Subject 13 Review
Nothing quite captivates our imaginations like fear: fear of the dark, things that crawl, things that maul, and not knowing what will happen next. Video games and movies have a love for taking these fears and turning the dial on the spookiness as high as it will go, throwing all kinds of fun horrors our way. It’s good for a quick shock, something that will clearly linger in the back of our minds, but I find what is most effective is not the gory ultra-violence, but instead the deadly quiet, silent realism. Something that could plausibly happen to anyone is much more terrifying than a portal to another dimension unleashing an army of hell-spawns because, in that, we can distance ourselves. But what about those times when our protagonist really is the every man? Someone thrown into an extreme yet plausible situation and each little thread of tension has been pulled just a little too tight? That is where Subject 13 comes in.
While not necessarily a horror title, Subject 13 puts us in a world and situation that seems hauntingly familiar, one where it is easy to expect the absolute worst to happen at any moment. We are introduced to the title character “Subject 13” who awakens in a small capsule, a voice speaking to him through the radio. Subject 13 – who identifies himself as Franklin Fargo – was a physics professor miserable with his life, his last memory being an attempt to end it. An unknown voice reassures Franklin that his name no longer matters, and he is now simply Subject 13.
“Everyone else has died and Franklin’s only hope is to get out of the facility and into the open world.”
The task set before Franklin also fits into a typical horror trope: Escape. Franklin is informed by the nameless voice that he is being held in a high-security research facility on a remote island. Everyone else has died and Franklin’s only hope is to get out of the facility and into the open world. Armed only with sharp wits and a keen eye, players are tasked with solving puzzle after puzzle to progress from area to area and make their way to freedom. While this may not sound like a particularly new approach, it is executed very well. Areas in which Franklin can interact will be zoomed in for a closer look and can be moved around as a 3D model to inspect all angles of the surrounding spot. This is a rather crucial feature as the game is littered with recordings from the previous scientists hidden about the area. There are also puzzles to solve and hidden keys among other things, making it necessary to comb every inch of your surroundings.
Some items will be collected for later use and can also be viewed up close, a few notable parts needing to be manipulated in this mode before they will function properly later on. There is a sense of horror to Subject 13, a sense that the unknown has happened and you are the only person alive on the island – or so we are told – and it’s that impending fear that something COULD happen which perpetually sits in the back of your mind. Finding the barracks of former soldiers disheveled and dirty, broken mirrors, poorly locked closets big enough to hide in… It all adds to the mystery and underlying fear this game toys with subtly.
“Having to manipulate objects by rotating the joysticks can be frustrating as it doesn’t move in relation to how you use the stick.”
Subject 13 does, however, have a few areas in which it sorely lacks. The camera remains stationary in the room much like early Resident Evil titles and it’s probably one of the best choices for this game because the controls can feel a bit complex and definitely unresponsive at times. Having to manipulate objects by rotating the joysticks can be frustrating as it doesn’t move in relation to how you use the stick. While hints will be offered sometimes when the game decides you may be stuck, it isn’t always enough to help you through a tough spot and actually moving Franklin himself can be frustrating. Even at a jog, Franklin is slow and he turns like a cement truck. Some paths are narrow and with objects obscuring your field of vision, getting Franklin up and down steps or through a walkway can be much more of a hassle than it needs to be.
While Subject 13 is an interesting indie title to jump into, the finicky controls and lack of guidance can make this a game best suited for those with a lot of patience. Puzzles can seem logical but may be missing the simplest thing to actually solve and it’s easy to spend much more time than should be necessary to solve a part of the puzzle (I’m looking at you “Book of 100”). For gamers who love that satisfying sense of accomplishment when completing challenges of the mind, this would be a good title to pick up but for someone who wants a game to jump into from time to time this is going to get frustrating quickly.
***A PS4 code was provided by the publisher***
- Story arc
- Puzzle system
- Graphical detail
- Unresponsive control
- Lack of guidance