'Survival Horror Game' are probably some of the worst words I could hear together as a combination. I don't fuck with horror - never have done, never will. The idea of being scared, whether it be creeped out (nope) or jump scares (double nope) fills me with such a sense of dread that at times I honestly think I'm going to be sick. It baffles me that people get such a kick of out being scared because when that 'fight or flight' kicks in, I'll be in the corner with my fingers in my ears trying not to cry. I've said before how much I hate horror, but I've realised recently how much I really hate... so of course I decided to try and brave my way through the Resident Evil remake on the PS4. Totally reasonable. Nice one.
They say that the best way to combat your fears is to face them - I'd think I'd like to have a word with that guy to tell them how much I hate them. But seeing as it's spooky season and I'm not much one for watching horror movies, I thought I should at least try something that might help me combat my fear of fear. At least when you're playing a game you're in control. That's better, right?
Truth be told I've been wanting to play a proper Resident Evil game for a fair while, pretty much since 7 came out last year. My brother and I used to play The Umbrella Chronicles on the Wii (the crappy, almost knock-off worthy shooter) so I was aware of the franchise, universe and premise. When I sat down to play recently I originally wanted to start with 7, but was advised against it. Although it's more accessible than the others, it's also more intense and classically 'scary.' I was steered toward the PS4 remake of the PS1 original Resident Evil as it's technically a puzzle-based game with survival elements. I'd also seen a small amount of play-through for this one too so I wasn't going in totally blind. With Reece at my side giving me some direction (as well as some encouragement when things would get too spooky) I entered the mansion and began my game.
I heard my first zombie groan, paused the game and had to leave the room for a minute because it'd made me jump.
Not a good start.
I was driven back to playing with the kind of grim determination you get when completing a task that kills you inside, like cleaning the shower drain or putting a giant spider outside. I couldn't seem to get into my groove - just as I thought I was doing well I'd lose my way or lose my purpose, I'd get attacked by something and have to run back to find health packs and calm myself down. Reece told me it was okay to be scared of the zombies, as he used to be when he was a child, and just to focus more on the tasks than the survival where possible - he also told me that the basic, slow zombies were nothing compared to the enemies that were to come later on in the game but I tried to keep that out of my head for now as, unsurprisingly, it really wasn't helping. The mansion was complicated and I kept getting lost in the endless dark hallways and plethora of similar looking rooms. I was about ready to give up on many occasions but I also really wanted to keep going as, despite it all, I was starting to have fun.
I kept pushing on through, completing more puzzles that lead me into different areas of the house where I'd find more stuff that would get to me, but I persevered as I felt it was getting less scary each time. I can't even explain the joy I felt when I finally found the damn shotgun - Reece showed me the trick to blowing up the zombie's heads in one shot so that they wouldn't come back later on. I was having a great time doing this (honestly ran around for a good few minutes trying to find zombies to decapitate) but what did he mean by them 'coming back?' I soon found out. If you're not in the know with Resident Evil, if a zombie's body isn't properly disposed of then they come back as a crimson head; nasty little fuckers that are harder to take down, deal more damage and move twice the speed. My first one came at me from around a corner and I just remember screaming and wasting about 5 shotgun shells wildly firing at it before it eventually slumped to the floor. At least I now knew what to expect. If anything it's the noise of the creatures in the mansion mixed with the unknown that spooks me the most, but once I've encountered something then I can handle it. From then on whenever I saw one of those crimson heads I knew where to stand and how to aim to get a perfect splatter when its gross little head explodes.
When it came to fighting the giant snake that oddly didn't bother me all that much as snakes aren't particularly scary to me. I was however getting a bit frustrated with the camera controls at this point as I was trying to circle the serpent and kept losing my bearings as to where I was. Just as I thought I'd got the perfect headshot I'd move two steps to the right and suddenly couldn't see. I got through this mini-boss with ease (apart from being poisoned slightly) and was feeling at my all time high, ready to take on anything that this game could throw at me!
A horrible idea, really.
When exploring the grounds of the mansion I felt oddly calm. It didn't feel as if anything could get me out here, so when I eventually reached the shack and found a safe room/save point I was thinking 'great, this bit is nice and easy if I feel like I need to escape for a bit.' Then I heard the infamous sound of the shack's door clicking shut and I knew I wasn't alone. For all the time he's spent with this game even Reece got a bit frightened at this point. I heard something limping towards me, chains rattling, and I had to pause the game again and go outside. I felt like I was back at square one and it took me a fair while before I could pick up the controller again. You don't exactly have to fight Lisa Trevors (the horrifically deformed daughter of the family that used to live in the mansion) you've just got to get out of the shack before she bonks you on the head again. In retrospect it's a relatively easy task... if you don't start panicking that is. I made the stupid decision of getting myself cornered because I lost where the outside door was and I swear on my life I started whimpering, almost in tears. Reece was also in tears, but from laughter.
I decided that after this ordeal that I'd had enough of the game for now and needed a break, mostly emotionally. I've currently made it through about a third of the game and haven't died, which I'm told is impressive for a first try. There's a hell of a lot more shit coming my way though - the return of Lisa, more crimson heads, potentially something worse - but I think I'm ready for it. Either way at least I know I can pause for a few minutes if things get too spooky for me. Overall with my experience so far though it's a cracking game and it's easy to see why it, and the franchise, are so popular. It's great to experience survival horror that's pretty classic but also not trope-y. The graphics look fabulous (I know I'm playing the remake but looking back at the GameCube version it's still pretty swish) and I really like how the game is paced and set out. For a big house I keep losing my way in it's a brilliant setting and makes for a great atmosphere. All in all how I feel about the genre doesn't stop this game from being proper class.
* * *
For a type of game that I really can't stand I'm actually having a lot of fun exploring this spooky mansion. So far I've learned from Resident Evil that things are a lot more manageable than you initially think, especially if you take the time to be calm and read your situation. I don't love horror and I may never do, but I'm starting to wake up to the fact that there are a lot of good, well constructed horror games out there that deserve their recognition and should be appreciated. It's gonna take a fair amount of convincing myself but it would be good to play more horror/survival based stuff as apparently there's some great titles out there.
I'm not brave - the sound of the zombies scare me, I don't like the dark and I keep getting lost, but dammit if I can just about escape from a dilapidated shack that's home to a freak wearing her mothers face, then I'm sure I can do anything!
(Please pray for me throughout the rest of the game.)