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Who You Gonna Call?

EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access

Who You Gonna Call?

I donít know about you, but I for one definitely believe in ghosts. Stemming from an incident in my high school years where my friends and I saw an apparition that to this day defies the laws of the world as we know it, it was that moment I became truly convinced that for one reason or another some spirits linger after their death and they manifest in ways that range from mildly unsettling to truly terrifying. Over time weíve also seen the rise of Ďghost huntingí shows that range from performative schlock to sincere efforts at proving the existence of these spirits to the general public. Whether you believe in ghosts yourselves or not, you have to admit itíd make a great game right? Over the years itís been dabbled in off and on. It could be argued that the Fatal Frame series was one of the first ghost hunting games, but with a focus more on a general Japanese horror experience it didnít quite hit the other buttons outside of fear. Weíve been left waiting for a true ghost hunting game for a very long time, and this year Kinetic Games answered the call with Phasmophobia.

The Fantastic Phasmophobia

Phasmophobia is a 4 player co-op horror title that allows players to experience it either from a normal first person point of view, or in an immersive VR atmosphere. As part of a team of professional (I use that word loosely here) ghost hunters, youíll travel to random spots across the United States that range from suburban households, to countryside cabins, to abandoned structures like asylums, schools, and even a prison - with more to come. Itís up to you and three others to determine what type of spirit youíre dealing with in these locations by using different methods in a process of elimination to narrow it down based on three clues.

Maybe youíre looking for a ghost to write in a book, or speak to you from beyond through the static filled radio waves of a spirit box. Perhaps the ghost is known to touch doors and windows as it desperately claws out from beyond the grave to impact the world of the living, and you need to find fingerprints? Thereís a lot of tools at your disposal to isolate areas of ghost activity, as well as figure out the danger level of what youíre dealing with. Perhaps youíll find a ghost that is rarely a threat, or youíll have the horrible luck of encountering a demon eager to make an example of those who would dare tread in their stomping grounds.

Itís this gameplay and co-op atmosphere that offers up moments of hilarity as well as absolute fear. There arenít many co-op experiences where the fear remains intact, but itís here in Phasmophobia. A huge asset to that aspect is the fact that the game detects your voice in-game. You can try to communicate with the ghost, and the AI will respond in different ways to your voice. It will respond even more to fear and obvious aggression. A prime example was when I was trying to get a ghost to react to us in any way at all, it had been stubborn after initial contact and was cited as only responding to people who are alone. Minutes ticked by, and in my frustration I called out to the ghost to ďJust ****ing show yourself already!Ē and no sooner than I said that, my EMF reader was maxed out at a signal of 5, the bedroom door slammed, and a shadowy apparition appeared right in front of me before making an unworldly sound that had me scream like a girl. Just when you think youíve figured the game out, it always has a way to throw curveballs at you which keeps the experience fresh no matter how many times you visit the same locations.

Early Access In Status Alone

Whatís amazing to me is that Phasmophobia is currently only an early access title. What Iíve experienced already is easily a 9.0 in terms of quality and fun, and yet Kinetic Games is only just getting started. What started out as a small game exploded overnight as one of the most popular games on steam, and its clear to see why. Thereís a demand for this type of game, and with this level of quality Phasmophobia is a standout and a trendsetter even despite itís early access status. Itís a must buy, plain and simple, and easily one of the best games Iíve played in 2020.

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There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.

Hooked Gamer's Steam Early Access forecasts are intended to help you differentiate between Early Access games that have the potential to blossom and those more likely to fail. We look at the team's ambitions, their track record, and the state of the latest build to predict if opening your wallet will help fund a potentially great game, or is better used to light other fires.