Have you ever played a loud game? Sure there are some games that feature frequent crescendos, that create "jump moments," with their use of sound and vision (Dead Space 2 and Resident Evil 4 anyone?). Games like Hydrophobia however, assault your eyes, ears and any other organ used to process a gaming experience, non-stop. The central character, Kate screams constantly while the score continues to pound away. Lighting may be in ample supply, but it flickers and sparks, exhausting your eyes. The camera doesn't do players any favours either, jerking at doorways and creeping in too tight in confined spaces. Movement is justifiably made sluggish by the ever-present water, but combined with the previously listed elements, it leads to a disorienting and eventually, nauseating experience that I'm praying will end soon.
There isn't much of a story to accompany this attack on the senses (at least not in what I've played so far). Basically, terrorists have attacked the Queen of the World, a large sea vessel that makes the titanic look like a drop in the ocean. Our heroine is caught amidst the chaos, and is led by her friend, Scoot to counter the invading Malthusians. The Malthusians have littered the ship with the message: "Save the world. Kill yourself." I'm not sure what that means, but the mystery alone is probably not enough to compel me to stagger to the end. Queasy and defeated, Hydrophobia was a risky investment at 400 Microsoft Points (Xbox Live Deal of the Week), and is nothing short of overpriced now that it has returned to its standard 800MSP price tag.
It's not flat-out terrible, as there are some aspects of the game which have been positive, sometimes even enjoyable. The platforming sections work well and are not as obvious (in terms of direction) as other third person action titles like Uncharted and Prince of Persia. The combat is too much of a mixed bag to be labelled anything other than functional. It is fun to stun an enemy, and then have them drown in the encroaching depths; but the lack of a close-quarters option is of severe detriment to the gameplay. I've seen screenshots of players taking cover, but I don't know how (the game hasn't prompted me, I could pause and search; but...) and I don't see the need to when your opponents are as bereaved of intelligence as the Malthusians are.
All things considered though, Hydrophobia is killed by its own soundtrack. If there was some reprieve from the pounding music, and the attrocious, uber-Scottish accents I might have been able to grin and bear it until the end. As it stands, I don't think I can make it. Especially when you see others playing the survival horror game much more effectively.
I'm talking of course, about Dead Space 2.
My brother brought it over last Saturday to show me through its first few scares. I say "show me," because I have not been able to play a survival horror title since Resident Evil 4 (Alan Wake doesn't count because I don't think anyone could be legitamtely scared, even startled by what Remedy brought to the table). It's not because I don't enjoy games of this particular genre, it's just that I am by nature, a scaredy cat, and only recently has this nature extended to gaming. I played each instalment of the Resident Evil series (except 5) and dabbled in a bit of Silent Hill. Nowadays though, I found myself looking away from the screen when my brother first started playing Visceral Games follow-up to their much-lauded 2008 horror masterpiece (apparently; too scared to play it, so I can't say for myself).
"Just watch!," he pleaded. So I did, and I was blown away. Disgusted, uncomfortable, but blown away all the same. So much so that I actually went and purchased the game for myself. Will I ever play it? Who knows. Based on thirty minutes of terrifying action witnessed second hand however, I'm going to try and find the courage to experience it myself.
What are your thoughts on the survival horror genre? Any favourites?