It has become fashionable now for horror games to have no combat, or at least very little. I suppose it makes sense. For example, in DreadOut, the protagonist is a petite Indonesian school girl. The thought of her engaging rambling monstrosities in hand-to-hand combat is a little ludicrous.
In most recent horror games, when faced with enemies, the player simply has to flee and hide. In DreadOut, fleeing is an option, but our stalwart student Linda is armed with a smartphone, and much like in Fatal Frame, she can photograph her enemies, damaging them in the process.
Unfortunately, the ‘combat’ in DreadOut is so horribly designed that it flat-out ruins the game. You see an enemy spot you and begin shuffling towards you, intent on goring you or slicing your face off with a pair of scissors. You pull out your faithful camera. You get them in shot. You snap. Nothing. You snap again. Nothing. You snap again. Nothing. Whoops, you’ve been splattered across the floor.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that the camera only seems to damage enemies 10% of the time, meaning that dealing with any foe becomes an arduous and needlessly difficult encounter, involving snapping frantically and fruitlessly before being murdered for the fifth time in ten minutes.
And then to make things worse, when Linda is killed she awakens in Limbo, where she has to run towards a light for about three minutes before the game will restart. At first I thought this was a nice touch, but when you’re dying over and over again and it’s totally the fault of the game’s shoddy mechanics, having to yet another spend three minutes of your life running into light before getting your chance to fail again just takes the absolute piss.
And then to make things even worse, the developers had the sheer nerve to make lines appear on the screen like ‘maybe you should switch to casual gaming’. Oh, it’s going to be like that is it DreadOut? Well, your character models look like they’ve been lifted from Two Worlds, your English voice-acting is woeful, the most defined part of your main character is her arse, and she looks like she’s received a fierce wedgy, you perverts.
Now that we’ve got the negative stuff out of the way and I’ve let off some steam, let’s look at what’s good in DreadOut, because believe it or not, there’s actually an imaginative and frightening experience buried under all that shit.
The monster design is fantastic, with each terrifying in their own way. The highlight is the cackling ghost, armed with a pair of scissors, which unfortunately was marred by the fact that it was the hardest boss-fight due to the aforementioned terrible camera.
Each monster also has an impressive lore behind them, including a page in Linda’s ‘ghostopedia’ which describes the monster and often gives some information on why they became evil. It’s genuinely interesting and shows that more effort went into the finer details of DreadOut than your average churned-out horror game.
The developers also nailed the atmosphere for the most part. The game begins with Linda and her class mates wandering through a deserted Indonesian town after coming to a block in the road. After brief exploration, they come across a deserted school. It isn’t long before Linda is seperated from the group and find her friends whilst dealing with a host of hideous horrors.
The environments are very reminiscent of Silent Hill, which is no bad thing. Walking around the school in search of progress is often tense and chilling, when it isn’t being completely annoying.
As well as being quite badly designed, DreadOut is also confusing. Early on in the game, Linda comes face to face with a hideous boar with a set of keys dangling from its neck. The objective then says ‘I need to get the key from the boar’. If you’re a logical human being like myself, your first thought will be ‘right, I need to kill the boar and take the keys’.
However, when you attempt to kill it with your faulty camera, it scatters. So, logical as I am, I think to myself ‘OK, so I need to chase it down before it respawns’. But this is impossible because it’s too quick.
What you actually have to do, without wishing to spoil, is ignore the boar, explore the school, follow a cat, take a strange photo and then tangle with a ghost who has a fondness for lacerations. I’m not asking for a hand to hold, especially not in a horror game, but at least try not to be purposely misleading.
So far, only Act 1 of DreadOut has been released, with the promise of Act 2 on the horizon. However, I don’t believe the story is strong enough to entice people to wait for its conclusion, and I certainly won’t be coming back to see how this mess of a game ends.
It’s possible that the developers could patch some of the issues I had with the game, but they’ll score no points from me. DreadOut will make you miserable and frustrated and possibly make you damage your laptop. You have been warned.
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A jaded horror enthusiast, I get my kicks hiding in cupboards from whatever hideous creatures happen to be around. However, I'm more than happy playing a wide range of genres on both consoles and PC. Apart from writing for Z1G, I'm also a History student.