Past Cure is a third-person psychological thriller game that is developed by Phantom 8 - a new German studio comprised of just eight people. Despite the team’s size, Phantom 8 has been very ambitious from the beginning, with the team aiming to create a game with near-AAA production values. However, this is one of those situations where you shouldn’t have bitten off more than you could chew, as Past Cure is a just a game that had a lot potential but failed to achieve greatness.
Past Cure follows the story of Ian, a former special operations soldier who became victim of experimentation and torture in prison during a mission in Syria. As a result of this, Ian has a three-year gap in his memory and suffers from severe nightmares, but also gained a set of superhuman powers such as time manipulation. With the help of his brother, Ian sets out to find the people who did this to him and make them pay. While it’s an interesting and intriguing premise, i felt a bit disappointed by the overall delivery of the story, as I was left with more questions than answers, something that the game’s somewhat ambiguous ending didn’t help.
Split into seven chapters, Past Cure offers a lot of variety in terms of gameplay. Due to Ian’s fractured and fragile state of mind, you will have chapters that take place in the real world and chapters where you are inside Ian’s terrifying nightmares. The sections in the real world offer a mix of stealth and gunplay gameplay, while the nightmares section is all about horror and puzzle solving. While none of these sections are particularly brilliant, the variety and gameplay genre change between chapters helps the pace of the game and keeps things fresh through this 5 to 7 hours experience, if you appreciate both genres at least.
During the game’s action sequences, Ian’s powers are crucial to survival. Using Ian’s astral projection ability (his spirit leaves the body), you are able to check enemy positions, interact with objects, and disable security cameras, something that becomes very useful to plan your strategy in case you want to deal with the enemies with stealth. Not every section can be completed with just stealth, and in these situations, Ian’s time manipulation is without a doubt your best friend to survive the gunfights. By slowing down time, you can easily headshot everybody in the room, and change position without risk of getting shot to death.
While these gameplay mechanics are interesting, the experience is somewhat ruined by sluggish and unresponsive melee controls, the absence of a decent cover system, among other issues. Ian’s powers are tied to a sanity meter which depletes everytime you use them. However, there’s no real consequence to abusing his powers, as all that you get for depleting the sanity meter is a blurry screen for a second before the meter partially fills itself back up, making this a mechanic you can exploit over and over. There were also a few occasions where I started certain sections with so few bullets that it became mandatory to headshot everyone while not wasting bullets in order to survive the gunfight. The checkpoint system in also very unforgiving, with very few checkpoints and far between each other, something that becomes frustrating when added to the game’s other issues.
During the nightmares sections you will often have to solve puzzles while porcelain men are trying to hunt you down. In most sequences you have your gun with you, which makes these porcelain beings hardly any threat. However, there’s one nightmare later in the game that takes place in a dark prison, making this part an horror sequence that could have been easily taken out of a Silent Hill game. To make things more intense, you don’t you have gun this time around, leaving you with no choice but sneak past the porcelain men unnoticed, and it’s another section where Ian’s powers come really in handy. Overall, I found this to be the best part of Past Cure, not because it’s particularly brilliant, but because it excels in comparison to the rest.
For a game that was made by just eight people, I must say that visually Past Cure is impressive, although it’s not something on the same level as several AAA titles on market. The environments look polished, although they are also bland and empty, with the exception of the horror section. Although I praise the visuals, several other aspects definitely needed some work, such as animations, character models, and framerate issues. While the soundtrack does a passable job, the voice acting is one of the worst I have heard in years. The way the voice actors deliver their lines shows a complete lack of interested and emotion in delivering their lines, so much that even I could probably deliver a large majority of these lines better, and English is not even my native language.
Past Cure is a game that had a lot of potential, but with a limited budget and an inexperienced team, it ultimately crumbles under all its ambition and ideas. While there are some interesting gameplay mechanics and lots of variety, these are accompanied by several gameplay issues and lack in polish in several areas. Even if Past Cure isn’t a great game, I have to praise Phantom 8 for the valiant effort and ambition, which leaves me intrigued and somewhat excited to know whatever the studio is working on next.Past Cure was reviewed using a PS4 Digital Copy provided by Phantom 8 Studio. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Interesting gameplay mechanics.|
|Gameplay variety helps the pace of the game.|
|Horror sequence is decent and intense.|
|Story drops the ball the more you progress.|
|Clunky, unresponsive controls.|
|Terrible voice acting.|