Published on March 3rd, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
History of Horror Games: Reclamation of the West
In the previous generation of consoles, there was a resurgence of the popular Survival Horror style Japanese games and even some innovations made, like 3rd person action in Resident Evil.
It wasn’t then obvious that a studio called Monolith productions, who made AVP2 and FEAR, had started a style of horror that would become the next generation’s bread and butter.
This generation was kicked off by Monolith productions release, Condemned, a first person melée focused psychological horror on PC/360 and they later made a sequel to FEAR, but the studio was changed for FEAR 3, the damned traitors.
The action horror was continued with 2007’s Bioshock and Dead Space.
Bioshock, a “Bio-punk” first person shooter game set in an underwater dystopia, is similar to System Shock 2, with survival horror and RPG elements, where you can collect abilities called Plasmids. There is a morality based system which can also affect abilities and ability currency “ADAM”.
Dead Space is a 3rd person shooter set in a spaceship which has been under attack by some strange “creatures” and has a nice mechanic where you use futuristic mining weapons (AKA guns) to shoot off the limbs in order to inflict damage and also health is displayed visually on the main character’s back as opposed to HUD.
Both these games use shock horror tactics and both use log systems for most of the story. I’ve always loved logs but in these games, especially Dead Space, I find that you spend a lot of time juggling fighting enemies and trying to concentrate on the log being read out. Frustrating.
Left 4 Dead, is an action-horror FPS and is built with Co-op in mind. This is one of the many zombie games that was released for this generation and is probably considered the best, with immersive gameplay, random enemy spawn and good integration of AI allies.
Then came the bitter return of previous franchises.
Resident Evil 5 was not exactly loved by fans and in 6, Capcom have pretty much given up with horror by this point, opting to go for more outlandish action.
Silent Hill was outsourced to Western development and has also embraced an increased action style from Silent Hill Origins onwards. Personally I think this has only served to detriment them on the fear side of things. An inherently Japanese title has no place alongside western style horror.
Alone in the Dark returned in a hybrid action game on the 360 after an excursion, but with such confusing gameplay and a host of glitches, it was so bad it shouldn’t have.
Siren decided to hop back on board the return train to Horror-ville, but probably got cold feet as it hurtled past Sellout-Sequel Station, so decided to jump off at Overwrought-Remake, sorry I mean “re-imagining”. It’s this “re-imagining” part that supposedly gives them license to add pointless unnecessary story detail and change already hair-tearingly grating characters into screechy American bimbos wishing to get on TV.
The Japanese apparently not being done with dashing our hopes to the ground by throwing Res onto a pyre and Silent Hill to a hill of the Beverley kind, they also decided to make a bunch of uninspired games based on popular Japanese horror.
Juon: The Grudge on the Wii barely evoked a level of fear you get when handling a pile of documents and wishing not to get a papercut, let alone coming close to the soil-a-thon that is the Japanese Juon film or the American remake in 2004.
Then came The Calling on the Wii, which had a pointless phone mechanic, less to do with fear and themery from traditional Japanese horror and more to do with the board game Dream Phone.
But that’s not to say that all modern horror looks to be awful. Alan Wake on Xbox 360 sported a Stephen King style vibe and went back to survival horror roots albeit with a third person shooter edge.
Set in a similar North-North American setting, Deadly Premonition polarised critics when it came out in 2010 on the Xbox. A survival horror adventure game with Twin Peaks influences, it has a strange comedy element to it and a new Director’s Cut is due out on PS3 in April.
Dementium 1 & 2 are on the Nintendo DS and are FPS games that use the touch-screen to shoot enemies. The DS is a system with very little horror to its name, Resident Evil Deadly Silence being one of the only other titles, which is yet another remake.
Survival-horror has taken much of a backseat to action games, the new technology and more exciting look of action games make them much easier to show trailers for and sell, which in a generation of consoles that have opened up to less traditional gamers, is pretty lucrative for publishers.
Unfortunately much of the horror ends up falling a little flat as a result, it’s hard to get immersed in a scary environment when modern Physics engines of the enemies means they frequently freak out and go flying across the room when you bump into them.
The lack of difficulty to attract more varied gamers, means the fear of death and repercussion certainly isn’t happening any more. Co-op, achievements and notifications popping up on modern day consoles detracts from any scary environment. The HD graphics and processing power means that uber-realistic enemies are everywhere, ironically ending up being less scary as it’s sometimes the jaggedy, rawness of an AI that can inspire terror as they clamber towards you, unlike the graceful swan-like Necromorphs in Dead Space.
Lately horror has become predictable in games, the increase in action means that after the first few run ins with the enemy, you are usually de-sensitised to them. There have been a few times where the increase in the powerful technology has been used to good effect in Bioshock and Dead Space, most notably the Necros crawling on the walls. But aside from that, it’s all quite generic and bland, the same jumps you see in films. In Dead Space there is a bit where Isaac Clarke punts a baby.
It’s hard to take a game seriously after that.
Especially when the baby then drops some ammo.
But surely it’s not all rubbish, there must be some horror games out there that are willing to innovate and try new things?
Well there sure are, so wait for my next post before you start a-moanin’ about how Amnesia’s bloody missing.