Why you should care
Because these new survival horror games are really all about problem-solving skills, right? Even if they scare you sh*tless in the process.
Last month, a mysterious demo titled “P.T.” hit PlayStation 4. Offering no explanation, the game dropped a player into a house with no rhyme, reason or rationale. The premise was simple: Get out of the house. But the task proved to be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences in recent memory. The player was hit with angry ghosts, impaired vision, uncomfortable silences and a crying fetus-like thingy in a bathroom sink. Oh, and without any weapon, the protagonist was left completely helpless.
If you were brave enough to complete the demo, the great reveal was that the mindf*ck you’d just endured was a “playable trailer” (P.T., get it?) for the upcoming “Silent Hills” game. However, and maybe more importantly, the next installment in the psychological survivor horror series is a collaborative effort from “Metal Gear” creator Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro, the director (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) known for his warped imagery. And the cherry on top of this delightfully wicked sundae? The game stars Norman Reedus, better known as Daryl from AMC’s The Walking Dead.
If the demo wasn’t terrifying enough, Kojima has gone on record as saying that he wants gamers to “sh*t their pants” while playing the full version of “Silent Hills.” With more than a million people downloading the demo, chances are someone will. In any case, it’s safe to predict imminent success for the genre.
“Silent Hills” is just one of many horror video games hitting the market on next-generation consoles. Similar to how horror movies kicked up the gore factor with improved special effects, the survival horror video game genre is amping the fright factor with the power of next-generation consoles. Enhanced graphics means more realistic visuals, and the extra horsepower developers now have at their disposal allows them to craft far more chilling environments that support Kojima’s vision for “Silent Hills.”
What happens when these games become too scary to play?
Over the next year, a slew of survival horror games that deliver everything from jump scares to unnerving psychological terror will hit the market. “The Evil Within” is a twisted thriller filled with demented visuals; “Alien: Isolation” hearkens back to the original Alien film, complete with a digitized Sigourney Weaver, claustrophobic environment and razor-smart antagonist; “Until Dawn” is a throwback to slasher films where you decide which of eight teenagers will survive the night in a forest shared by a deranged serial killer.
But what happens when these games become too scary to play?
“Outlast,” last fall’s first-person horror survival game inside a psychiatric asylum, was one that might have taken the genre a bit too far.
“We managed to make a playtester cry out of anxiety,” game developers Phillippe Morin and David Chateauneuf of Red Barrel Studios told IGN. “She played the first 40 minutes of the game and then she couldn’t take it anymore. Too much stress or anxiety maybe. She went outside to cry and we were told she couldn’t continue.”
OK, so “Outlast” may be too much for the average gamer to handle, but the coming wave of survival horror games should provide lovers of the genre with a preponderance of options that scare themselves silly.
And if white-knuckled fear — or soiled underwear — isn’t your thing, there’s always “Mario Kart.”