Silent Hill: The Short Message – not very scary (Picture: Konami)
A reader is unimpressed by Silent Hill: The Short Message and argues it’s part of a new wave of survival horror games that lack any real horror.
Like most fans, I’m very dubious about how the Silent Hill 2 remake will turn out and imagine that it will probably fail to leave up to the standards of the original, especially based on the new trailer from the State of Play on Wednesday. However, I was reasonably encouraged by the announcement of Silent Hill: The Short Message, so I eagerly downloaded it when it shadow-dropped and… it’s another disappointment.
There are a lot of things wrong with The Short Message, but since I agree with pretty much everything GC said in their review I’m not going to get into that here. What I want to focus on is one particular problem that is a real issue for any survival horror: it’s not scary. Not only is it not frightening, there’s no real atmosphere so it’s also not unsettling or even particularly tense.
This is an unfortunately common problem in modern survival horror games, with Alan Wake 2 going out of its way to describe itself as a survival horror and yet not being even slightly scary. Even Resident Evil 4, glorious as it is, was not scary. Neither was the original, so it’s not really a failing of the remake, it’s just another example of a trend that is killing survival horror before there’s even a chance at a revival.
Dead Space was also never scary (even though, unlike Resident Evil 4, it was trying to be) while it’s wannabe spiritual successor The Callisto Protocol was occasionally gross but never frightening. Meanwhile, The Dark Pictures is a whole series of non-scary horror games, inspired by the disappointingly PG approach of Until Dawn.
I’m not suggesting there are no scary horror games being made anymore, but they are never the big budget ones that people are actually playing. I was very impressed by Amnesia: The Bunker and World Of Horror last year but have never met anyone else that’s heard of either, let alone played them.
It’s pretty obvious what’s going on. The problem with making a non-indie horror game is that you’re instantly limiting your audience, because not everyone likes to be scared. That’s not a problem for horror films, which are usually very low budget, but with games that’s not necessarily the case, because you’re not making a saving by using little known actors or having no special effects.
So instead, publishers seem to have decided that the solution to the problem is to make horror games that have no horror in them. Not only are the modern games I’ve mentioned not frightening but they’re not gory either. There’s almost nothing to identify them as horror games, other than they feature ghosts or monsters or whatever.
I get it, publishers aren’t a charity and have to make their money back, but if that’s your only concern just don’t bother with a horror game at all – there must be many other more reliable trends to chase than that. Just go make a battle royale or something.
I particularly resent a classic franchise like Silent Hill being dragged through the mud, with the two games released since its return both being really bad and the remake likely to follow. A horror game that’s not scary is like a comedy that’s not funny, it not only completely misses the point but it’s painful to sit through.
I could understand if horror games were some sort of surefire hit – a bandwagon you want to jump on – but they’re not that, they’re the complete opposite. So please, publishers, make your horror games scary or don’t make them at all.
By reader WallaceET
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