Under The Waves

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Under The Waves (Xbox Series X) – Review

The development team, Parallel Studios, and Publisher, Quantic Dream, have brought us this narrative-driven adventure game about how grief can engulf your life. Set in the depths of the North Sea during the 1970s, you are a professional diver by the name of Stan, living with the grief of some previous devastation in your life, and the deeper you go into the sea the more you’re alone. 

Whilst swimming around near the home base, maintaining all the oil pipes, and collecting junk on the bottom of the ocean, I could not help but feel there was something going to jump out and attack, but I’m still waiting. Swimming around maintaining the area was nice and peaceful, but it would have been nice to have something a little extra added.

Collecting the junk on the ocean floor was somewhat fulfilling, as you knew you could go back to base and craft some more oxygen canisters for your next adventure, and trust me, you will need lots of oxygen and fuel for the submarine. The game had some incredible bugs that made it hard to get immersed into being a diver, like the mini-map marking something and not being anywhere near where it needed to be.

It was also surprising to see you could swim right next to a shark and it would float past like you didn’t exist. Like, I wanted some JAWS action, but I wasn’t getting it. There seems to be no combat and it’s purely a story-based adventure, but even then, it’s kind of lackluster in the story department. 

The controls felt like there could have been some more work put into them. Being a game that is primarily underwater, the movements felt a little too quick. When you were turning or moving up and down, the movements didn’t feel as restricted as you might expect to see underwater. The most annoying thing was that the UI kept turning off automatically, meaning you had to hit down on the D-PAD to enable it again. It would have been nice to have been given the option to make it permanent.

While walking around in your home base, the movement also felt a little choppy, which in today’s gaming market, developers need to make sure everything like this is fluid and realistic, otherwise, players will lose interest. In stark contrast to swimming and walking, the submarine moved beautifully, and it was the one thing that felt like it had been properly crafted.

There was some absolutely beautiful acoustic music when you jumped straight into the main menu, and this continued to play during the game, but it was a little overpowering when it played over the voice acting. This felt like an oversight as the voice acting was top-notch. To fix this, I ended up turning the music down in the settings, and it made for a much better experience because it lets you hear and feel the character’s emotions.

This was also let down by a lack of other sound effects – I would have loved to hear some extra sounds instead of just the ocean, like breathing with the oxygen tank, or maybe a whale making a sound like Dory did in Finding Nemo.

I was surprised by what the developers did with the graphics with this title. It kind of reminded me of a Telltale Series game character model with the environmental aspects using a more cartoon-like cell-shaded design. I’m all for more of this style, and at the end of the day, graphics don’t make games, but a little like the sounds, being a primarily underwater game, you would expect there to be a decent variety of ocean life and plants on the ocean floor or on the rocks you swim around.

Unfortunately, this was not the case, and the ocean looked a little like Grand Theft Auto Five’s oceans, and that was released ten years ago. What little ocean life there was didn’t seem to be textured much either. While swimming around, most of the turtles and fish during missions seemed untextured and barely moved. They just kind of floated in the water. There were a few animals incorporated into the story, and you could interact with these ones. These had a lot more detail and felt more alive, but it wasn’t very often this would happen.

The idea behind the game is absolutely fantastic, and I would love to see some updates to make the experience more immersive and add some more realistic sea life that could potentially hurt you if you get too close. Apart from the couple of crashes I had, the game was not bad. If you enjoyed swimming around and exploring the waters in GTAV, you’ll probably love this, but it was otherwise a little disappointing.

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The Good

  • Submarine controls felt right
  • Music is calming
  • The voice acting was powerfully delivered

The Bad

  • Character movements felt wrong
  • The sea life felt tacked on and unfinished
  • The story felt lacking

Written by: Hayden Nelson


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