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SOMA hands-on: Underwater, no one can hear you scream

Hayden Dingman | June 30, 2015
"You realize you're crouched, right?" says the SOMA developer watching me over my shoulder.

SOMA

"You realize you're crouched, right?" says the SOMA developer watching me over my shoulder.

Yes I realize I'm crouched , I want to shout at him as I slowly creep around the abandoned decks of some underwater hellhole. Every burst of static, every metallic moan, I think "This is it. This is where I die." So I stay crouched. I move slowly. I bide my time.

It's a habit born out of three Frictional titles (four, I guess, if you count the one we all pretend doesn't exist). Between Penumbra: Overture, Penumbra: Black Plague, and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Frictional has taught me that the greatest safety lies in the shadows, that silence is golden, that patience is a virtue, and a bunch of other clichés that--in a world infested with monsters--mean you stay alive for one more day.

After all, the monsters under your bed may or may not exist--but if you keep your feet covered, nothing can grab them.

Under the sea

The surprise in SOMA: I'm the monster.

Not literally. I am, as far as I can tell, a human. And I'm sure SOMA's underwater station is infested with all sorts of clankety-clank mean robots and murderers and things that go bump in the airlock.

There was one particular moment that stuck with me in SOMA though. Like Frictional's other games, SOMA is mostly about exploring--hiding from monsters when necessary, but always with the goal of uncovering the next secret, the next messed up bit of exposition to better explain how things got this bad.

The few corridors I explored in SOMA told the tale of "Carl Semken," part of the crew--until he died. Except he didn't die. Not really. Because I met Carl, or at least I met someone/something who thought he was Carl.

There's something weird going on in SOMA. If you've watched any of the game's pre-release trailers you'll have seen bits and pieces of it. People are being turned into (preserved in?) robots. They don't know they're robots though. They think they're human. They tell you they're human. They expect you to recognize them, even when all you're staring at is a bundle of metal limbs and a television screen.

And worst of all, they still feel pain.

Early on in my demo, I came around a corner to find "Carl," a robot lying half-crushed under some machinery. Carl knew he was hurt. He knew he was hurt badly. He asked me to go get him some help. I walked off, only to find Carl's real body, his human body, lying in a corridor.

So...which one is Carl?

 

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