Sunday, May 28, 2017

The survival horror ambiguous storyline theory

In the last couple years we've got a lot of good survival horror games. Titles like Outlast 1 and 2, The Evil Within, Alien Isolation, RE7 and many others. Most of them gave us good hours of enjoyment, but some people (myself included) expected this to be the big revival of the survival horror genre and in the end of this nice line of releases, we ended up feeling like it was good, maybe great, but not epic or unforgettable. I was kind of at a loss, trying to find a reason about why this wave of survival horror goodness didn't felt perfect until a survival horror themed conversation happened with one of my friends.

On our little chat, we were talking about some famous survival horror games like the old Resident Evil games and we were wondering what happened. Lots of nostalgic moments and memories came from that, but there was this part of the whole argument that really got me thinking.

Resident Evil Mansion
The first time we got here, is still one of the most epic gaming moments for many of us.

My friend stated that the best thing that the old Resident Evil games had was the atmosphere of not knowing anything about it. Now let's make a thought exercise and follow the Resident Evil example:

You arrive at a mansion, trying to rescue a military squad that was missing in action, then you get inside to this nice looking place only to find that is crawling with all kinds of creatures that shouldn't even exist. The first time everybody played this we felt the intrigue, violently building up from the moment we found the first zombie and see that low resolution video of it munching on a dead soldier's body. Now this is what was going through my mind at that point:

Old Mansion + Lots of doors + Zombies... I think that I'm going to spend a lot of time figuring this out, but I will do it because it intrigues me and I want to know more.

The feeling was special to say the least. At the time it felt huge (like taking a cross-country trip without knowing where you will end up) and it took a lot of exploration, discovering new places, reading documents, solving puzzles, surviving and watching cutscenes in order to finally get to that underground laboratory for the first time and go like "What? A lab in this place?". That was the moment when the game's story was at its peak and that precise point was what made it all so worthwhile.

Resident Evil 2
Some consider this one the best in the series, I personally see it tied with Code Veronica.

Resident Evil 2 gave us another dose of that feeling, but on a bigger scale. Now the whole city was infected and I was playing as a rookie cop/rebellious biker girl that had no clue of what was going on. By then we all knew that the creatures existed and we knew that they were man made, but at the same time we had lots of questions like how the virus got to the city and what kinds of creatures it could had spawned there. Our answer came as we began exploring the police station and progressed from there, finding creatures such as the lickers and the giant croc that wanted to have us as a tasty snack.

From there on, we kept discovering things and the more we knew, the more we wanted to know. At that time, we had already mastered the now criticized tank controls, weird aiming mechanics and cheesy voice acting because we had to know where it would all lead up to. It was like starting to read a good book at 8:00 pm only to be hooked by it and keep going through the night even though you know that you have to work/go to school on the next day. It was that powerful.

I could go on and on about every Resident Evil game, but let's get to the point. The charm of these early manifestations of the survival horror genre (something that was also used by other games like Silent Hill) was that a great deal of the main problem in the storyline was hidden to us, even when we knew who our enemies were. It was this feeling of mystery and hopelessness mixed with stress and been lost in a place you don't know anything about, the thing that made the old school survival horror experience to be so special and that is the aspect that was missing from the cool, but not epic  horror games that we got at the beginning of this generation. They had the atmosphere and game mechanics right, but they lacked the WTH is going on factor because even when they tried to hide it (like they did on The Evil Within) we had this sort of faint foresight about what was going on that didn't let us use our imaginations at full power.

Enemy Zero
Another one of my favorites, underrated Saturn game that followed the formula you will soon read.

So this is when all thoughts are gathered and we came with the survival horror ambiguous storyline theory. This theory states, that for a game to be a true heir of the survival horror roots it needs to have a story that leave us lost and wondering up until it peaks, a continuous affair with no divisions like chapters or places you can't go back to and the sense of discovering things by our own rather than holding our hands and/or structuring the game into established objectives. Anything less of this makes the game to be an action game with horror elements and anything more than this is to be considered experimental (like some horror indie games).

This was the reason why the newest games are not clicking with some of us us in the same way that the old ones did. They gave us unnecessary foresight on what was happening, were structured in chapters and objectives leaving little to no space for backtracking and while they were fun, they weren't the survival horror revolution we were hoping for. If we were to compare these games with a cake, we can say that instead of been a chocolate cake, it was a vanilla one coated with chocolate frosting, which tasted good, but was not as satisfying.

Clocktower NES
I found this as an adult and the tension and scare factor it brought was amazing considering this is a SNES game.
Now that you know about it, what do you think? Is our little theory right on the spot or are we missing something? Let's talk about this on the comments below and btw, thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Surge: A good old school game in a modern package

It is an awkward but awesome experience when you load a 2017 game and it ends up feeling like you are back in the old days, yeah...It happened to me and it was wonderful. Of course, before I begin let me get something really clear. This game is in no way dated or anything like that. It is just has a couple of design choices that make it an hybrid in terms of old school and current trends and that game is called The Surge.

In order to pay homage to the times this game takes me back to, I am going to do this review in a Game Pro style, so let's begin.

The Surge

The Surge
Developed by: Deck13 Interactive
Published by: Focus Home Interactive
Released on: May 16, 2017

Graphics (4.5/5)
The graphics on The Surge are nothing to flip about, but at the same time they are good enough to give us this industrious feeling that will be the first thing that will remind a lot of gamers about some games of the past. Think about places like the facility in Dino Crisis, the Heimdal in Carrier, the island city in Blue Stinger and even some awesome wastelands in Half Life 2. Another nice thing is that the indoor places look spooky enough for this game to be as scary as a survival horror at some places.

Sounds (4/5)
The music and sound effects are decent and do their job (the country music that is heard on safe zones (med day) is so good that it has gotten stuck in my head and I don't even like country music. What the game needed to be perfect in terms of sound is some more dramatic music to enhance the mood and keep us in our toes.

Before going to the next category I will share the med bay song with you all.

Gameplay (3/5)
Game play in The Surge will be familiar to anybody who has played Dark Souls or any similar game. You have to go through various zones, finding safe places and defeating tough enemies to advance while getting stronger yourself. It also borrows the npc side-quest thing where you get npcs to join you in your safe zone with some of them having things for you to do. Now, what differentiates this game from Dark Souls and what makes it so old school oriented is that maps are a lot deeper, so just hacking and slashing won't take you anywhere if you don't know where you are going and since this game has 0% hand holding this means that you really have to think things through before advancing. The only reason why it gets a (3) as its score on gameplay is because it doesn't have an online component or a character creation option, both been things that are always fun in these types of games.

Fun Factor (4/5)
The Surge is a really fun game with all its complex exploration and places to find, but I have to admit that while I am delighted with how old school it is, some people may not agree with me since it lacks some of the elements that many see as a given in any game that is similar to Dark Souls. Not counting the side quests you can screw up in one playthrough, replay value doesn't seem to be much considering that no online component means no pvp, which is something that really extends the life of any Souls/Borne game.

The Surge Character Development

Challenge (5/5)
With no hand holding at all, the challenge in this game is spot on without been too frustrating for anyone. It is not that hard when fighting after you get used to the enemy patterns, but it still keeps you in your toes, because sometimes a simple mistake can be fatal. Another challenging aspect is that the maps in the game are not linear at all and it takes a lot of planning and experimenting with your surroundings before you can confidently explore a place without been paranoid about enemies and traps waiting for you on every corner.

The Surge getting implants
Final Score (4/5)
The Surge is not a perfect game, but it is one of those imperfect experiences that are fun enough for us to look past its rough edges and enjoy it like we do any of the popular games out there. If you consider yourself to be a hardcore and/or old school oriented gamer then this is a must buy, if not then research a little before deciding on it.

(+) Great atmosphere, really good on exploration
(+) Nice challenge and rpg elements
(-) Lacks an online component and create a character option.