Saturday, June 4, 2011

Where Have All the Survival Horror Games Gone...

One of my favorite genres next to my beloved RPGs are survival horror games. The PlayStation 2 had such a flavor and variety of these games going beyond just the Silent Hill name - Fatal Frame, Haunting Ground, Rule of Rose, just to name a few. I suppose my biggest disappointment next to the lack of console RPGs has been the diminishing number of survival horror games this generation. The Silent Hill name has trudged on, but even the titles we've received, Homecoming and Shattered Memories, just weren't hitting me as hard as the earlier titles in the series. So when Konami announced plans to release an HD collection that contained Silent Hill 2 and 3, I was super stoked, because I've had a craving for good old fashioned survival horror goodness lately. It's a craving I've had a hard time keeping under control, and I’ve tried to remedy it. To do so, I poured some hours into Alan Wake, which is more psychological thriller than true survival horror. And while I enjoyed a lot of the paranormal elements, it just didn't have the ability to terrify me. The game was trying more to get in my head than anything else, but it was doing so by keeping me from guessing what was going on rather than keeping me boxed in with scare tactics. So while Alan Wake filled some part of the void, it wasn't my saving grace. I enjoyed my time with it for the most part, though some parts dragged a little and the game didn't have enough variety in my opinion. My lack of enthusiasm for these scares got me thinking about some of my favorite survival horror games and how they really did terrify me.

Haunting Ground is one game that managed to scare me in the best way possible. I was on the edge of my seat, complete heart racing, thinking, "Oh my god, this creepy guy is going to find me under the bed if he looks here.” In most cases I am just waiting for something to jump out at me, take me by surprise, and force me to think on my feet about how to run my ass off from it. Haunting Ground didn’t take that route, and it was stronger for it. Rule of Rose was another game that really got in my head, mainly because of the demented portions of the story; I don't know if I could go back to play it again. It has moments you want to erase from your mind, but you'll never be completely able to. I should mention that I was brought up on horror movies. My family loves them, but I've never taken a great liking to them - give me a romantic comedy any day of the week over a horror flick. While I can’t get into the movies, there's something about the survival horror genre that just pulls me in. I think it's just that I just love the unpredictable, fast thinking strategy you have to employ to be successful. I suppose what I'm most worried is that the survival horror genre is kinda dying. Besides Silent Hill we haven't seen much, and while I have hope for Downpour, I still wish other new IPs would give it a go. Perhaps, it's just that making games on a home console is an extremely costly investment, and most publishers aren't willing to take that chance. Maybe it's just hard to be unpredictable at this point in the game; I fear maybe from all my experience with the genre, it would be hard to actually get in my head and scare me like I reveled in in the past. I have this yearning and I'm starting to fear the the genre is disappearing before our eyes. Hell, I'm still mad Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse never came over to the US.

So what happened to a genre that once had such a love and following? Did we all invest ourselves in other games and forget the lure? Did we as fans stop pressuring for the genre to survive? I don't really know the answer. It just pains me to see the thrill I once found in the genre may possibly be vanishing. If anything, I'm hoping the next generation consoles hold games that make this genre matter again. Because right now, it appears not to be a top priority for reasons we will never fully understand or know.

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