I have always been such a sucker for a good old horror game over the years, and Kholat has most certainly revived my love for the genre, however it still has its issues. Kholat was developed and published by IMGN.PRO, with the first release made back in June 2015 for the PC and Mac. After my first initial look at this title, I was particularly stunned to discover the plot for Kholat, as this storytelling horror title does not only creep you the hell out, but it also tells a story. A true story in fact, which is inspired by the “Dyatlov Pass Incident”. A story of 9 students in Russia who never made it back home, after attempting to climb through the northern Ural Mountains of Kholat Syakhl. Each of them were discovered over the time span of four months, with unexplainable injuries, which makes this story even more poignant. You will go on a journey to discover the harrowing truth about what really happened back in 1959.
Kholat is narrated by one of my favourite actors, Sean Bean, who is best known for his part in Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. His gruff, well spoken accent really does compliment the atmosphere which was created for this title. During your journey with Kholat, you will hear Sean Bean narrating the key segments for the game throughout as you explore the immense, beautiful landscapes that surround you. However, the narration applied to Kholat puzzled me at some stages of the game, as Sean will talk complete gibberish and sadly, it did throw me off slightly. Nonetheless, it is still one of my favourite characteristics of this game, as you can really immerse yourself into the gameplay and the fascinating plot.
As Kholat begins, you will be hurled into the immersive, landscape of the Russian wilderness, with only a compass, torch and a map to accompany you along the way. I was particularly surprised to discover the lack of interaction with the character when I began my journey with Kholat, nevertheless this did not restrict me from immersing myself in the gameplay. You have the capability to travel and run around the landscape consuming the non-linear type gameplay. Despite the freedom, you can’t shake the feeling of becoming extremely dazed and disoriented throughout, which was a big problem I was confronted with during the first few hours playing Kholat.
You will need to utilize your tools to discover misplaced notes around the map. Each of these notes will add a missing puzzle piece to the story, along with a new entry into your log book, which you will carry around with you throughout your journey. A big set back in terms of navigation has to be the map functionality in Kholat. Yes, you will experience the sensation of complete isolation in an uninhibited wilderness which does have it’s perks in terms of atmospheric purposes, however it does become frustrating. With the lack of waypoints to set you in the right direction, you will need to rely on each campsite you find around the map, as once you uncover them you will have the facility to fast travel whenever you please.
Yes, you will probably die while playing Kholat which is something I did not expect to occur so soon in the game. You will confront a bizarre anomaly enclosed by an orange glow, which will emerge from time to time. Despite this not being the creepiest thing I have ever seen in a horror title, the atmosphere certainly played its part here. The uncertainty of this creature will be the one thing that really gets to you, with it’s obscurity and the absence of bodily features.
Undoubtedly, the visual components of Kholat really are special, and is definitely one of it’s biggest strengths overall. With such a striking visual design and gorgeous aesthetic qualities, you really can appreciate the power of the Unreal Engine 4, despite a few frame rate issues. As well as visual design, the audio applied to Kholat really does tribute to the atmosphere that Kholat embraces, and it certainly made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up from time to time. From harsh winds to the sound of the snow crunching beneath your feet, you can really feel yourself becoming submerged in this world, which is rare to experience these days. If you really want to have a full understanding of the effects that have been applied to this title, then I definitely recommend wearing a headset during your time playing Kholat. I particularly remember having to remove my headphones at one point due to the sheer anxiety I experienced, which is something I have not encountered in a long time. However, this is not something to critique. It really made me appreciate the ingenious spectrum of concepts that the Polish developers behind Kholat held. It is truly something to admire.
It might not be as disturbing or interactive as I expected, but Kholat really does deliver something special in terms of visual and sound design. Despite it’s imperfections it definitely deserves credit and I really did enjoy my experience with this title.
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