The Suicide of Rachel Foster Review
Reviewed on PCAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is the latest game from One-O-One games. Departing wildly from their previous titles such as Fury Road Survivors and VR Ping Pong Pro, this new game is a first person exploration game where you take on the role of Nicole, who returns to her family hotel after the death of her father. Nicole has not seen her father or the hotel since the eponymous suicide of Rachel Foster, a 16 year old girl whom her father was having an affair with. Trapped at the hotel due to a snowstorm, Nicole stumbles across clues that suggest there may be more to those events than she had thought. Her only companionship is the disembodied voice of Irving, a FEMA agent who calls the house to make sure Nicole is safe during the storm.
If you’re thinking Gone Home or What Remains of Edith Finch then you’d be absolutely right. The “young woman returns to family home and uncovers a mystery” plot seems to be growing into a subgenre in its own right. The Suicide of Rachel Foster stands on its own though, changing up the formula in certain key ways. Even compared to those predecessors the game is slow-paced. The two to three hour length is divided into short days, and reveals come very slowly as you initially deal with the mundane, like finding some food. Whilst this could be seen as a negative, I think it’s a very deliberate choice to heighten the psychological toll of the boredom and isolation, on you as well as Nicole.
It’s also far less linear than those games, and whilst you generally have an objective you are free to wander most of the large hotel virtually from the start. Occasionally it’s not clear what you are meant to be doing; on one particular day you wake up in a strange location without your phone and with no indication of why you are there. However this lack of hand-holding again adds to the overall atmosphere of the game, as you’re never quite sure what’s coming next.
The game looks great, with the hotel beautifully realised and intelligently crafted. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into both its look and feel. The attention to detail is also impressive and every bit of writing, from books to balance sheets to kitchen safety posters, can be zoomed in on and read if you so desire. From the screenshots you’ll see that the game has clearly taken The Shining as an inspiration, both in terms of the setting and the look of the hotel. Just like in the film the isolation can play tricks on you: I’m not certain but at one point I thought I saw a person out of the corner of my eye that disappeared when I looked again. Whilst I don’t know whether I did actually see someone or not, early on in the game it does become apparent that Nicole might not be alone in the hotel.
That atmosphere is a clear highlight. There were moments when I was generally scared just to walk around. The supernatural is kept ambiguous, but plenty of creepy moments stand out. All of this is heightened by a fantastic score, carefully chosen sound effects and excellent voice acting, particularly from Kosha Engler as Nicole. Don’t expect jump scares in the manner of Resident Evil 2 or Until Dawn (other than a few banging doors or windows), this is pure psychological horror, and the game plays with your emotions unmercifully. I genuinely can’t remember ever feeling the same level of apprehensive terror playing any other game.
The mystery at the heart of the hotel is of course an important factor, and this is revealed slowly and deliberately. Whilst the payoff is strong, the actual ending to the game after the reveal is a little anticlimactic. However, that doesn’t make the experience of the game any less fantastic. The slow reveal of the truth is handled excellently, and will keep you guessing until the end. It also deals with the very real issue of mental health and self-harm; a disclaimer at the start warns anyone who might be affected to not play the game and seek help instead. It’s a welcome moment of earnestness from an industry that doesn’t have a great record of dealing with or portraying mental illness.
My one minor criticism of the game is that it doesn’t include a realistic contingency for you missing clues. I found what I thought was my first clue, only for Irving to reference a clue I hadn’t found. The next morning I woke up to a table of clues containing not only the one I’d found and the one he had mentioned, but a third clue I had no idea existed as well. Whilst I appreciate the help with things I’d missed, it does break the immersion a little having clues turn up without explanation.