Video games are a lot like restaurants. There’s always a risk that what you’ve ordered – despite sounding enticingly delicious – will turn out disappointing due to being either underdone, tasteless or just simply bland. Past Cure is a game that disappointingly embodies this notion and one that could reasonably expect a Gordan Ramsey roasting. Prior to playing the game I was optimistic about its potential thanks to its intriguing premise which was billed as a cinematic psychological thriller/horror combo with a heavy emphasis on narrative. The whole experience plays like a mesh of Quantum Break, Get Even, Silent Hill and John Wick, which if you had told me that before playing I would have said that this game was made for me (the only other thing it would need is to be set in the Victorian era). Sadly, the game fails to execute any of its good ideas and is ultimately weighed down by developer inexperience and overambition in what is nothing more than a generic third-person shooter.
Wakey wakey, Ian
The story of Past Cure focuses on a man named Ian, who having after a series of military experiments conducted on him has lost the previous three years of his memory and now suffers from severe nightmares in which he’s haunted by red-eyed ceramannequins (ceramic looking mannequins). Moreover, after subject to these experiments Ian now has access to supernatural special abilities (such as time manipulation). Determined to know what happened during those three years and to stop the nightmares, Ian sets out to find those responsible and get his revenge with the help of his brother Marcus. It sounds good on paper (albeit about as original as a Nickelback cover band), but unfortunately its clusterfuck delivery ensures that it is anything but coherent, which results in one of the most inane stories I’ve ever witnessed in a game.
The biggest grievance I have with Past Cure’s story is that barely anything is properly explained. Why does Ian have these special abilities? Why does Ian have the murdering skills of John Wick? Who are the majority of the characters that Ian comes into contact with or investigates and what is their purpose? These are just some of the narrative aspects that aren’t developed. Furthermore, much like the game’s script, the voice-acting is equally as lifeless. It’s devoid of any emotion and the voice-actors sound like they had the enthusiasm of kid whose parents had just asked how their day at school was. I understand that budget constraints play their part, but this has got to be some of the most comically bad voice-acting I’ve ever heard.
Looks like someone needs a red-eye filter
Jason, where are you? I mean, what happened to me?
You’ll be tasked with shooting a bunch of the same looking AI models, all with the same low IQ, in a bunch of repetitive and generic looking environments with humdrum weaponry
This isn’t where I parked my car…
Hell in a cell
Past Cure’s gameplay is akin to your bog-standard third-person shooter. During Ian’s six-hour revenge quest (in which the first hour is made up of a repetitive and monotonous tutorial), you’ll be tasked with shooting a bunch of the same looking AI models, all with the same low IQ, in a bunch of repetitive and generic looking environments with humdrum weaponry. In one particular mission you have to shoot your way through a car park, which is nothing but levels of boring shooting galleries made up of the same recycled assets. The gunplay is nothing to write home about with the hit detection in need of some work, as anywhere between 1-3 direct headshots are required to drop an enemy. Using your ability to slow down time spices these sequences up every now and again, and you can engage in melee combat should the odd enemy rush your position, but usually they’ll just stand there waiting for you to unleash the donnybrook finisher that is ripped straight from the aforementioned Quantum Break (to be fair there’s only so many ways you can jump and punch someone). The game’s final sequences are nothing more than a slog, with bullet sponge bosses soaking up lead to pad out the game’s length.
Occasionally you’ll need to solve a puzzle, such as solving a riddle or restoring power to an area, but these offer no real challenge, so much so that even the game’s AI could probably solve them. Ian will need to use his astral projection every now and again to activate a switch that he physically cannot reach or to disable a security camera. It’s not exactly riveting stuff and does little to enhance the experience. Using your abilities will deplete your sanity meter, which does nothing at all once empty, it simply replenishes itself to a certain point over time or you can take a blue pill to replenish it completely.
The best gameplay sequences are Ian’s nightmares, in which Ian must avoid the ceramannequins by stealthing his way past them. Letting these glazed cacodemons catch you results in instant death by either being stomped on the head or a quick little right hook to Ian’s chin (it’s hilarious to watch). While simple by design, they often require a little more tact than just shooting waves of generic cannon fodder.
Aiming for AAA visuals, Past Cure is graphically competent enough in most aspects. The beach view from Ian’s porch is a nice vista that is apt enough to be on a ‘wish you were here’ postcard, and the dilapidated prison/asylum does a good job of setting the scene. The textures are a little rough around the edges and most of the character models are lacklustre. Ian for one looks like Ethan from Heavy Rain but with a constant frown and the main antagonist looks like Australian chef George Calombaris mixed with Cypher from The Matrix.
Performance-wise the game has a few issues, with clipping and framerate drops being the biggest culprits. Its letterbox resolution will annoy a lot of players and it’s also got its fair share of bugs too, notably one that doesn’t play the game’s final cutscene. While this bug didn’t occur during my playthrough, I did have a couple crashes and one glitch that occurred during the final boss fight that failed to activate the fight’s third stage, forcing me to restart.
Wish you were here
Being ambitious is fine if you can succeed at most of what you’re trying to accomplish. But sadly, Past Cure takes all the ingredients for a third-person story-driven shooter it can find and half bakes them all (there’s that food theme again). Its ideas are derivative and not fleshed out enough to enrapture the player and it results in a game that blends into the indistinct haze of third-person shooters available. I will give Phantom 8 some credit though, as the majority of the eight-man dev team have never made a game before, and while Past Cure fails to craft an entertaining experience, there have been far worse games made by developers with many years of experience.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro | Review code supplied by publisher