Originally released on mobile (which is rarely a good sign), Antarctica 88 is a first-person horror game that claims to be a love-letter to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic horror movie, The Thing.
Players will certainly see the influences as they play, but mostly come away unimpressed by a short and distinctly average horror game.
Deep in Antarctica, a Russian research station that was drilling for minerals has gone dark. You are part of a squad, sent to investigate why communications have stopped, and rescue anyone who may be in trouble. A mission that the player’s character has a more vested interested in, thanks to the research station being headed up by their father.
So, what exactly is going on at the research station? Monsters. They found something under the ice and now the station is over-run by a monsters and few people appeared to have survived. It’s up to you to find your father and get the heck out.
It’s a solid story that is overtly familiar, where every beat can be predicted, and none of it has the weight needed to make this an immersive experience. Although with a game that can be finished in under an hour, immersion is always going to be a problem.
Yet, by contrast, the game does have a surprising amount of atmosphere. The location and sounds create the feeling of being out in the freezing cold, exploring blood-soaked corridors, wandering dark and dank caves, and running for your life from some hideous beast. Ok, sure, the game doesn’t have the capabilities to make all of this a realisation, but it certainly sets the mood.
The day/night cycle that mirrors real time is also worth mentioning as a way to experience the game in two different ways.
Gameplay is made up of exploration, slight puzzle solving, and action-orientated sections. Explore the base, kill any monsters you comes across with the weapons you find, pick up items to progress, until you get to the end of the game. It’s familiar FPS horror gameplay that is done competently enough but the limitations that the game has does detract from each individual gameplay element.
Exploration is extremely limited, and there is no chance of the player getting lost, even without maps. Then there is puzzle solving, an aspect that is as detailed as finding an item and bringing the item to where it is needed. Finally, there is the action part of the game, where three types of bland-looking monsters (one of which is straight-up ripped from Stranger Things) need to be avoided or killed.
While these moments can be tense, mainly because they have a habit of sneaking up on you, the multitude of weapons means there’s very little threat from the enemies. Aside from some pretty horrendous hit detection when it comes to using the axe.
All of this results in a game that is average at best. There are worse first-person horror experiences, but there are also so many better.
Antarctica 88 (Xbox Series X)
The Final Score - 6.5/10