When you think of survival horror titles, what are the first games that come to mind? Resident Evil? Fatal Frame? ObsCure? Silent Hill? There’s an endless list of games that gamers consider vital to the horror genre but outside of the game play elements that they share, what else do these titles have in common? They’re all years old. Practically every recent addition to each of the big franchises has been a complete flop in terms of living up to their predecessors, but why?
The Evolution Of The Horror Genre
Well a series has to evolve, it has to bring new game play elements to the table. It has to push the bar, match competitors and bring a fresh approach to the same genre each and every game. Other genres manage that without any issue, even the year after year sports drivel from EA manages to introduce something to please the fans; but why can’t the survival horror keep up?
In short, it’s because of us, the gamers. What we expect from our games today is totally different to what was expected 10-15 years ago. We want fluid movement, we want easy-to-use controls and most of all we expect a franchise to improve with every new release. Following that recipe is usually a good foundation for a new release, but those rules do not apply to the horror genre.
What made the original Resident Evil games so horrifying? What made Fatal Frame terrifying at every corner? Why was Silent Hill able to reduce grown men to a whimpering wreck? I couldn’t explain it any easier other than to say, they were basic.
Each of the franchises featured notoriously bad movement and controls, to the point of where turning 180 degrees was a feat in itself; an issue that is almost impossible to find in today’s games. They also each added their own elements of fear, be it a lack of ammunition, lack of conventional weapons or just the atmospheric environment; but why has that changed in today’s games?
Well, they had to evolve. If a developer released a game today with the shoddy movement seen in the original Resident Evil, it would be thrown into the nuclear waste bin alongside Duke Nukem Forever.
Modern day games have done what they can to revive the horror franchise, but most have failed to deliver. Visceral Games obviously felt it was an unachievable goal as they released Dead Space 3 as more of an action game than horror title. So is that the way to do it? Because it’s hard we just shouldn’t bother? Hell no.
Fear is an emotion you do not experience every day, it’s an emotional reaction to something that you do not understand, something you cannot comprehend. The emotion is still there, fear is still there, so why can’t developers capture it in the video-game medium? Has it gone the way of Hollywood, where every horror game can be expected to be accompanied by a lackluster script, poor special effects and the stereotypical death of the only black guy in the movie?
So what can developers do to revive this iconic genre?
Well if I knew, I would probably be earning a hell of a lot more than I am at the moment. I could pitch a dozen ideas that I think could work, but I don’t have access to the psychology experts and background used to create the horror games of yesteryear. However; I’m aware there are more creative people amongst this heroic community, so what are your thoughts?
Do you feel the horror genre needs to return to its roots? Devolve as it were? Or do developers need to find something other than lack of control to instill fear into their player base? I’m eager to leave your thoughts so post a comment in our sexy new Disqus comment section below