Horror Game Experiments That Didn’t Quite Work
It’s not easy being different. It takes guts to try something bold and different. This is especially true for established brands because they have fans, and fans tend to have certain expectations. If the inevitable next Call of Duty is a romance simulator, you can bet there’d be a whole lot of very strong opinions about that. Everyone knows the only romance that’s allowed on the battlefield is the unspoken love between a soldier and their weapon.
Considering the exorbitant costs involved in modern games development, I admire the precious few remaining developers that are willing, or able, to take risks, even if it ultimately doesn’t pan out. And sometimes, it really doesn’t work.
That Time Silent Hill: Downpour Forgot That One Important Thing
I had to get this one out of the way first. I’m not kidding when I say I still think about this every now and then, and every time I do, I get a little bit angry. That’s how much it bothers me.
There’s no one rule that dictates what a Silent Hill game should be, but if such a thing were to exist, it would have everything to do with the monsters. Silent Hill has introduced us to some of the most creative and genuinely disturbing creature designs in all of gaming. Every game in the series has followed this unwritten rule, save one: Silent Hill: Downpour. Perhaps the worst part is how badly the game fails in this regard, with nary a memorable monster in sight. Not one.
Other than that, Downpour is actually quite a lot of fun. I might even recommend it, so long as you go in knowing this. The game has some legitimately interesting ideas, and I respect the solid effort that went into the mature storytelling and more open world format.
But come on, man. Those monsters sucked.
That Time Dead Space Got Distracted By Hella Cool Explosions
I legitimately believed Dead Space would be the next Resident Evil, right up until Dead Space 3. The series had the right talent in Visceral Games (RIP), and it certainly had the potential to be something big. Unfortunately, it also had a publisher that was eager to emphasize the action over the horror. Horror is still relatively niche, so Dead Space moved away from its roots in an effort to appeal to a wider audience.
I can’t think of many horror games that have top notch combat and a truly unique arsenal of weapons. It was refreshing to see a game that eschewed the purposefully clumsy combat that for years was basically expected from survival horror games.
That Time Resident Evil Got Too Big For Its Britches
I think we can all agree that Resident Evil 6 was a hot mess. Capcom found itself in the unenvious position of having to follow up Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, the most acclaimed and most successful games in the series, respectively. I don’t blame them for going all in, but you do have to wonder why none of the hundreds of people who worked on the game ever stood up from the cocaine trough to say, “Hey, maybe this is too much?”
To recap, Resident Evil 6 had four intertwined story campaigns that could be played either alone or in co-op, with an optional Dark Souls inspired component in which other players could invade your game as a monster. It also brought three competitive multiplayer modes, the fan favorite Mercenaries mode, an entirely new gaggle of monsters, and it also completely reworked the combat and character movement. Oh, and don’t get me started on Ada’s super practical and not at all silly ice cube cell phone. That was something.
In other words, this game was about as bloated as a water-logged Lepotica. On the bright side, this epic failure is largely responsible for getting us Resident Evil 7, so I suppose it all worked out.
That Time Dead Rising Made a Ho-Ho-Horrible Decision
Capcom clearly isn’t afraid of doing its own thing, whether that thing sounds rational or even remotely resembles what its fans want them to do. Resident Evil 4 is a prime example of that mentality leading to very good things, while Dead Rising 4 does precisely the opposite.
It’s simple, really. Rather than build upon what Dead Rising 3 got right, a decision was made to bring back the aggressively unlikable Frank West for some Christmas-themed shenanigans.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I believe that Christmas has a place, and that place is in the month of December. And if I’m being honest, my interest in wandering about in a festive world listening to catchy jingles about Santa dissipates on or around December 26th. Maybe that just makes me a Grinch.
That Time Dead Island Did Everything Wrong
Remember the reveal trailer for the original Dead Island? Wasn’t it great? It’s too bad the series had to shit the bed so thoroughly.
Where do I even begin? Should I start at the beginning, with the mediocre, but still mostly alright Dead Island? Or how about its successor, Dead Island: Riptide? The best I can say about that weirdly bland pseudo-sequel is at least it didn’t give us an encore of Sam B.’s hit track “Who Do You Voodoo”.
Then there was Dead Island: Epidemic and its attempt to break into the MOBA genre. I wasn’t able to find much to like about it — though it’s worth mentioning the same could be said about my relationship with the MOBA genre as a whole — but I do respect the effort. The same cannot be said for Escape from Dead Island, which is best relegated to the dust bin of history. And who knows what’s going on with Dead Island 2, assuming it’s even still a thing. Last I checked it was on its third developer, but rumor has it the series’ future may now be in the hands of a fourth.
Ah well, there’s always Dying Light.
That Time When Horror Games Went Through An Awkward Phase
Let me take you on a journey through time and space, to an era we affectionately refer to as the aughts. About a decade ago, there was a worrying trend that involved the aggressive shoehorning of half-baked multiplayer modes in horror games. Condemned 2: Bloodshot, BioShock 2, Resident Evil 5, and Dead Space 2 all dabbled in it.
It wasn’t always for the worse, but it was usually pretty obvious multiplayer was added for marketing purposes. Multiplayer adds replay value, but it also takes time and resources that could’ve been better spent on the core experience.
I’m thrilled this has since been replaced by a handful of less intrusive trends. Now there are multiplayer-centric spin-offs like Umbrella Corps, Depth, and Alone in the Dark: Illumination, as well as a whole slew of Left 4 Dead-inspired games (Killing Floor, Vermintide, etc.). And more recently, we’ve seen a wave of asymmetrical multiplayer games like Friday the 13th: The Game, Dead by Daylight, and Last Year: The Nightmare. As someone who desperately wanted to enjoy the competitive mode in Dead Space 2, this is a very good thing.
Did I miss a failed experiment you feel is worth remembering forever and ever? Let me know in the comments!