Phasmophobia Review

The classic Ouija board.

Phasmophobia has come from nowhere to become one of the biggest games streaming on Twitch and sold on Steam. It is always in the top 20 “most watched” and “most played” at any given time on their respective platforms.

Phasmophobia is a four player cooperative ghost hunting horror game developed by Kinetic Games. Ghost hunters use a number of iconic gadgets and gizmos to track down and identify what kind of ghost they are dealing with.

In its early access state, the game is not quite complete, but it is more than playable and has 10 types of spirits, seven maps to play on and 22 pieces of ghost hunting equipment. The randomly-generated nature of the game means that, even if the map is the same, the game won’t necessarily play out the same.

The most impressive aspect of Phasmophobia is the audio engine. The game uses proximity voice chat and voice recognition to make the experience both more immersive and lets players interact with the game in a unique way.

You and your ghost hunting compatriots will sound closer or farther away depending on how far apart you are in the game. If your team splits up, you will need to use a radio to communicate with the other members. It applies a cool radio filter to the voices, which is a nice touch. You could always cheat by using an external voice channel, but what is the fun in that?

The AI-controlled ghost will respond to what you say into your microphone. If the player says, “give me a sign,” the ghost might flip a light switch, or kill your friend in the other room. Players can find a Ouiji board in the maps that they can ask the ghost questions. The ghost will answer the questions that the player voices themselves in real time on the board.

The main point of the game is to determine which of the 10 types of spirits the ghost you are hunting is. While initially interesting, it becomes clear pretty quickly that you just need to find the one room that is cold or has a high EMF reading and spam all of your devices in that room until you find the three pieces of evidence that you need and then leave. The experience becomes formulaic.

Sometimes your friends are scarier than the spirits.

My biggest problem with the game is that it isn’t all that scary. You spend a lot of time, especially on the bigger maps like school and asylum, waiting for something to happen. It can sometimes take upwards of 30 minutes wandering around with zero spooks to speak of. If there were more consistent hauntings outside of the ghost’s preferred room, it would really help the experience come together.

That being said, the game is reportedly more terrifying in virtual reality. VR ups the immersion in a way that would make even minor jumpscares and audio cues even more intense, as you are put in the shoes of your avatar more intimately. I hadn’t heard someone sound as genuinely terrified in real life as I have when my cousin was playing this game in VR. It probably isn’t worth the $300-$1,000 price tag for VR, but if you already have one it is a great addition to your library.

My issues with Phasmophobia will more than likely be addressed throughout the game’s development, but right now I think it is a great concept that is executed competently, but it gets old after a couple of hours. Luckily, the game is only $14 on Steam, so it is still easy to recommend.

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