ECHO review for PS4, PC

Platform: PS4
Also On: PC
Publisher: Ultra Ultra
Developer: Ultra Ultra
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t deal well with delayed gratification, ECHO probably isn’t for you. After all, you spend the first 30 or 40 minutes of the game wandering around a completely empty world, with only your ship’s somewhat rude AI around to keep you company. Not only that, the space is filled by a conversation between the AI and ECHO’s main character, En, that’s seemingly designed to be maddening to an outsider, since it’s structured in such a way that makes it feel like you’re walking in part way through. While it all comes together eventually, it begins in such an impenetrable fashion that it definitely requires some patience.

At the same time, however, the beginning is mostly necessary, since it establishes a pretty foreboding tone — a necessary thing for a stealth-horror game like ECHO. The emptiness of the game’s world doesn’t take long to become creepy, what with all the sudden bursts of darkness, the mirrors that create seemingly endless hallways and corridors, and the ornate interior of the seemingly empty structure you’re exploring. Eventually ECHO’s horrors become much more tangible, but until they do, the game does a good job of gradually upping the feeling of suspense.

Of course, once the actual horrors manifest themselves, the game changes gears. No longer are you walking leisurely around an abandoned palace (for lack of a better description). Instead, you’re slowly creeping through hallways, trying to find a way out while hoping that the enemies don’t catch and kill you.

And what are those enemies? In a nutshell, they’re terrifying monsters that watch what you do, learn, and then imitate you. At first they just appear as vaguely unsettling black blobs, and then every time the darkness comes and goes, they evolve into more threatening creatures. If a game — or any piece of media, for that matter — is only as strong as its villain, then you could reasonably make an argument that ECHO is incredibly strong, since the bad guys here are so scary.

Those monsters are coupled with stealthy gameplay that show that the former IO Interactive developers who founded Ultra Ultra after working on the Hitman games picked up a thing or two from their previous lives. ECHO does a fantastic job of forcing you to sneak around, punishing you when you try to take a more brute force approach.

This, of course, is further evidence of the truth of what I said up top: that ECHO is the worst game imaginable if you have a problem with delayed gratification. If, however, you’re in the market for a game where a little bit of patience goes a long way, it’s well worth your time.

Ultra Ultra provided us with an ECHO PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-