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‘Kholat’ – Chillingly Tense, Painfully Frustrating

‘Kholat’ – Chillingly Tense, Painfully Frustrating

After a successful PC release last summer, IMGN.PRO’s narratively-driven survival horror Kholat finally reaches the PS4. The title follows a popular trend within horror movies and games alike, as it’s story centres around “true events.” Specifically, the 1959 Dyatlov Pass Incident, where 10 students went missing in the Ural Mountains and 9 were later discovered to be dead. Players are responsible for scanning the immersive frozen world they find themselves in, in an effort to uncover the mystery of that fateful evening.

Following a short animation, you are catapulted straight into the unknown and are left to fight through a hostile snow storm without a map or any clear objective. After scouring the surrounding area you’ll come across an abandoned campsite, where you’ll discover a map and a compass. These tools serve as your only form of navigation, as there exists no waypoint or hints to prompt you in the right direction. You are simply left to forge your own journey, selecting one of the nine coordinates etched on the side of the map and setting out in a pursuit to uncover the fate of the missing students.

As you wade through the thick sheets of snow, distressed cries and the howl of the wind will ring through the air, creating a continual sense of uneasiness. Partial areas of the map are completely swallowed in darkness and require you to use your dim torchlight to extend your limited vision. Transparent enemies also roam the land, and can snatch you up at any second if you are to let your guard down. This is where Kholat truly succeeds as a horror game, as it throws you recklessly into a precarious world that forever feels deeply unsettling.


Annoyingly, you’ll likely spend the majority of your playthrough pacing around in circles, desperately searching for your next objective. Some may argue that feeling hopeless and forever uncertain of your surroundings adds to the horror of the game, but I found getting lost to be pretty dull and frustrating. Upon finding one of the coordinates it felt like game had a sense of momentum and I was keen to progress with the story, but it wasn’t long after that I was back to confusedly looping the map. Fortunately, some help is at hand, as you’ll occasionally encounter coordinates carved into walls, that can be used to figure out your current location. Similarly, collectibles such as letters and reports are a big help, as upon discovery, there location is permanently inked on the map.

While making your way across the niveous landscape you’ll find yourself stalked by a number of demonic creatures. It is important to scan the ground for their neon footsteps, as they are pretty much invisible and can take you down in one fatal strike. These enemies can prove to be a bit of a nightmare as they are capable of ambushing you if you’re to take so much as a glance down at your map. There are no weapons available and no possible way to defend yourself, so if you get unfairly backed into a corner, it’s game over. After being slain, you’ll be forced to sit through a tediously long waiting screen that looks like it has been dragged straight from the PS2.


Tedious and unfair gameplay is unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Kholat’s flaws. There exists no additional save slots, so you’ll have to completely erase your save if you are wanting to relive one of the harrowing set pieces. Also, the only way to fast travel is through campsites that are scattered across the bounding world. So if your next coordinate is at the other end of the map, you’ll either have to exhaustingly trek the entire way or dizzyingly search for a campsite. The protagonist controls rather sluggishly and appears to be largely overweight, as he lacks the ability to jump and is left panting if he runs for more than a few seconds. This can make for a number of irritating situations, as occasionally your objective will be hidden behind an area that appears to be easily climbable.

On its surface Kholat boasts heaps of potential, with an intriguing true story concept and a terrifyingly tense open world, but sadly its exploits are tarnished by an abundance of poor gameplay mechanics. Even for the most seasoned survivalists, getting lost is a certainty, and you’ll often find yourself having to hit restart after being unfairly slaughtered. Every ounce of enjoyment I was able to get from Kholat’s story was soon suffocated by a number of frustrating aspects, often making it a chore to play.