I love horror games. Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Fatal Frame — I can’t get enough of being scared. Unfortunately pickings have been slim for survival horror fans for some time now. Resident Evil has mutated into overblown action monstrosity. Silent Hill has slowly been drained of its lifeblood by a series of hacky western developers. Dead Space briefly provided a spark of hope before being smothered to death by EA.
Thankfully evidence is mounting that this generation of games may be a properly horrifying one after all. Shinji Mikami is returning to horror in a big way with The Evil Within, Sega and Creative Assembly look to be doing right by the Aliens franchise with Alien: Isolation, and the indie scene is bursting with promising horror titles like Among The Sleep, Routine and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. But is this all a blip? A passing horror fad? No, I don’t think so — I think we may be entering a survival horror golden age the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Playstation era. Here’s why…
Horror Games Are A Great Way To Show Off Next-Gen Hardware
First-person shooters already look about as good as they ever need to look on the Xbox 360 and PS3. A game like Call of Duty is so fast and frantic that you don’t really have time to focus on any fine details. The next CoD can pump up the textures and polygon counts to untold levels and most gamers will only sort of notice.
We’re entering an era where the fine details are what matter. The difference between a PS3 and PS4 game isn’t going to be in the broad strokes. It’s going to be a better hair texture here, a better smoke effect there — a general step-up in verisimilitude. Horror games, which tend to move at a slower pace and force players to really be aware of their surroundings, are the perfect type of games to showcase what the new consoles are capable of. A fancy next-gen lighting system is an easily missed background element in a new Battlefield game, but it can be front and center in a horror game.
Gamers Are Ready For a Challenge Again
Something strange is going on. Gamers are cheerfully plunging into the depths of hell in Dark Souls II. Nintendo is brazenly bashing its fans over the head with punishingly hard platformers like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Hell, even casual gamers are punishing themselves with games like Flappy Bird.
For whatever reason gamers seem to be hungry for a challenge again. Maybe we just needed a generation to get used to hi-def and touchscreen gaming and are now okay with not having our hands held. Whatever the reason, the return of difficult games is great news for survival horror. A good horror game isn’t friendly.
A good horror game doesn’t take it easy on you. You should be just as nervous about the state of your inventory as the monster hiding around the next corner. Attempting to do accessible horror almost killed series like Resident Evil and Dead Space. Horror games can play rough again.