I hate ‘top ten’ lists. I think they’re worthless articles that promote clickbaiting and I wouldn’t write one. In a completely unrelated topic, here’s a list of horror games I’m very excited for (and you should be too) in 2014.
Let’s not kid ourselves, the horror genre is fantastic, and it’s the rise of the independent developer that has the genre so successful right now. While big companies refuse to splash millions of dollars to fund games that aim to make you pee your pants, the same effect can be accomplished by a tiny dev team with the right skill. Yes, 2014 will be a magnificent year for horror games, so let’s look at some potential standouts.
Setting the bar high from the start, Routine looks absolutely phenomenal. A FPS survival horror set on an abandoned Moon base, what sets Routine apart is it’s roguelike elements: no HUD, no health bar, one life, a perfect mixture to concoct terror or frustration (most likely both). Yes, Routine is far from a routine horror game (had to be done), and not only does the open ended structure and non scripted sequences look and feel genuinely scary, but it looks fantastic for an indie game (the UDK engine at work here). Not to mention the Oculus Rift support which is sure to bump up the immersion and scare factor to a cool 100. Hopefully the randomness element to Routine won’t turn the experience into a dumb luck scenario, something that plagues many roguelike games. The team at Lunar Software (last I checked were comprised of 4, yes, 4 people) should be congratulating themselves for stirring up hype and possibly creating a brilliant new IP. Let’s see if they can execute the final product to an appropriate degree.
Easily the biggest horror release of 2014 and of the past few years, Evil Within is acting as a survival horror swansong for Japanese legend Shinji Mikami (director of games such as Devil May Cry, Vanquish and of course, Resident Evil 4), this being the last game he states he would ever direct, yes, Mikami’s name itself is enough to stir up intense hype and I have no doubt that Evil Within will not disappoint. One only needs to look at his fantastic repertoire to know that we are in good hands. From what we’ve seen we can expect a heavy dose of action-horror and not very subtle elements of real terror, but maybe we’ll get a rug pulled under us and be treated to some true scares. Nevertheless, the IP looks fresh and exciting, the violence unrelenting and let us hope that Evil Within finishes Mikami’s career on a high note that arguably has never faltered.
Possibly the most unique, creative and anxiety ridden entry on this list, Among The Sleep has you control a 2 year old in a borderland between dreams and reality. Among The Sleep really toys and plays with your mind, as being a 2 year old in-game, the diverse and surreal environments will open your eyes to true physical and mental horrors with such a imagination. Looks very good, yet we can only see how depraved and mental this game can really get. You can check out their Kickstarter HERE but regardless this game is getting released in 2014.
Procedurally generated, for the PS4, made on the Unreal Engine 4, Daylight looks…ok. From what I’ve seen the gameplay is completely unremarkable, and the developer’s sole focus is on the randomly generated gameplay…which is something half the games on this list already have. Outside of that feature, the game looks like it relies way too much on jumpscares, one of horror’s cheapest gimmicks. Despite its UE4 build, graphically it looks unimpressive. Maybe in another year Daylight would’ve had a bigger impact, but which such a huge year of horror, Daylight runs a risk of wearing out its welcome quickly. Regardless, I look forward to be proven wrong.
So Dead Island was a crock of shit (actually it was decent, just definitely not what anyone wanted or expected) but previews of Dying Light looks great. An amalgamation of Dead Island and Mirror’s Edge, Dying Light doesn’t look like a fantastic horror game, but it does look incredibly fun and if the controls work well, it WILL be incredibly fun. Having the option to parkour away instead of fight is always good, and the day/night cycle looks incredibly good; I look forward to sprinting away in sheer terror as the stronger and faster zombies come out at night. Despite Techland’s track record with disappointing zombie games, I remain cautiously optimistic for Dying Light.
I’ve learnt never to trust a pre-release media segment from ANY Alien game ever again after the disaster that was Colonial Marines, but it looks like Isolation could be worth something here. The plot itself already screams red alert (again, too focused on tying things to the movie) but apparently the very look and feel of the game will be reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s classic which again…is a mixed bag. Focusing on one Alien that cannot be killed and that tracks scent, sound and sight sounds great on paper, but execution wise we will have to see. Despite this, the overt focus on flight instead of fight is something I much appreciate, as is the open ended scenarios as to how to avoid the Alien.
I love Alien. I also loved Aliens but that’s irrelevant here. Alien was a seminal horror film, an absolute classic and still manages to scare me so many years and viewings later. Yes, Alien IS one of the greatest films ever made, but having games revolve around such movie-worship never translates well. Colonial Marines is a huge example of why you shouldn’t rely too much on your source material, and I fear for Isolation as it’s overreliance on fan nostalgia may prove to be its biggest flaw. Regardless, from what we’ve seen we can expect a terrifying Alien game that may prove to be the best since the original AVP2. Despite the Alien brand being tarnished and despite Creative Assembly’s shit record outside of anything that doesn’t start with the words ‘Total War’, this is a game I will not be preordering, but will definitely be keeping a close eye on.
Long on the brink of cancellation, apparently Until Dawn is STILL a working IP and is planning to be released in 2014, thought the signs do not bode well. A PS3/Move compatible game, Until Dawn follows a group of teenagers as they spend the night in a log cabin, whilst being stalked by a serial killer. Classic horror movie material, will it convert to success in a game? Details on Until Dawn have been very slim and what we’ve seen hasn’t exactly been too promising. Still, the done-to-death premise in films but not in games is interesting and with the right tone we could have a cult success equivalent to Deadly Premonition.
Fresh off Steam Greenlight comes a game much in the vein of Amnesia and Outlast. This is Monstrum; a game made with the Unity engine (boy are people getting good at making games on this thing), set on a derelict ship, with no means of fighting back, ticking all the boxes already. Monstrum has its own little gimmick: the ability to use ‘distractions’ such as throwing objects or turning on TV’s and radios to avoid and confuse enemies. A neat gimmick but what interests me is the proposed randomness of it: accidental bumps against objects can cause noises that will alert monsters; think of a game where you can pick up a random object and screw around with it (Skyrim, Dishonored etc), now this object is a crucial part of survival in Monstrum. With a very neat aesthetic (got a Bioshock vibe from the trailer) and the usual features of survival horror in 2014 (permadeath, randomly generated) this definitely looks good.
Technically not out until 2015, I had to throw this on the list anyway because I’m just so excited for it. SOMA is a science fiction survival horror much akin to Routine, so what makes this stand apart? Well it’s Frictional Games much, MUCH anticipated follow up to Amnesia, for starters. Amnesia: A Dark Descent absolutely nailed the atmosphere and sound design, and one can only expect a similar level of quality for SOMA. Very few details are out for SOMA outside of a website www.somagame.com but regardless, horror fans can rest assured that Frictional will deliver the goods in the horror genre. Frictional may stick to a very similar formula throughout their catalogue, but it’s a formula they’ve mastered.
I’ve thrown around the term ‘survival horror’ way too many times in this article but yes, The Forest is a down-to-earth true survival horror, and looks absolutely phenomenal (think Minecraft+The Descent+Slender). Set in an open environment in which plants grow and thrive, weather patterns are seemingly unpredictable and where danger lurks behind every tree or rock, The Forest has one simple objective for you: survive. Certain tides can block off parts off the map, you must gather food and resources to use, every tree and plant can be torn up or chopped down, and gathering materials for a shelter is a necessity for surviving the harsh nights, where the environment’s greatest danger comes out: a tribe of cannibalistic humanoid mutants. Intriguingly enough, the mutants aren’t openly hostile towards you (seeing as you’re the intruder on their native land) and this sort of neutral standoff could lead to some incredibly tense and scary scenarios. The Forest is easily one of the most ambitious horror games of 2014, and if it pulls it off, could easily be one of the best games of this year. Keep your eyes peeled.
Not exactly a horror game per-se, but most definitely a survival game, Dark Souls was a game that managed to capture the essence of what so many ‘horror’ games in the past missed. The crushing feeling of isolation, the tension of fighting enemies so much larger and stronger, and the atmosphere slowly choking the life out of you as you desperately search for the next safe point. Yes, Dark Souls 2 is survival horror in a beautiful, strange way, and there’s no doubt that DS2 will manage to replicate the same levels of intensity and difficulty that was so evident in Dark/Demon’s Souls.
So there you have it! What horror game are you most looking forward to from 2014?