From developer Headware Games and publisher Ratalaika Games, Chasing Static is an atmospheric first-person horror and thriller game that sits uncomfortably in the ‘walking simulator’ genre.
Uncomfortably because, unlike many games in the walking sim style, Chasing Static gives you a lot more freedom to explore. Perhaps a bit too much, overall.
Players take on the role of Chris Selwood, having returned to rural Wales to bury his estranged father, he stops at an isolated roadside café to wait out a storm. There, he has some coffee and meets a friendly waitress who offers to help him get back on the right road as long as he gives her a lift to her destination on the way.
Then the power goes out and the waitress is attacked by some sort of entity. Chris then blacks out, and when he wakes it’s as though the café has been abandoned for years.
Confused and disorientated, Chris leaves the café and finds that the road in and out, loop. The only direction he can go, is into the nearby woods. There, he finds an abandoned research facility. Making contact with a scientist via radio who informs him that the facility and surrounding area is home to an energy field. One that alters a person’s perception of reality and, if left unchecked, can drive them to madness.
The facility and the scientists within it, succumbed to the energy when their equipment that held it at bay, failed. For Chris to escape, he is going to have to bring it all back online.
Played from the first-person perspective, the goal of the game is to explore locations, three main locations, finding items and bringing the equipment back online. Utilising a device called a ‘Frequency Displacement Monitoring Device’, Chris can find clues by witnessing visions of the past captured by the energy field.
These visions might seem quite random at first but they are key to completing the game as most will lead Chris to the solution to the game’s inventory-based puzzles. Such as finding a specific item that a now missing researcher took with them.
Alongside that, these visions also serve to fill in the blanks of the story. Revealing the horror of what occurred at this site. The more you find, the more it will all make sense. This does make Chris feel like a bit of a bystander for the most part, but, like Alice after falling down the rabbit hole, he has much greater importance in the story overall.
Aside from exploring, and light puzzle solving, there’s not a lot to gameplay here. There are no tangible threats and seemingly no way to die in the game. Instead, Chasing Static goes for atmosphere and tension over shock moments and jump scares. Something it nails, and is easily its strongest aspect.
This is enhanced by the low-poly, retro visuals that give it a PS1-era look and the subtle, but sinister music and sound effects. It also features voice acting, which is extremely well done.
Chasing Static’s problems come from the vagueness of the story and some of its gameplay elements. The former, while interesting, feels a bit too bare to really get into. Always hinting at something bigger but never showcasing it. Whereas the latter falls apart due to the large and empty locations and lack of clues as to what to do next. Later, the Frequency Displacement Monitoring Device will help with that but even then, the visions can be quite vague and rarely point you in the exact direction you need to go in.
With an ending that does little to clear up the mystery, in fact it might make it even more confusing, Chasing Static doesn’t leave a sense of satisfaction at its conclusion. You’re left feeling like you just watched a heavily edited movie.
With a runtime of around 2 to 3 hours, maybe less if you’re not going out of your way to see all the visions, it at least, doesn’t overstay its welcome.
For its faults’ though, Chasing Static is a good game as what it does well, it does really well. Top atmosphere, great ambience, good voice acting, and a consistent sense of uncomfortable dread.
Chasing Static (Xbox Series X)
The Final Score - 6.5/10