Survival Horror: Then and Now

Posted on May 11th, 2016 by:

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The term survival horror was first coined for the 1996 Japanese release of Resident Evil. The first Resident Evil was innovative for several reasons; Although the voice acting in that game is cringeworthy and downright comical today, it was still one of the first games to have such a plot driven narrative with voice actors carrying the story. As you progressed in the game trying to solve the mystery of what happened in the Mansion prior to the game’s beginning, you are forced to manage your resources very carefully. The player had a limited amount of ink ribbons for which to use on typewriters that were conservatively placed around the mansion to save with. If you ran out of those ink ribbons, then good luck saving! If you ran out of ammo, good luck defending yourself! That game was pretty brutal on the player, and forced you to manage your recourses. So much time was spent covering spots you already progressed in because you died and were forced to start at a save point. Many of these game devices have changed dramatically today.

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Resident Evil 1 HD Remake

“Survival Horror” today has turned into “Survival-Action-FPS-Horror.” This change has been made particularly because of the fact that it has been lucrative for developers like capcom. Resident Evil 4 was a pretty dramatic departure from the prior structure of the RE franchise, in that it changed the action of the game and the combat system. The player is given plenty of ammo, and save points are much more frequent. While Resident Evil 4 is a beloved game of mine, I still can’t help but feel nostalgic for the older style of survival horror game, where the player in many ways feels helpless. Because when it comes down to it, if you truly want to scare someone, you want to make them powerless.

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Silent Hill 1 (1999)

Silent Hill, Alone in the Dark, and Resident Evil, these games have changed a lot over the years. While the accessibility has increased, the quality and difficulty has decreased. The genre of survival horror changing over the years falls under the umbrella of the fact that games in general are made easier to access a wider audience. This is a double-edged sword. While I love the fact that more people play games, it is also at the expense that most people who play want to have an easier time playing, and spend less time dying, and replaying an area. This ease of use is at the expense of players actually learning from their experiences and using that knowledge to be better. In Bioshock Infinite you are given certain “perks” if you die a few too many times, with more ammo, or better weapons to help you beat the game. After the recent release of Dark Souls 3, many players who had difficulty with the game complained that there is no easy mode. This to me, is missing the whole point of that game. Dark Souls is widely known as one of the most difficult games today. This has been somewhat dividing for it’s more adept players, and people who play expecting an easy time. Most seasoned Dark Souls players even call those bad at the game as “Casuals.” Although it is funny, it is also highlighting something that goes on in the audience of gaming. There are still those hardcore fans who want to have their asses kicked, and to die over and over until they finally win. Then there are those who just want to beat the game and not to feel too challenged by a game. The truth is that the average gamers today are adults with full time jobs, kids and other responsibilities. Making your game too difficult is not going to keep them wanting to play your game.

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Alone in the dark (1992)

One of the notoriously difficult genres has definitely changed, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. People still want to be challenged by games. This is highlighted by the success of games like Alien: Isolation, and Dark Souls. There are more options than just easy or hard. Players want to be challenged and forced to learn, and others who want to have an easy time and relax playing a game. I think that there are enough developers and a big enough market to accommodate everyone in today’s gaming world.

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