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Maybe I’m just reaching my final metamorphosis as an unimpressionable, desensitized, psychopathic skeptic. Or maybe the state of American politics is far more horrifying than game developers can dream up. Or maybe I’m too blinded by my blood and rust covered glasses, because as much I hope, there will never be another game as good as Silent Hill 2 and those new IPs will always be mediocre copies of Silent Hill 2.
Okay, I’m being unfair. I’m not saying that there haven’t been any contenders as great horror games since 2001. There was Resident Evil 4, for example, even though the fanboys of Resident Evils 1-3 will spit vitriol down your ear canals because RE4 dared to be different than its previous installments. You know, like I do to people that say they liked the Silent Hills after the fourth installment. Hey, at least I’m acknowledging my hypocrisy. That’s just it, though, we’re biased by nostalgia and if a game highlights that nostalgia, we call it cliché and therefore, cheap. You know, Konami, because I know your robots posing as quality assurance testers are reading this obscure essay, you could easily double your revenue by just releasing the original Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 on the Playstation Store. Because I don’t believe for one cuckolding minute that you “lost” the code to one of your most iconic properties.
Am I just jaded and blue-balled for heart-quivering, colon-emptying psychological horror? No, I’m not talking about the jump scare simulators pretending to be games. I want a horror game to reach into my ribcage and gently molest my heart. I do not, however, want the game to violently wrench its claws into my chest and rearrange my organs so that their pumping adrenaline and excretions out of every orifice. That might be for your typical 12-year-old future serial killers screaming melodramatically for all eight of their fans on Patreon, but to me, it’s a blight on the genre entirely. Sometimes, when playing recent “horror” titles, I’m starting to side with the “too much violence in video games” crowd, if only for a minute before they go on Fox News complaining that because little Tommy saw a nipple, he’s going to want to shoot up the local Toys-R-Us. What I’m saying is that horror games these days go too far to add shock value.
That’s not to say that earlier point-and-click adventure games of the 90s didn’t have such scare tactics. Phantasmagoria, for instance, had an infamous rape scene and an all-too-graphic depiction of a woman’s head being caved in. The scenes were live-action, so it was made even more harrowing. Horrible, graphic things happening to game characters for shock value’s sake is also cheap and it’s disgusting. Defining a character’s motives by all the degrading things they go through is not good exposition. It’s how the characters react, expressing their personality and instinct, that attracts the player. That’s why I didn’t like the Tomb Raider reboot in 2013. I felt like she was downgraded to suit an agenda rather than improved on. Half of her appeal in the previous titles was her inner strength, her stoicism, her independence in the face of adversity. Here, they projected that making her more vulnerable and needing of protection from prospective rapists made her an iconic feminist character. That’s…not how that works. That’s not how it works at all.
I feel like most horror game IPs are amalgamations of previous horror tropes, not just allusions. The Evil Within and its successor, The Evil Within 2, could have been so much more than a parade of clichés. Making games so predictable is insulting to players’ intelligence and a rip-off. These companies are charging 60 to 70 dollars per game (over 100 pounds in Australia, if they don’t get fucked over by regional bans of games, that is), rarely with a demo to begin with. These days, you have to pay to play the demo or beta version of the games, which is ridiculous. I don’t even know if this game is going to be good from its gameplay trailers and yet you want nearly 70 bucks for it up front. This isn’t a cocaine deal, publishing companies! How do I know that after I give you this briefcase of cold hard cash that the coke you give me isn’t just going to be cyanide-laced Epsom salt?