I love this article! I too have been a huge fan of the Survival Horror genre for a long time. Also those crimson head zombies always startled me, but smashing in their head was SO satisfying.
Anyhow, you made a lot of great points. Dead Space gave me a lot of hope that we'd see more of the genre again but I've spoken to people who worked on the game and they express the same concern about wanting to cater to fans of this genre but also needing to offer something to the masses who prefer action games. I would like to get a game that is purely Survival Horror, but as you mentioned too, profit does come in to play. Perhaps we'll find a good balance of the two. Fingers crossed.
Awesome blog AQueenofHearts!! Many of your points were right on target with current state of survival horror games and your analysis of the various aspects of what makes survival horror games good is excellent. Everything you mentioned is important including atmosphere, story, difficulty, character/monster designs and the scariest games definitely set the standard in these areas. On console, survival horror series that are generally considered the scariest are Fatal Frame, Silent Hill and Siren yet in this current generation you see very few games that even come close to these games. Condemned, Dead Space and Alan Wake come the closest but still are lacking in one way or many ways. I am also a huge fan of I Am Alive which I feel is scarier than a lot of newer survival horror games even though it is technically survival adventure.
As for why the genre of survival horror has changed so much in this generation of consoles, in my opinion it comes down to one game which is Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 4 was very successful and while it maintained a few elements of survival horror to an extent, it transformed Resident Evil into more of an action game. As you mentioned, conservation of ammo and supplies were not a big deal anymore and your character is pretty powerful with awesome weapons at his disposal and martial arts moves to take down enemies easily. Resident Evil 4 even influenced the Gears of Wars series so with this tremendous success, newer survival horror games have tried to follow Resident Evil 4's example and formula bringing the entire genre in a new direction and not one that I like at all. So as long as games like Resident Evil 6 sell very well, survival horror will continue to focus on action. However, there is hope with newer gamers who buy the Silent Hill HD collection that if it does well enough, we may see more of the older style of survival horror game in the future. Or perhaps they will start with XBLA games like Amy or I Am Alive so that if they flop, it won't hurt companies as much.
To address your other points, coop can be fun in games like Resident Evil 5 and Obscure (think of The Faculty made into a game) but yea it's not as scary. At the time I played through Obscure with friends, there was really no such thing as survival horror coop. I was curious and found it was definitely worth playing because it was fun to play with friends and such a different sort of coop experience. As for third person or first person, it doesn't really matter if the game is good enough, you will be immersed in the experience. Anywho, that's my two cents.
Last edited by DarkShowers; 04-11-2012 at 09:24 PM.
...I would like to get a game that is purely Survival Horror, but as you mentioned too, profit does come in to play.
Geekpinata, what do you mean by a game that is purely Survival Horror? Is this a standard that has not yet been reached in past survival horror games or can you list an example of a game that is purely Survival Horror? Thanks.
I really appreciated this article. An extremely thorough look at a genre I've always wished I'd played more but for some reason never have. As such, I don't have a ton of input on the games themselves, but I will note that one thing that tends to keep me from them is that I really don't like...well, I don't know how to put this. Really evil stuff? Some of the enemies in these games (I have Silent Hill in mind) are just too twisted for me. And I think this stands for both horror games and film: there's a fine line between psychologically jarring and purely fishing for shock value, and for me at least some of these games tend to fall on the latter end of the spectrum.
I think horror in general is probably the genre with the most untapped potential. Fear, real fear, isn't an emotion most people experience outside of media, and horror challenges us with the reality that we don't have control over everything around us. To that end I agree that being overpowered and such is a major drag on the horror experience. As for multiplayer, I think a well-crafted experience can dissuade chattiness in the players; if, for example, hearing every sound could be the difference between life and death. But that's probably much harder to achieve than in a solo setting.
I don't know if any of you have played that Amnesia: The Dark Descent game. I've heard a lot about it but my only exposure was about an hour of watching someone livestream it. I got the sense that you don't really have any means of fighting the monsters in that game or knowing when you'll run into one; all you can do is hope there's no one around the next corner and run like hell if someone is. That strikes me as much closer to pure survival horror -- no fighting, no action (save the chase element). Just puzzle solving, creepy ambiance, and constant risk of being ended by forces beyond your control. Moreover it seemed like the backstory -- the place you are trapped in and what's gone on there and such -- was plenty twisted enough to disturb you even when you were technically safe.
Regarding controls, I think the modern fluidity is really important. I appreciate the nostalgia but it really makes absolutely no sense that a human being would be incapable of moving and shooting at the same time.
Anyhow, like I said, I'm on the outside looking in. I've played a handful of games that have "horror" in the description -- Bioshock, Alan Wake, and Catherine come to mind -- but none of them were outright horror. One was clearly a shooter, one an action/adventurer, one a puzzle/dating sim. But each -- whether the terrible consequences of human freedom run amok, the fragility of the human mind, or brutal punishment for secret sins -- provided a very intriguing dimension of horror which gives me a lot of hope that I might still be able to enjoy a modern game in this genre.
Thanks for all of the awesome feedback. I had pages and pages of things I had come up with, but I tried to narrow it down as much as possible for the post. It's awesome to see that i'm not the only person with a little longing for old design! I don't ever want it to come across like I don't appreciate new games - I do so much - but there's something about the older style of games that I miss. I've saw Alan Wake and Bioshock mentioned a lot, and those are two of my favorite games on the 360, but I didn't feel like they captured survival horror for me. Alan Wake to me felt like more of a thriller? &Bioshock had it's moments, but it never left me with that feeling other games have. I never felt trapped in Bioshock - I kind of felt empowered? I don't know if that makes any sense or not .. that was just my experience while playing! Anyways~ I hate to beat a dead horse so thanks for the replies! &if you ever want to discuss any of it further or relive some old games let me know! :]