Hello everyone, it’s me, Terry from Fanboygaming.com here brining you a new section I’d like to try out called CommenTerry (see what I did there?).
So what I’m going to try to do with this section is to bring up old topics that come up in life that might be interesting to discuss. For today’s topic, I’d like to go over the change from old school survival horror, to this new school of “action horror.”
When I was a child, my mother purchased Resident Evil: Directors Cut. Back then I didn’t know too much about games, so I would often sit and watch her play through it. My very first memory of Resident Evil was the first zombie that TURNED TO LOOK YOU RIGHT IN THE EYES. That had to be the scariest thing I had ever seen, and to this day still gives me nightmares. That is survival horror.
What about survival horror today? Well let’s take a look at it. Resident Evil first delved into the realm of “action horror” in Resident Evil 4. What made this game action as opposed to survival, was that the game had a number of features, Quick Time Events, Plentiful ammunition, and Action-focused atmosphere. Let’s take a look at atmosphere first.
Take a look at Silent Hill, and the older Resident Evil and Dead Space games, atmosphere was what makes a game scary. From a creepy mansion in the forest crawling with zombies and traps at every turn, to a town plagued by fog that turns into a prison of rust and decay when a horn sounds, the feeling of leaving a player absolutely confused and on their toes was key to having someone be scared.
The Dead Space series progressively turned from survival horror into today’s action flick Aliens Versus Predator type of scary. Sure there’s a couple of jumps and startles, but there’s nothing that ever leaves you feeling powerless against even mindless enemies.
Quick time events and ammo go hand in hand to a certain degree, and I’ll tell you why. Quick time events currently plague the genre of horror. It’s all about mashing the X button on your controller until that (whatever it is) lets you go and you promptly give it a swift beatdown. QTE’s give players more power than you think, because it gives them a sense of overcoming rather than one of fear. Ammo is another thing that contributes to this effect. When you have absolutely no qualms about ammo, then you don’t have to take any risks. What’s more scary? Getting up in the face of a zombie with a knife to save a few bullets, or plugging him with 12 shots because you know he’ll drop 24 bullets anyway? The risk/reward effect is huge with these games, and I encourage that games start turning back to giving players limits.
I feel like games are still too centric on making players feel strong, and that’s not the reason you play a survival horror. You play it to be scared, you play it to have fear, you play it because you feel like if you go to sleep at night, you’ll get nightmares. Resident Evil has strayed very far away from it’s roots, and survival horror games seem to be falling off fast. But as someone who grew up being scared and chicken, I really wish I could feel that way again.