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The Chant (PS5) Review

I was kindly provided with a review copy for The Chant the day before release, a game that I’ve seen advertised a few times yet purposely stayed clear of any information so I could go into it blind. Without giving too much away at this point of the review, I was hooked and couldn’t stop playing until I’d reached the end credits – literally playing non-stop throughout the night for around seven hours straight. However, although I completed it in a single playthrough, that doesn’t mean my time with The Chant is complete – not if I’m aiming to grab the shiny Platinum Trophy.

The Chant is the first original IP from studio Brass Token, a team led by industry veterans who were core members for titles such as Bully and Sleeping Dogs. The game has been in development since 2017, yet the team has opted to skip last-gen systems and create a truly terrifying experience for current-gen consoles and PC only. I’m happy that developers and publishers are starting to move on from the PS4 and Xbox One era, it’s been two years and it’s time to start pushing the new systems rather than trying to accommodate the older ones with the same vision.

As stated above, I completed the game in just under seven hours in my first blind pre-release playthrough. I didn’t look at the trophies beforehand, so I missed some collectables and secrets, but that doesn’t matter thanks to the multiple-playthrough requirement. But, let’s not get ahead of myself – I’ll get into this in more detail later on…

The Chant 1

Such a beautiful retreat, surely nothing’s going to happen…

The protagonist is Jess who, after the tragic death of her sister, remained haunted by guilt and regret surrounding the events of that day. Although she’s having trouble moving on, Kim (her best friend that was also present when she died) has managed to do so by becoming part of a community on a remote island. As such, she’s been asking Jess to join her to relax, become enlightened, and release her inner demons. Despite not being willing at first, she finally gives in and heads for this supposed ‘paradise island’, hoping she’ll be able to clear her mind away from the busy city. However, maybe she should have just stayed at home…

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Upon arriving, Jess is introduced to the other inhabitants of the island, a small team of troubled individuals that have been selectively invited by Tyler, their Prismic Science leader. After changing into her gifted white clothing (not the best thing considering how bloody things are going to get), everyone sits down, dons a coloured crystal, and proceeds to perform ‘The Chant‘. Although nobody but Jess wants to admit it, this is clearly a cult that is worshipping and performing rituals in support of this ‘Prismic Science’.

Rather than granting spiritual enlightenment to our small group of ‘non-cultists’, charging their crystals and tuning them to the energy they give off, something goes wrong and Hell is unleashed upon the island – well, The Gloom (not to be confused with the timid Gloom from Pokemon) appears. The island is now segregated by coloured mists that feed off negative energy, concealing unfriendly and gruesome creatures that would love a nibble of Jess’ flesh. It’s up to you, a non-trained or combat-ready civilian, to investigate the island, fend off ghastly monsters, and discover a way to restore peace to the once tranquil and definitely-not-a-cult retreat.

The Chant 2

Just what are these human-like animal skull-wearing creatures?!

Gameplay
The Chant is a Single-Player, Third-Person Horror Action-Adventure game – not to mention it contains many puzzles, a brilliant narrative, and even a survival aspect thanks to the ever-annoying limited-use weaponry. In most occasions, you can opt to stay and fight the satanic beings that want to devour your succulent soul, or you can give them the slip and run like Forrest Gump. However, once you make eye contact with one of the big, bold, and beautiful badass bosses, there’s nowhere to hide so you better be prepared for some fun back-and-forth combat between a person trying to survive and a blood-thirst demon.

When you’re not face-to-face with a ghost constructed of flies, a giant man-eating toad, or a demonic human wearing the skull of a fallen animal, you’re most likely either getting lost and/or trying to solve a puzzle. Let’s talk about the puzzles first – I loved them so much. They’re not your usual adventure game puzzles, they’re all environmental-based and none of them were tricky to complete. Whether you’re looking for various shapes to combine into a big key, harvesting the right plants to construct weed killer, or shooting lights into mirrors and then adjusting them to light up other mirrors whilst fending off enemies, there’s never a dull moment in The Chant.

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Now, I’m not ashamed to say this but I got lost on more than one occasion whilst playing The Chant (just like I did in Someday You’ll Return). Sure, there are signposts all over the place that point you towards the key landmarks and regions, and there’s even a (slightly) confusing fast travel system later into the game, but I still found myself unable to find the massive dome your colleagues are taking refuge within. Due to keeping things fairly realistic with no hand-holding, there are no in-game virtual markers, pointers, or guides, so you have to remember where you’ve been and have an okay sense of direction. 

The Chant 3

The best thing to do is simply stare at them so they feel intimidated…

Combat
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room first – Jess isn’t a fighter, she’s not secretly Batgirl, she doesn’t attend self-defence lessons in her hometown (I assume), and she wasn’t raised by Japanese Ninja Masters from childhood. As such, combat is a little clunky due to the fact she’s trying to survive and not unleashing her inner warrior that’s waiting to open up a can of whoop-ass. I personally liked this as it makes you feel like you’re playing a normal person that’s scared for their life, waving your makeshift weapons around and hoping for the best!

Armed with a crafted weapon, such as a burning stick or magical witch stick (shorter and regenerates ‘MP’ when you hit things), you can deliver a normal or heavy swipe by tapping or pulling the Right Trigger all the way down (resistance in the Adaptive Triggers is used). Once you’ve obtained various coloured crystals, you unlock access to six magical abilities such as Force-Pushing enemies, commanding spikes to thurst up all around you, and summoning a bunch of flying creatures to attack those you don’t like, to name a few. There are also a few throwable items you can craft to stun, burn, and irritate anyone in your way.

If you’re a lover and not a fighter, there are a few defensive functions as well. With a tap of the button, you can perform the most powerful move within both this game and the almighty Worms, you can give the enemies a gentle shove. Annoyingly, Jess doesn’t carry a knife, mop, or frying pan, so if you don’t harvest every twig and bush you see then you’ll end up like me – stuck in a fight with no weapons and only the ability to push the enemies out of the way that I could run in the other direction. You can also roll dodge, which is hilarious due to Jess constantly falling over if you roll backwards or at odd angles – again, she’s a civilian, not a trained superhero.

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The Chant 4

Meditation will cleanse your mind, but not your clothes!

Damn, my weapon broke!
I hate weapons that have a durability meter and/or a set number of uses before the protagonist decides they don’t wish to use it anymore and they throw it to the ground – even if they’re mid-battle with an unholy spawn of Satan! The Chant doesn’t get a free pass here – as touched on above, there’s nothing more terrifying than having no weapon and being unable to find any resources when you have to move to a new area that’s probably populated with ghouls!

Thankfully this didn’t happen too often as you always knew when a fight was about to begin thanks to the plants and sticks positioned against walls and rocks. But, The Chant is very stingy with resource management in the beginning, only allowing you to carry a small number of each crafting material and crafted item, with every weapon requiring two different materials to make. I was playing the game on easy mode, as Horror games always tend to frustrate or trigger my anxiety when I’m playing them, so I can’t imagine how tricky it’ll be on hard mode – I guess I’ll be running away most of the time!

Bad for your Mental Health
Aside from the worry of breaking your flaming branch (which nicely sets enemies on fire, including leaving flames within the Giant Frog’s mouth), you also have to look out for your Mind/Sanity. As you venture through the foggy Gloom patches, once you have the correct crystal, your Mind will start to drop until you become insane and can no longer attack until you escape to safety and meditate. So, that’s your weapon durability, Mind, and also your health you need to be aware of at all times – these can all be replenished with items you pick up, restoration crystals, and via the aforementioned meditation.

Meditating is fun, holding Cross whilst not in battle or in the Gloom forces Jess to enter a state of pure bliss, humming away as her Mind increases. However, this comes at the expense of your crystal power (MP), so you have to weigh up if your sanity means more than the ability to use your magical abilities. Health can only be recovered with Ginger, and you can only carry a few at a time. I died twice in my playthrough due to not having any Ginger to rub on my open wound – in this world, knobs of Ginger are rare.

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The Chant 5

I’m so impressed by this, just look at it!

I have the power!
Despite being a regular common peasant, Jess has access to a Skill Tree. As you explore the dark and atmospheric island, you’ll frequently come across jars of Prismic Crystals that are essentially Skill Points. The Skill Points can be spent on improving Jess’ defence or attack, increasing how many of certain items she can hold, and even adding different outcomes when you perform perfect rolls and pushes – such as automatically stunning the enemy. 

Once Upon a Time
There are multiple things to keep your eyes out for as you wander the creepy and secluded spooky resort. The founder has left behind various film reels which you can pick up and play at one of the dozen or so projectors on the island. I love this projector, it’s my second favourite behind the ones you find in Control Why? If you stand in front of the projected video, not only do you cast a shadow but you also have the video realistically appear on your body. I know most people won’t care, but that’s a brilliant visual effect that fully immerses you in the game.

But, why are Control‘s projectors still the best? Well, those do the same as the above but you can also pick them up and throw them around, watching as the video is projected onto any surface the light hits. Jess doesn’t feel the need to throw them around in The Chant, sadly.

The other main collectables are notes, these give you a deeper insight into each character and why they’re here/what happened in their past. Again, like Control, these are optional to find and read but I’d recommend you search for them as it offers context and background into each character and the events that are unfolding. In my first blind playthrough (no guides), I only missed one note! There are also bestiaries in each location that describes the monsters that lurk there. 

The Chant 6

Friend? Foe? Resident Evil Zombie?

Know your enemy
I absolutely love the enemies in The Chant, they’re creepy, twisted, and disturbing, and there’s a decent variety of them throughout the game. Each region seems to introduce a new variant or type of foe for you to face, with the above bestiaries giving you hints on what weapons to use and how they’ll try and attack you. I personally loved the giant frogs/toads in the mines, hitting them with a flame weapon causes their entire mouths to set alight, with the glow seeping through their eyes as they suffer from a bad case of heartburn.

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As you get deeper into the Gloom-infected island, enemies become tougher and sneakier. Jess is apparently scared of flies (I’m not sure if that’s explained), so obviously there’s a human-like being stalking her which is made out of hundreds of flies. Attacking it with a weapon will only temporarily stun the swarm, so you can’t dilly-dally and ponder around for too long. You’ll also need to dodge, tumble, and shove the enemies as further into the game they’ll begin to gang up on you, trying to get a nibble in from all sides!

So, if I liked the common beasts, what about the bosses – yes, I thought they were all well-designed, made you think about how you were going to approach them, and looked fantastic (especially the final one!). You couldn’t just run in with a hack-and-slash mentality, sometimes you had to use the environments to your advantage or wait for an opening before slapping them about. 

The Chant 7

Can you find all of the helpful and insightful notes?

PS5 features
The Chant embraces the PlayStation 5, making use of unique features you won’t find anywhere else. First up, some of the collectable trophies come complete with trophy tracking so you can see how many you’ve got left to find. However, they’ve decided to list them as a percentage, so although there’s a trophy for destroying 15 of a certain enemy, the tracker shows it as being out of 100. Also, there’s sadly no PS Plus help or breakdown on what items you’ve actually collected and where – A Plague Tale: Requiem is the polar opposite as the tracking and help system used there (and in The Last of Us Part One) is more detailed. But, I still appreciate that the developer has used the feature.

As I mentioned before, Adaptive Triggers are supported, with Jess performing a standard attack if you just tap R2, yet she’ll give the enemies a good wallop if you pull the trigger down below the resisted halfway point. The Chant also uses something many other games don’t bother with – the lightbar. It’s not on all the time, but I recall it changing to the colour of the Gloom which you’re making your way through at the time. Another small attention to detail.

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Finally, there are activity cards, or there would have been if PlayStation hadn’t annoying decided to combine them all together and place them as a ‘continue’ button instead. Sadly, The Chant has the same ‘issue’ that every other game also has (bar a few) – the developers have kept the developer and publisher logos, even when performing ‘resume activity. This is annoying because the game takes about 25-30 seconds to boot up and automatically load your save, yet that would be around 6-9 seconds had there been no title cards. I know developers and publishers want people to see their logos, but we saw them the first time the game was started, resuming should bypass them.

The Chant 8

The only good shots I got were during cutscenes!

Trophy Hunting
I’ve gone off trying to grab the platinum in most games these days – I’ve recently done it in Gotham Knights but that’s because I was having a lot of fun. As such, I play the game initially without looking and then go and take a look once the credits are finished. It appears you need to potentially play The Chant three times for the platinum due to choices you make in dialogues that mould what your personality is – subsequently giving you a different ending as well. There’s also a trophy for completing the game on the hardest difficulty – that’ll be fun!

There are a lot of missable trophies as well, as you can’t always return to every place once you’ve completed it. Also, there’s no New Game+ mode, so I’m not sure if you have to collect everything in one playthrough. For example, I missed one note, but I may have to collect all of them in the next run, rather than just finding the one I missed. Sadly, the game’s also missing a chapter select option. Although this encourages you to play the game multiple times, it could be frustrating if you’ve missed something and then realise you can’t go back or you made the wrong dialogue choice.

However, considering there’s a speedrun trophy for completing the game in under four hours, I imagine it doesn’t take long to quickly run through the game again if you need to.

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Smile for the camera
On the topic of missing features, I was greatly saddened by the fact that there’s no photo mode in The Chant! I took 261 photos throughout my playthrough and only a handful have come out non-blurry. This isn’t an issue with the game, it’s down to the PS5 not taking instant screenshots, the ‘shutter speed’ is a bit slow for action shots, but an in-game photo mode would have rectified that. In comparison, I took 687 pictures whilst playing Gotham Knight, the majority via the photo mode so the action was still and perfect for snapping!

If the developers read this – please consider adding a photo mode before I do my second and third playthroughs.

The Chant 9

This. Is. Not. A. Cult…

Technical
The Chant runs like a dream on the PlayStation 5. I didn’t notice any dips below 60fps despite how much action or particle effects (the Gloom smog) were floating around. I have a VRR-enabled display so I had VRR forced (as the game doesn’t support VRR or 120FPS), but I’ve heard that others with non-VRR TVs also didn’t encounter any technical issues. This begs the question – is there enough headroom for the developers to actually enable VRR and unlock the framerate like we’re seeing in a lot of Sony First-Party titles at the moment? 

Visually, The Chant is freaking gorgeous, in a creepy and disturbing way – this is why I’m begging for a photo mode. When the cutscenes get up close to the bloody infected and possessed faces, it looks very realistic and cinematic, it then seamlessly transitions to real-time without any loading times or obvious cuts. In regards to loading, I believe I saw 3 or 4 loading screens throughout my entire playthrough, each lasting a few seconds at most. You can clearly tell that the game has been optimised for current-gen systems, taking advantage of almost every feature available (no VRR, 120fps or Ray Tracing).

In terms of the audio – the voice acting was great, everyone played their part perfectly and nobody felt out of place or wrongly cast. Also, we can’t ignore the immersive and atmospheric soundtrack, it fit the situations perfectly and added an extra layer of fear, dread, and suspense to the gameplay. The only downside is that it doesn’t appear to be available to buy on PSN, yet you can buy it on Steam. Actually, it appears none of the DLCs on Steam are on PSN or Xbox’s store yet, despite supposedly giving you some of them if you had pre-ordered the game (I’ll send the PR an email about this).

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Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion
The Chant is a very atmospheric horror game that has a perfect balance of combat, exploration, puzzles, and frights. It’s refreshing to play a character that acts like a real person, not someone trained in martial arts or a closet bad-ass just waiting to beat the crap out of anything that moves – instead, she waves the weapons around, falls over when rolling, and reacts the way I would; she runs away! There were a few good jumpscares, the combat was heavy and satisfying, and the narrative had me hooked from beginning to end, I seriously can’t recommend the game enough. The only thing which would make it better is a robust photo mode and a NG+ mode.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

The Chant (PS5) Review

£34.99
9.4

Final Score

9.4/10

The Good:

  • Very atmospheric with decent jumpscares and a constant fear of terror
  • It's nice that you're playing as an ordinary person and not someone trained to kill
  • The story is very interesting and makes you want to seek out all of the notes and film reels
  • In terms of performance, The Chant runs like a dream (or Nightmare), it's very smooth with no issues at all
  • The music, voice acting, and visuals are all AAA standard, despite being a much smaller team

The Bad:

  • There no photo mode! In a game that looks as good as this, there needs to be a photo mode
  • There's also no New Game+ mode or Chapter Select, so if you miss anything you can easily go back without replaying the whole game
  • This isn't a negative as such, but I really wanted the game to be longer - I was left wanting more as the credits rolled
  • Limited-use weapons 🙁
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