Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Why Did Horror Get So Loud?

The Evil Within
Any Resident Evil after 4
Silent Hill Downpour
Alone in the Dark (new one)
Dying Light (maybe)

What do these games and many others have in common?  Well of course, they are all horror games but they are also all very loud, frenetic and not very scary.  The game that inspired this post in particular was The Evil Within and my experience with Dying Light is a little limited but the point still stands.

So think way back to the days of Resident Evil and Silent Hill.  These were the big motherfuckers that made survival horror popular.  There were similar games such as Clock Tower and Alone in the Dark that did the whole horror thing too but I didn't know too many people who were even aware of those games back in the day.

What all these games had in common was that in order to put their horror forward they would try to build atmosphere.  A lot of this was achieved in the audio design, especially for Silent Hill and it was effective.  There are a lot of moments in a game like Resident Evil where the soundtrack is completely cut and all you have is a quiet room, some distant shuffling and an occasional moan.  That shit was effective for building tension as to what was round the next corner.  When shit got real the music would pick up and help generate that sense of panicked fear rather than the more subtle tense fear to be found in other parts of the game.

But it seems that the genre has lost that sense of subtlety and it suffers as a result.  I'm not saying that something like Resident Evil 4 is bad but it's not scary anymore.  When I play games like Silent Hill, old Resident Evil and Project Zero, there is still a little bit of uneasiness that creeps in and that adds to the enjoyment.

Silent Hill Downpour is probably one of the best examples of this.  Old Silent Hill builds up a shit ton of creepy atmosphere then hits you with the panicky stuff in the world shift.  However even when in the nightmare you'll find a room or a section where the panic lets up for a while but the horror still lasts because you know what's behind that door that you need to go through for your next key item.  Silent Hill 2 was an exception to this because the whole game is just drenched in that heavy, oppressive atmosphere that actually makes it quite uncomfortable to play.  It speaks volumes about the developers talent that they can make a game like that but still have it be enjoyable to the point where people want to keep on going.

Silent Hill Downpour on the other hand is all in your face all the time.  It tries to build the atmosphere with it's big empty streets but for the most part, that is just what they are and are therefore uninteresting or scary.  When the world shifts into the nightmare, the whole thing is over designed, too well lit and in certain sections looks more like something out of Alice: Madness Returns than a Silent Hill game.  It's the same for The Evil Within.  The game never lets up and after a while it becomes tiresome.

Imagine if you came home one day and one of your friends jumps out from around the corner in a dark room in a big scary mask and screams at you.  Of course you're going to jump and be a little frightened right?  But then imagine that instead of stopping he just keeps screaming and rolling around on the floor after you have turned on the lights, it would just be ridiculous.

That about sums up new horror games for me.  A cheap prank that goes on way too long and gets very old very fast

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