Bloober Team is gunning for the very top of the horror game developer pantheon, having shipped six consecutive spookfests in under a decade and nearing the finish line on the highly anticipated Silent Hill 2 remake. The Poland-based studio is determined to prove it can play ball with the greats, but a largely undecided horror community is watching anxiously to see whether its biggest test yet is a slam dunk or a disappointment.
"Mastering the art of horror is the path we follow and to which we always want to hold on," says Kacper Michalski, Bloober Team head of production. "Our studio has grown significantly over the last few years, and now we're at a point when we feel fully mature to handle even the biggest projects.
"Konami bestowed great honor upon us by granting us the privilege to remake Silent Hill 2, one of the most important horror games of all time. Such a distinction speaks for itself and proves that our studio breathes horror. I believe that thanks to our upcoming big projects we will achieve our goal and reach the top of the pantheon of horror creators in the coming years, while retaining our values intact."
With great power
Being handed the keys to one of the most beloved horror games of all time is a big honor, indeed, but it's also a daunting task filled with challenges posed by the deep gulf in technical capabilities available to developers today compared to when Silent Hill 2 first launched in 2001.
"The state of the art in gaming keeps advancing at an amazing rate," Michalski says. "It’s astonishing how developers use their creativity and push cutting-edge technologies to the limits to spiff up the original titles. However, this poses new challenges, like how to make an entirely new game while keeping that mojo that everyone loved about the original."
We'll have to wait for the Silent Hill 2 remake to release to learn Bloober Team's answer to that task, but there's no denying the recent successes of other prominent horror developers. Capcom has triumphantly revived the Resident Evil series with a steady clip of acclaimed remakes and original sequels, Dead Space is back and better than ever with this year's remake, and the System Shock remake from Nightdive Studios is a faithful recreation of the 1994 cult classic original.
A season within a season
It's a fantastic time to be a horror fan more broadly, too, and not just it's Halloween season. With Alan Wake 2 releasing just this week to stellar reviews, the indie scene piling up with underappreciated bangers like Signalis and Dredge, and even the multiplayer side in full swing with Dead by Daylight and the Texas Chain Saw Massacre game, there's no shortage of frights to sink your fangs into. For Michalski, this horror renaissance poses only one challenge: there's not enough time to play them all.
"I would say we’re having a 'horror season' in general. I'm really happy about what is happening in the industry now because horror games as a genre haven't always gotten the attention and love they deserve," says Michalski. "There’re tons of recent materials that are worth a look, there’s always something for everyone - either single-player experience or multiplayer survival games. There’re a lot of fantastic indie horror games out there as well. If anything, the biggest problem for horror fans is finding time for all these great titles."
The original Silent Hill 2 is considered one of the most terrifying games of all time, and although the term is subjective, Michalski believes what truly makes something scary is what lies hiding in the darkness.
"Our games focus more on story, atmosphere, and sound. We coined a term for our works 'hidden horror' — a subgenre of psychological horror and our fans have witnessed our deeper and deeper involvement in this category," he says. "We firmly believe that what scares us most is the unknown, the undiscovered. In our titles we focus on the complexity of the characters and on creating an unsettling atmosphere. The players are supposed to question their own choices, make uneasy decisions, and face moral dilemmas. Is there anything more frightening in life than when you don't know what awaits you and whether your decisions lead to something bad?"
With all eyes on the Silent Hill 2 remake and still not so much as a release window in sight, it's clear Bloober Team is taking its time nailing that balancing act of staying true to its own roots, delivering on the promise of reviving a masterpiece, and ultimately, making a game that'll scare that pants off of you. Here's hoping it sticks the landing.
This interview was initially conducted in January 2023.