• SOMA Available Sept. 22 for PC. $29.99
• Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Available Sept. 1 for multiple platforms. $59.99

 
There are a few things I consider terrifying, and one of them is the vast ocean. I mean, what’s in that thing, huh? Has anyone ever actually been?

Below the waves and the briny darkness is where SOMA takes place. In this sci-fi horror romp through my own personal hell, your very identity comes into question as unknown horrors prod you through tunnels like a herd of sea cows.

From Frictional Games (creators of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, another cerebral trip through your worst fears) SOMA puts reality into your hands. You’re in an underwater base that has suffered some form of critical fault; it’s up to you to find out what happened and, well, how to fix it.

These are my favorite type of puzzlers. Anytime there are real consequences to being a bit slow on the uptake means that you are forced to think harder and work that brain. The goal of SOMA isn’t to battle the unholy entities at the bottom of the ocean — including freaky humans, robots gone mad, etc. — but rather to outsmart them.

In the hours’ worth of gameplay offered up in recent weeks, there are many options for how to face enemies, if at all. A game that comes to mind is Myst (though you’d be hard-pressed to find abominations to run from), in that many of the puzzles require a bit of trial and error.

The goal, of course, is to escape, but what if the prison . . .  is your own mind? It’d be best if you explored the world of SOMA yourself and came to your own conclusions.

If you’re looking for the big blockbuster hit of the year, and quite possibly of the decade, look no further than next Tuesday’s release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the latest in a series of highly popular espionage and stealth action thrillers more akin to movies than your standard video game fare.

In The Phantom Pain, the series takes a turn and goes open-world, putting you as the series’ sometime hero, sometime antagonist Big Boss to call in air strikes, crack necks and ride horseback in the Afghan countryside.

The year is 1984 and Big Boss is out for revenge after waking from a nine-year coma. Where The Phantom Pain succeeds — and judging by early reviews, it succeeds in a big way — is in its ability to give the player a unique experience. While previous installments were somewhat linear, this edition gives the player many options.

What do you feel like doing first? It depends on your mood, the time of day, your supplies and the amount of hell you wish to rain upon your enemies.

This may be series’ creator Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear title, and if it is, he’ll go out on a high note. A really high note. Grab The Phantom Pain immediately.


Gamer’s Notebook is a biweekly column about gaming of all kinds. Chris O’Neal is looking forward to the world of next-generation gaming. Follow him on Instagram @agentoneal.