Is the "survival horror" genre extinct?

Last night I was at a party and someone (who lived at the house) said he had Resident Evil 5. I haven’t played many games lately, PC or console, but I’d seen screenshots from RE5 and they looked cool, and being a lifelong fan of the Resident Evil series, I wanted to check out RE5, so he showed it to me and let me play it for a while.

The game I played was a third-person action shooter.

Resident Evil 4, also, was a third-person action shooter.

Is this the direction the series is going to head in for good? Third person action shooters can be fun, but the Resident Evil series always had a unique concept - “survival horror.” The games weren’t really action games - they were exploration games, with a lot of scary moments. The “horror” part came from all the startling moments when a zombie or creature would come crashing through the window or something. The enemies were fairly few and far between - it was the atmosphere of the environments, and the tension of always wondering whether something was going to jump out at you, that created the scariness.

When you have to fight a million enemies at every stage of the game, it’s no longer scary, because there’s nothing to contrast the scary moments with. When there’s just nonstop shooting, it’s pretty hard to ever be startled by anything.

(Also the enemies were fucking stupid - Zulu warriors with spears and rocket-powered crossbows?)

And I was pretty disappointed with the general “look” of the game, too. Washed-out, dull, brownish-gray everything. The mansions in RE1 and RE2 had vibrant colors and very distinctive settings for every screen, truly making the most of the still-rendered backgrounds. I don’t know if they’re going for more “realism” now with the game’s visual appearance or what, but the ultimate result of it is monotony.

I really enjoyed the “Survival Horror” genre. I liked Resident Evil, RE2 and 3 and Code Veronica, the little-known “Clock Tower” for PS1, the Dino Crisis games, and the early Silent Hills. They were really scary. But now it seems like this genre does not exist anymore. It has morphed into just being action games.

What’s the deal here? Is this because gamers aren’t as patient as they used to be or something? I realize that the item-finding quests of the old Resident Evils could be really time consuming, with all the backtracking, but IMO the great moments of terror when something would suddenly attack you made it worthwhile. The new RE has none of that - it just seems to be mindless blasting, and I don’t like it.

Thoughts? Are there any “real” survival horror games coming out for the new consoles?

You have to realize just what happened with the RE series to realize why it looks the way it does now. You can only really do the “scary things in a mansion jump out at you” thing once. Capcom did it for the RE series five times. Sure, part 2 and Code Veronica were pretty well received, but gamers were getting sick of it. All of it. The chess piece puzzles, the wonky controls (which were only supposed to be temporary), the backtracking, all of it.

RE4 was in development for years (even though Code Veronica is considered part of the main series and should have been named RE4) and went through three or four concept changes before Capcom settled on the one that was released. They knew the series needed a change.

And as you say, RE5 is really just a more realistic RE4. Which is why Capcom has said they plan to reboot the series for real with RE6. So it will be different still.

As for the question of whether they still make survival horror games, of course they do. You just have to know where to look. The Silent Hill series is still going. Saw is going to be turned into a video game, supposedly it will be a classic horror game. Dead Space is similar in style to RE4, but more horrorific. A game from last year called Obscure: The Aftermath seems to be a classic horror game. And I’m sure there’s a few more out there.

Oh yeah, Dead Space, I heard that one is badass. I am really going to have to get that, I saw some screen shots and it looks pretty good.

Are 3rd person games scary at all?

Serious question - I don’t find myself nearly as immersed in a 3rd person vs. a 1st person.

There were some genuinely creepy and scary moments in RE4, I felt. Some of the baddies, and the carnage, and the wriggling thing in the bloody bag near the end…good times.

I can only speak for myself of course, but I’ve always found 3rd person to be every bit as immersive as 1st, maybe more so for myself personally. The handful of 1st person horror games I’ve played, (I’m mostly thinking of the first FEAR and maybe the Ravenholm section of HL2), didn’t do much for me. I’m not entirely certain why, maybe it just feels like you have more control over your situation. Seeing a gun in your hand all the time in the middle of the screen it reminds me too much of playing COD or other FPS games where tension and fear aren’t elements of the experience.

OTOH, it’s strange because I don’t really consider myself a fan of horror titles, because I generally don’t go out of my way to track them down, but some of my favorite games are counted among the genre. I enjoyed the early RE games, (1,2,3, and CV, never really got into 4 and haven’t played 5 yet), Eternal Darkness was great and Silent Hill would probably rank among my favorite franchises of all time. The first 3 are some of the finest games ever made, and Homecoming, (which I’m playing through for the first time right now), appears to be a return to form. (I absolutely hated 4 with a passion though, not the game’s fault necessarily as my issues with it are mostly to do with my own expectations, but it’s not really pertinent to the thread so I’ll let that go for now.)

To address the OP directly, I don’t think survival horror is dead, but it’s definitely changing. It was always a bit of a niche genre that had a lot of crossover with adventure games and shooters and the RE franchise is going more in the latter direction. There are still games coming out that seem to emphasize the horror element though, like the aforementioned Dead Space which I’ve heard good things about, (haven’t played it personally, but it’s on “the list”), and as I talked about above Silent Hill: Homecoming which has been terrific so far. I’d highly recommend that if you enjoyed the earlier entries.

A slight tangent but something I’ve noticed that’s interesting is other games that aren’t horror incorporating some of those elements. Like, again, the Ravenholm section of HL2 or Fallout 3. Skulking around in burned out subway tunnels keeping an open eye for feral ghouls had a “survival horror” vibe to it, even if toting around a plasma rifle with a thousand rounds kind of cuts down on the tension some. I wonder if we’ll be seeing more of that.

I think there’s a pretty strong case to be made that RE2 is the scariest of all the Resident Evils, thanks to the ingenious “B Scenarios,” featuring a certain large, green-overcoat-wearing, bald man who takes great pleasure in smashing right through the wall at the most unlikely moments, scaring the living piss out of you and possibly causing a heart attack. (I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one person out there suffered a heart attack after the third encounter with “Mr. X” - after you complete the furnace-room puzzle in the basement area of the police station and get the “gold cogwheel.”)

The B Scenarios also changed all of the “jump” scenes so that people wouldn’t be prepared for them after the first playthrough - for instance, in the regular game, the first time around, in that boarded up hallway in the police station, all those zombie arms try to grab you through the wall. Then the next time around in the B scenario, you’re coming up to the boarded up wall, and you “know” that the arms are going to grab you this time, so you’re not about to get startled again. Then, what do you know - instead of the arms, this time two police zombies jump right through the wall and attack you.

Very clever idea. RE2 had the most number of “jump” sequences by far - moments when you practically leap out of your seat with surprise.

Horror games never seem to do this anymore. It’s really disappointing to me because I loved this form of game. The original Resident Evils were more scary because they were generally so quiet and tranquil, except for when you were suddenly being attacked. The music was SO creepy, too, especially the weird dissonant piano theme playing throughout the police station level in RE2.

ETA - there’s also a lot to be said for the changing camera angles of the original Resident Evils. It’s pretty hard to have real suspense and tension when the perspective is ALWAYS the same, whether it be third person or first person. I mean, all the great horror directors, starting with Hitchcock, knew the value of a camera angle. Now that the fixed, static backgrounds are gone, there’s no such thing anymore in horror games.

Haven’t you heard? Real is brown.

God dammit. That strip absolutely epitomizes my frustration with the state of video game aesthetics right now. I hated Assbandit’s Creed for the same reason, and I’m hesitant to get Metal Gear Solid 4 as well - I DON’T WANT TO SPEND THE WHOLE GAME LOOKING AT A TURD-BROWN WASHED-OUT COLOR SCHEME, FOR GOD’S SAKE!

Sometimes I still play the old game Mafia for PC and marvel at how incredibly vivid and colorful they made that game, even though it’s now ancient by gaming standards. How did they manage to lose this art?

Gears of War was(is?) also really bad with that, at least from what I’ve played of it. It makes the games just feel a whole lot more ‘blah’, in spite of whatever action may actually be happening on the screen.

Pre-emptive post that anyone claiming Left 4 Dead to be “survival horror” gets shot.

The trailer is really what sold me on the game. It was probably my favorite game of 2008.

Confirming: deadspace rocks the socks off of lox.

I think you’re looking at a “No true Scotsman” situation here. Survival horror was never a huge subgenre and I think it exists in the same numbers that it ever did. We are seeing transformations in it since people are learning not to tolerate “annoying to play” as “horror”.

Tough luck, magnusblitz, Left 4 Dead is a perfect example of this transformation. You’re given very limited resources, a fixed goal, and are slowly whittled down as you move toward it. You typically get weaker as the game progresses not stronger. By scaling down the game world to something that can be handled in an hour and keeping the pressure on the player they can do things in that game that the games with the heavier adventure elements only wish they could. I had more of a response to it than I ever did from the survival horror games where all they can do is have something jump out at you every so often.

Shocking someone is not the same thing as scaring them and survival horror has rarely been good at being scary. That’s all that most survival horror games (including the big names) could ever do. They made games frustrating to play and declared that it “scary”. I can live with that stuff fading away.

Now if you don’t mind Fatal Frame 3 showed up in my mailbox today. Since I had been playing the XBox ones I didn’t even know it existed and I’ve got to get it before I play the Wii one which will probably be a better game simply by virtue of being easier to control. :slight_smile:

I dunno, I think there was a pretty huge fan base for Resident Evil. Big enough to make two movies based on it. There are a zillion fan websites for the RE games, and everyone that I know liked them.

I realize that some people found the “survival horror” games annoying, but I never did. I think the biggest issue a lot of people had was the controls, which take some getting used to, but I never minded them. Others disliked the fixed camera angle, but I always loved it, for the reasons I explained before - it made the game more cinematic; changing the camera angles in each screen heightened the tension; and with the static, rendered backgrounds, it allowed for more detail, allowing the player to really take in all the ambience of the level design and the unbelievable detail in each room of the mansion.

They’re not for everyone, but they certainly had their share of fans. I’m just disappointed that they completely did away with the tension and suspense and just turned the game into a shooter. (And also, I LIKED the contrived item quests in RE’s 1 and 2 - I always found it hilarious that activating a simple device like a sliding door would require you to insert a red jewel, which you had to break open a statue of a unicorn hidden on top of a bookshelf to obtain.) There was a cheesy charm to those old games that just isn’t there anymore.

For one series but you’re talking about a subgenre that had four or five games released a year. That’s “not a huge subgenre”.

For the most part I’d agree with you, but I just feel the need to stick up for my own favorite franchise here. :smiley:

Silent Hill is probably the second best known horror franchise after Resident Evil, (at least it was at one time, I’m not sure if that’s still the case), and it managed to avoid all mistakes that the latter made. The Silent Hill games were all about atmosphere and tension and while it had it’s share of “shock” moments it certainly didn’t rely on them. The ability of that series to create nerve wracking fear from a simple combination of sound, shadow, and oppressive imagery is phenomenal.

To this day the original Silent Hill is still the only game that has ever managed to get me to stop playing for a reason other that frustration. (I could fill a book with games that got me to stop playing because of frustration.) :wink:
It was late at night, I had all lights off and I had been playing for a good 3 or 4 hours and I was in the elementary school. I had wandered through the first part and had made it to the courtyard. When I stepped through the door, and I literally couldn’t see anything beyond the arc of my flashlight, I stopped, looked around for about 10 seconds and just said to myself, “Nope, I’m done.” I don’t how to explain my thoughts at the time, I think the game just “broke” me at the point.

Of course I was back playing it the next night. :stuck_out_tongue:

Agreed; I loved the RE games as a kid, and I loved the startling moments, but the original Silent Hill genuinely scared me. I would NEVER have played that game in the dark alone! I used to have my friends come sleep-over just so that I could have someone else with me while I played it!

The only game that scared me more than that, though, was Clock Tower. That one will never be topped, IMO.

There are four Resident Evil movies (three live action and one CGI).

Oh, and to everyone that wants more survival horror, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (a completely reworked version of the original game) is coming to the Wii, PS2 and PSP this Fall.

And Fatal Frame IV is coming to the Wii as well, I assume this year.

Well, out of nostalgia, I went ahead and ordered Clock Tower (technically Clock Tower 2) for PS1. (You wouldn’t believe how rare that game is - some of the copies available on eBay were 80 dollars and up.) I also ordered a PS1 memory card since I long since lost the old one. Now I can relive the moments of pissing myself whenever Scissorman randomly popped out of a locker or a cabinet or an elevator panel. (That was really an ingenious concept, making Scissorman’s appearances totally randomized, and also making him considerably smaller than you so that he can fit in the strangest places.)