For the past few years all we’ve been told is how Resident Evil is no longer scary; how it’s an “action movie” and how there are far more frightening games for us to play (and this is still true to be honest). But there is a game that has sat in my PSN account since the start of summer. A game that I have desperate to play but have been holding off until this month – the haunting month.
If you’ve read the title (you have!) then you already know that the game is ‘Resident Evil Revelations 2’ but can I just say how bloody good it is?
This game (or the section of Episode 1 I’ve played through anyway) harks back to the “golden age” of survival horror, it hits the tonal notes that the original series also hit; with a slow burn leading up to a dramatic reveal. If nothing else this episode proves once and for all that Capcom, well Resident Evil, can still scare the pants of us!
How does it achieve this feat? Read on dear reader.
Once you get beyond the gleefully cheesy opening cinematic you are plunged into familiar Resident Evil territory; specifically ‘Code Veronica’ – Claire wakes up in a prison cell and has no recollection how she got there.
Like ‘The Force Awakens’ this is very much a deliberate move to put the player into a place where they were happier, it makes them far more likely to give the game a chance and to forgive its shortcomings more readily. And boy does it work. My initial reaction was “this is just like Code Veronica!” It made me excited to play the game , incredibly eager to delve into a world of survival horror that was new to me. And then we had that first 15 minutes…
The first 15 minutes…
…that are simply an example of world-class atmosphere building. You walk (because that’s how you approach any new area in a horror game) in the only direction you can and you get drip fed some information; while simultaneously being forced into asking more questions. Eventually you hear a scream, you see a trail of blood in the direction you need to travel.
While one part of you wants to stop – you NEED to continue – it’s this dilemma in player agency that makes the horror so delicious. You KNOW you are going to be coming face-to-face with some creature; you just don’t know when…
…when it happens; you’ll need a change of pants.
‘Resident Evil’ has a long and decorated history with the jump scare. The dogs through the window is an all-time classic; as is the introduction of the Chainsaw Ganado.
What makes them so effective is that, in hindsight, they are very subtly hinted at by the director, for example, when you enter the corridor for the first time the window thuds; foreshadowing events to follow. It’s the same here, sure it is much less subtle and it lacks the artistry but it bloody well made me jump out of my skin, I literally jumped off my seat (I wish I had recorded it to be honest). What makes them so good in Resident Evil however is that they are not over-done; they are done once or twice and never again. In my playtime there were two jumpscares. Effective.
Shortly after your first encounter there is a lot of downtime – it’s like the game resets – you now know what you are up against and the director wants that to linger on your mind, the fear building with every passing moment of nothing, the monster being enhanced by your own expectations. That downtime plays an absolutely vital role in making the game scarier; as weird as that sounds.
Then the game kicks it up a gear, it summons its inner Carpenter and becomes a tense, taut, suspenseful horror experience.
Like the introduction of Pyramid Head in ‘Silent Hill 2’ our first truly horrific monster is done with sheer artistic beauty. Our first glimpse is of it performing a horrific act; it looks like its drinking the blood of a dead guard, and that alone is enough to make the player turn away – they are uncomfortable. The game takes that moment (scripted camera move of course) to hide the monster – forcing the player into the area it was last seen and demanding that they investigate.
The music kicks in, your AI partner sees something move; alerting you to the danger. You turn around and go to where she is pointing AND…
…nothing! You’ve been faked out.
Every passing second is agony, you know it’s around here! The game is giving you herbs and bullets – your gamer sense is tingling about a boss fight but the game is making you wait.
Does it happen?
That’ll be telling!
‘Resident Evil Revelations 2’ does a lot of great things in its pursuit in scaring you, and the great thing is that most of them pay off! It doesn’t hurt that the game is absolutely beautiful (for a mid-budget title) of course. It surprised me just how much it got under my skin in those first few hours – especially as the damage you can sustain has been amped up significantly as well as the enemy count.
I guess I’m a mark for these things…
Has any game taking you by surprise by scaring you more than it should have?
Tell me which one in the comments below!