Still Wakes the Deep Review - Screenshot 1 of 5

There’s something special about a truly isolated horror setting. The Nostromo in Alien, Outpost 31 in The Thing, and the USG Ishimura in Dead Space. Well, you can add the Beira D to the list as Still Wakes the Deep crafts up a contorted setting, dripped in sea water, oil, and blood. Switching out the quaint English countryside for an oil rig off the coast of Scotland, The Chinese Room has produced a taught, tense and frequently terrifying horror experience that isn’t to be missed.

The Chinese Room has always been a master of the mundane – and we mean that as a compliment. 2015’s Everybody's Gone to the Rapture expertly captured a perfectly normal village and doused it with a bit of the ethereal surreal. That same deft touch is applied here in Still Wakes the Deep, a linear horror experience that’s far more focused, and all the more entertaining for it.

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It’s Christmas, 1975, and Caz McCleary is trying to get off the Beira D. There is some light narrative mystery as to why Caz is aboard the rig and why he is trying to leave it, but before he can jump aboard a helicopter to safety, something happens. There’s a lot of mystery and uncertainty splashing all over the premise of Still Wakes the Deep, and since this is a pretty short experience – about 5 hours in length – we recommend going in as blind as possible. There will be no major spoilers here though.

The first thing that’ll strike you in Still Wakes the Deep is how it captures its setting with pin-point accuracy, through both near immaculate photoreal presentation and its incredibly authentic voice work. As you start the game, you’ll have a chance to explore the small cabin rooms of your co-workers, and here we get a snapshot into the time period and the characters, in the most naturalistic sort of way. From the posters on the wall, to the ruffled bed sheets, you can immediately sense the lived-in nature of the Beira D, and you can practically smell the mustiness of its tartan carpets, and the pang of the salty air through its every hallway. Honestly, we’d love a horror-less version of this rig so that we can just explore at our own ease, taking in every detail. The Chinese Room has sunk a lot of time into ensuring the Beria D is believable.

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It works hand-in-hand with the horror, too. Still Wakes the Deep has a gnarly thing or two to show you during its runtime, but a lot of the horror is in what you hear and what you assume is ahead of you. Delving deeper into the Beira D is a daunting task before you include all the scary things that go bump in the night. The rig has an oppressive sense of claustrophobia to it that'll keep you on edge before the first drop of blood is spilled.

You’ll notice too how unapologetically Scottish the game is, with its genuine and natural sounding accents, not often featured in games. With some of the team here at Push Square hailing from the bonnie lands – and even nearby the city some of the main characters come from – it's exciting to hear natural Scottish dialect without it ever being hammed up to Braveheart levels like is usually the case. It’s a brilliant touch of authenticity that goes a long way to selling the setting.

When Still Wakes the Deep starts to lean into the weird, it’s here you may be surprised by how hard The Chinese Room is channelling pure horror. It’s filled to the brim with nail-biting sequences, pulpy body horror, and audio design that could do a lot of the heavy lifting on its own if it needed to. Our mind immediately goes to those horror movie classics we mentioned as we inch our way through the hallways of the Beira D, not just through the aesthetics of the game, but also the pacing of which The Chinese Room doles out its scares. It’s here though that we suspect there will be a split for players.

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The Chinese Room’s previous games have often been derogatively labelled “walking simulators”, and in a lot of ways this could also apply to Still Wakes the Deep. Granted things are a little more involved over what you’d find in Dear Esther, for example, as you’ll be climbing up walls, shimmying along ledges, and even making a jump or two. However, this is a strictly linear experience, with copious amounts of yellow paint clearly labelling where you should be going at most points in the game – there’s even an update coming down the line to reduce the yellow paint. The gameplay never supersedes the focus on story and setting then, but we’d argue that we’d rather The Chinese Room focuses on what it does best, rather than forcing in tedious gameplay mechanics.

That being said, stealth sections are the weakest part of the game, as after a couple of similar encounters, the limited margins for error become overtly apparent, and the horror loses some of its sting. It’s quite tough to die in Still Wakes the Deep, so if you think too hard about it, you’ll start to see the rails leading you forward. However, it’s never boring, and whilst stealth can be trite mechanically, narratively there is always something to be scared of. This is also where the visual and immersive features come into play.

For one, the sound design is spectacular. Whether it is the creaking hull of the Beira D, the constant flickering of rain, or even the haunting screams from afar, there's a palpable sense of place and danger at every turn. Even the soundtrack masterfully balances when to stay quiet and when to come in with its eerie sense of dread. This really is one of those games you should be playing with headphones.

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There are also a selection of gameplay settings to personalise your experience, such as controller changes, audio customisation, impressive haptic implementation, and a quality and performance mode option. We opted for the smoother frame rate over higher resolution, but Still Wakes the Deep is still a fantastic looking game. It also runs well for the most part, with the odd stutter in framerate between cutscene and gameplay being the only kink in our experience. Disappointingly, though, the game does include cut-to-black loading screens between each area, which while brief thanks to the PS5, do chip away at immersion.

Thankfully, you'll forget about most of these technical hitches as you're ushered into the next set piece. As we've alluded to, gameplay isn't quite as engaging as something like Alien Isolation, but combined with its visuals and audio, it still does a lot to keep you on the edge of your seat. Chases and some underwater sequences are incredibly effective, and there are a fair few moments that’ll have you squeezing that DualSense as the game tightens its grip around you.

It has that classic horror game sense of “oh please don’t make me go down there” too, which is the exact thing we love in the horror genre. Whether it is the oil-filled bowels of the rig, or the direction of some haunting howls and hulking thumps, The Chinese Room never quite lets go once tension starts ramping up, and it always keeps things fresh visually as the Beira D morphs around you — again blending the mundane with the surreal.


Still Wakes The Deep may not stick around for long, but it’ll have an iron-clad grip on you across its runtime. There’s clear inspiration here from horror movie classics such as Alien and The Thing, and we adored seeing those inspirations play out through its highly-detailed settings and salt-of-the-Earth cast of characters. It may not be the most engaging gameplay experience on the PS5, but The Chinese Room smartly lays a solid foundation in the Beira D and its gaggle of staff, that’ll keep its viscerally focused horror on your mind long after the credits roll.