The pioneer - Resident Evil | 1996 | PS1
Responsible for coining the term survival horror, Resident Evil was more than a third person action/adventure with a few monsters in - it marked out the beginning of a genre that actively went out of its way to unsettle and isolate players. For a start, you never had enough ammo, so sooner or later you were going to have to run. But run where? The claustrophobic confines of the mansion was as much your enemy as the monsters, with intentionally awkward camera angles heightening the fact that you really had no idea where the next threat was going to come from. Worse, it brilliantly implemented sound, so you could hear those bastard zombie dogs, but never know where they were until they were feasting on your jugular.
Raising the bar - Resident Evil 4 | 2005 | GC/PS2
Perception is a funny thing. When we think of monsters in horror, we expect mutations and freak experiments, maybe clinging to the odd dismembered limb or mutilated corpse for effect. Resi 4 threw most of that out with the bathwater, and the introduction of the speedy, co-operative, and intelligent Ganados, who look like ordinary people, was far more chilling than any creature of the night could be. Along with a welcome re-jig of the combat system into a first/third person hybrid, and a move away from fixed camera angles, Resi 4 breathed some life into a genre that was very nearly defined by the inclusion of zombies.
Scraping the barrel - Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within | 1999 | PS1
Clock Tower 2 tried a very interesting thing in throwing a bout of split personalities into the mix, which worked well in the sense that both personas react to in-game events differently, but ruined both logic and progression. Schoolgirl Alyssa can’t open some doors for instance. Switch to murderer Bates and the door magically unlocks. Why? Then there’s the little gem that if you experience some events as the wrong character, you won’t be able to reach the end of the game (more locked door problems) and you have to start over. And in 1999 there was very little excuse for the point and click interface, especially when all you could do was watch in disbelief as you ended up walking towards the monster you were trying to run away from.
Keep your eyes peeled for - Alone in the Dark | PC/PS3/Xbox 360
The big news - other than it looking like a stunning return to roots - is that the Alone in the Dark 5 will be structured as a series of individual episodes, each of which is reported to feature a cliffhanger ending to ratchet up the tension. If it’s pulled off, it’ll be a new high for survival horror.
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