Horror games have seen a bit of a revival lately. With Outlast and Amnesia helping to bring back survival horror to PC, I thought to myself: Why are there no games where the player is the monster? I don’t mean as in the philosophical sense of being a monster where the player kills so many people that he loses most of his humanity and becomes a raging psychopath (The Last Of Us), but rather in the literal sense that the player is an otherworldly, occult or evil being that possesses abilities to aid itself in its ultimate goal: to spread evil, terrorize and murder everything in sight. Let’s discuss.
One of my favourite moments from one of my favourite games (Fallout 3) was the moment when the player enters a simulation that turns the world into a Stepford Wives fantasy. You stepped into this Pleasantville/50’s utopia as seen in old time ads with white picket fences, kids selling lemonade and floral dresses aplenty. Without spoiling too much, you are forced to commit certain horrific deeds to the good people of the neighbourhood. You must force a kid to breakdown in tears, split up a couple’s already rocky relationship and finally, murder a woman by either pushing her down the stairs with a carefully placed rollerskate or unscrewing the chandelier above her. All these things were unnecessarily harsh but oh so fun. The way you could experiment with how to perform each cruel task was very liberating and it quickly became my favourite part in the whole game. And that’s when it hit me; I was playing a Friday The 13th/Nightmare on Elm Street themed part of the game where you strive to perform horrific yet entertaining kills.
In a way, there’s been plenty of games like this (Dishonored, Hitman, Naughty Bear) but has there even been a really good and iconic horror game where the player is like Jason Voorhees from Friday The 13th preying on a group of innocent people? Has there ever been a “slasher” type of game that has been really popular? A slasher film is described as a film “involving a mysterious psychopathic killer stalking and killing a sequence of victims usually in a graphically violent manner, often with a cutting tool such as a knife or axe.” It’s such a perfect premise for a game.
Maybe I’m just being too optimistic. A game like this could get boring very quickly as a triple A title but as an indie game, it could work! Some games have replicated the “slasher” style in certain ways. One such game is Lucius. This game has you playing as the son of Satan and you must kill the servants of your home in creative ways. It was received poorly because of the controls but it is fair to say that the idea behind it is rather excellent. While not a slasher in itself, the game seems to borrow many elements from the genre including creative deaths and seemingly innocent villains.
Another game that does actually borrow a small bit from horror genres is the Batman Arkham series. When entering a room full of goons, Batman can pick off enemies one by one until only one unfortunate thug remains. The final criminal panics. A lot. He shoots at pipes that suddenly burst out steam, he turns around constantly screaming for The Batman to reveal himself and he sticks to cover and tries to become more efficient in his patrols. All this happens while Batman sits on a gargoyle, watching from the shadows as his prey’s heartbeat rises to 150 BPM and enters a state a pure terror. This moment in Arkham games is pure slasher territory. There’s nothing more thrilling in the Arkham series than freaking out guards because they’re the last one alive and it’s up to you how to deal with him. Do you glide kick him so he never sees you coming or do you get right in his face so he catches a glimpse of you before you knock him out? The decisions available are always tantalizing and make the game even better.
So what do you think? Am I on to something here? Could there be a market for “horror/slasher” games in the next-gen? With all the new indie games and IPs being given the green light on Playstation 4 and Xbox One, could there be a chance to see a birth of the “slasher” genre of gaming? I believe that this “niche” type of gaming could find a strong foothold in the indie market but could it also find a place fighting against the big contenders of horror like Resident Evil or Dead Space? Let me know your opinion in the comments below!