We’re used to playing killers in videogames (see: Kratos, Altair, Solid Snake), but there’s still something unsettling about Splatterhouse’s Rick. He’s a character who, for all intents and purposes, is Jason Voorhees: the notorious teen stabber and surprise hockey enthusiast from Friday the 13th. The similarities may be far less overt than in the side-scrolling ’80s/’90s originals, but you’re still playing a game wearing the facial garb of a mass murderer.
It’s pretty apt, then, that Splatterhouse is one of the most ridiculously gory games we’ve ever seen. As a hulking man-monster, you can rip enemies in two, mash their skulls to a pulp and even bite their heads in half – moves accompanied by a generous shower of the red stuff. Based on our hour-long demonstration, though, the game appears to have its tongue firmly wedged in its cheek – think B-movie rather than Hollywood.
The game begins with 16-year-old Rick accompanying his girlfriend, Jennifer, to a job interview at the creepy mansion of one Dr. West (he's likely a reference to HP Lovecraft's Herbert West, reanimator). This particular West turns out to be a mad scientist/demon botherer who kidnaps Jen and leaves Rick for dead. ‘Luckily’, an artifact known as the Terror Mask just happens to be nearby. One dodgy pact later and Rick’s better than ever, with the talking mask fused to his face. The perks include increased strength and the ability to regenerate limbs. Drawbacks? Some monstrous looks and the mask’s unquenchable diet of blood.
The good news is that the claret is not exactly in short supply. Although there are, apparently, platforming and light puzzle elements, combat’s clearly the meat of the game. It seems faster than the sluggish Darksiders, but slower than the lightning-fast Bayonetta – and it refreshingly appears to have inspirations other than God of War. At times, it seems more like an old-fashioned beat-’em-up, which should reassure long-term fans.
Rick’s primary weapons are his fists, but he also gains access to various sharp and blunt objects throughout the game, as well as a chainsaw and shotgun. Some will generate more blood than others, which is essential not only for buying new abilities – we’re promised a skill-tree full of unlockable moves – but also for pulling off the game’s grisly Splatter Kills.
Since it’s so early in development, not all of the elements are in place, but Splatter Kills still seem more immersive than the average QuickTime Event-style (QTE) killing moves. Rather than following a series of button prompts, you’re repeatedly mashing the analog sticks together to simulate bashing an enemy’s head in, or bodily ripping them in half. The point is not to finish them off quickly, but to milk their death for all its bloody worth.
We saw a few bosses too, including a giant mouth that needed to be fed enemies, and a monster made out of furniture. Yes, furniture. After the scale of God of War III, the bar may have been raised for boss fights, but a creature constructed from chairs and tables is still interesting, even if it can’t quite match the GoW series’ sense of scaling impossible odds. Boss encounters are where more standard QTEs raise their ugly heads, and where the bulk of the licensed heavy metal soundtrack will play out, which is probably to blame for our B-movie impressions.
Even putting that aside, there doesn’t appear to be a pretentious bone in Splatterhouse’s body – to a 14-year-old horror fan, this will probably seem like the best game ever made (shame they won’t be able to play it). Like last year’s 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, we can imagine this being something of a guilty pleasure. It’s unlikely Splatterhouse will break any new ground, but it will let you break monsters in half. And that’s reason enough to be excited.
Arp 8, 2010