Scudamore — is particularly horrific as they goad and taunt you in their monstrous form.

Unreal Engine 5 has been used to terrific effect to realise the Beira D, its inhabitants and its otherworldly visitors. I found myself often pausing to take in the scenery, be it the endless linoleum-floored corridors or the waves smashing into the legs of the rig.

Speaking of the graphics, they're mostly impressive, although eagle-eyed players may spot a dappled or rippling effect at points, which does detract slightly from the end result.

Players on PC available on Xbox Game Pass – where I suspect many players may try it out – may also be disappointed with the limited options in some of the settings.

Character rendering is very good and allows the brilliant performances from the Still Wakes the Deep cast to really come alive. I was particularly taken by Brodie’s moustache rendering. That may sound silly, but poor hair rendering immediately invokes the uncanny valley.

The sound design is absolutely stellar. Everything from the formidable crashing waves of the North Sea to the whipping tendrils of monsters sound superb, going a long way toward heightening Still Wakes the Deep’s presentation.

The music strikes all the right notes, too, tastefully enhancing the drama and action that unfolds.

Perhaps ironically for a video game, the gameplay is actually the weakest element of Still Wakes the Deep. Personally, I do not mind a more constrained and linear experience, especially when you consider how overwhelmingly large some open-world games have become in recent years. But I do believe there was still room for The Chinese Room to implement some extra mechanics.

Ideally, these would come in the form of more involved puzzles that require a bit more thought other than finding X, Y or Z to do the same action over and over. Caz repeatedly states that he is "good with the leccy", but the extent of this boils down to changing a fuse.

The Chinese Room has already made an Amnesia game in the past, and perhaps they could have looked at what Frictional Games has done in recent years for inspiration.

The game also has some of the most egregious "yellow paint" I have ever seen in a game (this being a common game design shortcut where blobs of colour continually point the player in the right direction, removing the need for too much thought or exploration).

Obviously, this being an oil rig, many things such as stairs are brightly-coloured for safety reasons, but entirely new paths created by fallen machinery and the like have had mysterious douses of paint. The developers have stated that in a future patch, this can be lessened, but it warranted more than a few eye-rolls.

Ultimately, Still Wakes the Deep is more akin to an interactive movie, and an excellent one at that. It is not that common to have a cast almost entirely composed of Scottish actors, with a story taking place in Scotland, something that made the horror all the more real for this native Scot.

Hearing a monster who sounds like your neighbour gets under your skin like nothing else.

I would recommend Still Wakes the Deep for everyone, with the caveats that it is short-lived and you do have to sit back and let the game tell the story it wants to. Trust me, it is well worth it for this truly is a great yarn.

Still Wakes the Deep is out now on PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.

  • Buy Still Wakes the Deep for PC on Steam
  • Buy Still Wakes the Deep for PS5 on Amazon
  • Buy Still Wakes the Deep for Xbox Series X/S on the Microsoft Store

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