Close to the Sun (Xbox One) Preview

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 03.10.2019

Review for Close to the Sun on Xbox One

Coming this October, Close to the Sun is promising a unique horror adventure game. Set in a Steampunk world where Nicolas Tesla has gathered the world's best scientists for a huge scientific venture on a huge ship, conceptually this is set up to be a winner. It's the brainchild of developer Storm in a Teacup from Italy, and is published by Wired Productions. Originally the title launched on PC back in May 2019 to a mixed reception of 65% on Metacritic. Here's a dive into the depths with this preview build on Xbox One, to see if that was a fair score.

It is raining. The sea? Stormy. Awaking on a small unmanned boat, a journalist named Rose begins a menacing adventure to find her sister. She has been invited on board the Helios, a scientific endeavour by famous inventor Nicolas Tesla. The ship itself is enormous, and invokes a similar vibe to BioShock's Rapture, but with a less obviously doomed feel. Upon entering the Helios, Rose finds herself in a vast hangar for the auto ships, but there isn't a soul in sight, and it becomes clear very quickly that something strange is actually going on here.

This is the basic premise of Close to the Sun, and like its namesake, it seems like the game will be set around some sort of failed experiment that gets most people involved killed. The atmosphere is dripping from every girder, platform and mezzanine, the grandiose over-decorated nature of the environment brings to mind the greedy nature of Bioshock's Andrew Ryan, complete with announcements and direct dialogue with Mr Tesla, the overseer, during the levels.

Screenshot for Close to the Sun on Xbox One

The world is very detailed using the powerhouse that is Unreal Engine 4. This means each environment is punctuated with vibrant lighting, and accented by Unreal's signature reflectiveness. All materials in are textured distinctively, and the modelling on display is fantastic, it's incredibly easy to become immersed in the mysterious story and world with all of this detailing. As with some of the best horror titles, this puts an emphasis on environmental storytelling from messages scrawled on the walls, to even things like the placement of collectable documents and other objects left by the troubled passengers of the Helios.

This presentation extends to the player character too who, though you only see her face in the artwork, has a fully-fledged character model which really helps ground her in the world, as well as meaning yes, her feet and legs are visible when looking down! All of this is paired with some great sound design with some really bass-y stings and some subtle but well-themed music, as well as some great and natural voice acting that helps push the story along and really helps with the player's ability to empathise with her plight. The only problem during the preview run was that the main character's voice was awfully quiet compared to the radio communication from others, which made it hard to hear her opinions on the situation.

Screenshot for Close to the Sun on Xbox One

The game has 10 chapters each of which takes place in a set area of the Helios with each having its own unique look and layout. During a play-through there were two types of gameplay on show namely, exploring with some light puzzle-solving and chase sequences. All of the game is played in first-person, and you are experiencing the entire story, bar maybe one cut-scene from that perspective. The main gameplay controls are as expected of a first-person adventure from using the left stick to walk and strafe to turning the viewpoint with the right stick. It's possible to vault obstacles and interact with some environmental objects but these are all dictated by strict programming rather than being free actions.

During these environmental exploratory sections, the player is expected to find keys to doors that progress the story while also digging around and finding documents and environmental clues to what happened to the people on the ship and to help Rose meet up with her sister Ada. These keys are often hidden by simple puzzles where the player must crack codes or search the environment for symbols to enter another room, while these puzzles are quite straight forward they were always just complex enough to give a sense of satisfaction when solved.

Screenshot for Close to the Sun on Xbox One

Chase scenes are where the game gets a little messy, without prior notification suddenly things like vaulting have been remapped to the jump button (which is sensible) instead of the normal interaction button, this tripped me up during the first chase scene! These scenes typically funnel the player through a linear path littered with obstacles where if a wrong turn is made the chaser will catch up with little chance to recover. This can be a little hectic or frustrating but as the scenes are typically short, they don't outstay their welcome. It may be the case that these chase scenes become multi-pathed as the game progresses, which would make them much more exhilarating.

During the gameplay, there were a variety of little bugs and camera jitters which could be attributed to the preview build, or even the chance that, as can happen on Xbox occasionally, the console was busy with something in the background causing this to destabilise a little. The result of the bugs was not too intrusive, but hilariously, when leaving a vent in a certain story scene the main characters head did a backflip on her shoulders giving a great view down her neck. It really was cause for a good laugh especially considering how tense the atmosphere can be during normal gameplay. As a final note, the initial three chapters are quite short, even when exploring fully - this isn't a bad point per-say, but it does de-emphasise the gameplay segments.

Screenshot for Close to the Sun on Xbox One

Final Thoughts

Though a little buggy, Close to the Sun is a fantastically… atmosphere-d, stylish first-person horror title. The uniqueness of the world, paired with the great story and acting is a cause for celebration. Some say the gameplay is underwhelming, but it was actually just the right amount of jank to emphase the fact that the character isn't an athlete, and to help build the fear on those chase scenes. The personal stakes of the story really kept the pacing going, and it will be great to see if Rose finally finds her sister, and solves the mystery of what happened on the Helios.


Storm in a Teacup


Wired Productions





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   


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