With the glut of action games, survival horror has become something of a lost art. There are games that have come closer than others to recreating that kind of game, but aside from the Indie space, this genre has kind of fallen to the wayside. However, the original creator of Resident Evil, the remake and the vaunted Resident Evil 4 has decided to team up with Bethesda and bring us a new game. And let me tell you, without any doubt – survival horror is back! This game is in the vein of the best of the genre. I haven’t enjoyed a horror title this much in a long time. Anyone who wants to call foul, due to my love of The Last of Us, I don’t consider that game this kind of horror. It’s more of a survival story, with horror elements. This game is back to form, and it shows that, once-again, the games that I am good at picking my favorite game. This game was at the top of my most-anticipated games of 2014 list. I have a gift.
The plot of this game doesn’t take much time to get going. Detective Sebastian and his two partners report to a mental hospital. There has been some kind of emergency, with tons of people dead. After exploring a bloodbath, he is knocked unconscious, awakening in a nightmare that he couldn’t imagine. A place where what is real and what isn’t are constantly questioned, with answers being few and far between. Is it Hell, chaos or something worse? This game keeps the answers sparse, up until the perfect moment to break it in a mind-bending way that will have you colored-impressed.
Before getting into the nit-picky details of the game, the first thing to know is that this game is true to survival horror. Resources are scarce, ammo is limited and stealth is definitely your friend. However, traveler beware, when you kill enemies. A trick was brought back from the remake of Resident Evil. The only way you can make sure that an enemy stays down for good is when you blow their head off, blow them up, or light fallen foes on fire. And a clean headshot doesn’t guarantee that. Sometimes you need more than one. These things aren’t your typical zombies, given the nature of where you are. You have to completely destroy the head to bring them down. This game keeps the constant worry about resources going strong. Even on the lower difficulty, it doesn’t let up.
Another great element are the boss fights. Given the nature of the world that this is all going down in, the game gives you some pretty creative bosses that you have to tackle. And not all of them can be dealt with by shooting. Some of them, you can’t kill at all, and your only option is to run like a lunatic. Then there are others where only specific elements can kill them. And those who seem dead, but are fooling you. Every boss in this game is unique and difficult as fuck. The difficulty never lets up. The scarce ammo becomes and even bigger issue when this happens. You don’t want to be stuck facing down a dog-monster from Hell with only a few rounds on you.
The visuals in this game are a bit of a mixed bag. I got it on PS4, but it is resoundingly clear that this game was made for the last generation. That’s not a bad thing. The environments are gorgeous, with some being real treats for the eyes. Granted, there is a lot of shadow and fog, but when the game does open up, it really opens up. However, the character models are very last-generation, with some effects of them looking like early-PS3 work. That said, when this game wants to shine, it really does.
Speaking of characters, this game has some interesting ones. You don’t know much about any of them going in, but over time you learn more and more, with details being flushing out gradually. That feels more realistic, and it allows you to bond with each character as the story progresses. Sebastian starts out pretty bland, but as you peel away the layers, he gets far more interesting and you see a side to him that he was trying very hard to conceal. Then there is the creepy nurse who is at the areas in the game that function as save points. Yeah, that element – safe zones where you can save and stock up – was ripped straight out of Resident Evil. Though you don’t exchange money for upgrades. You exchange ‘brain juice.’ Probably best if we don’t know what that is.
The last thing to address is the horror. Does this game just rely on jump scares to frighten you? Absolutely not! The world that Sebastian and his people are taken to is OOZING with creepy atmosphere. Given the nature of the story, you probably have inferred that nowhere makes a lot of sense. Even the safe places have an off-putting atmosphere about them.
This has been a very dull year, for gaming. However, as it comes to a close, we are given a masterpiece of survival horror that is en par with the classics in the elements that made those great games. This is my favorite game of this year and I hope that you all get to play it. Especially if you have gotten tired of all the ho-hum action zombie games that think they are worthy of the title of ‘Horror.’
8 out of 10