Some of my fondest memories of gaming are from back in my college days trying to complete the Resident Evil games on the Gamecube. However, I’ve never really enjoyed being the one in control when playing survival horror games. Watching them being played is fine. But there is just something different about being the one in control. A group of us would all huddle around the TV helping to solve puzzles or just to get stuck into the story whilst my friend – and former writer here, Murr, would be the one in control. We would stay up late eating snacks with the lights down low getting scared to death and it was amazing.
There are a few horror-style games coming up that I really like the look of. Hollowbody is one example. Seeing as it had a demo available during Next Fest. I had to suck it up and get stuck in on my own.
In Hollowbody, you play as Mica, an unlicensed black market shipper who is hell-bent on finding out the fate of her partner who’s been missing for 12 days. Sasha went searching for answers of her own in the exclusion zone. But since leaving you’ve heard nothing. You make a deal with border security to let you into the zone to find her. Your window is small, but it might just be enough.
As you head into the exclusion zone things go south. The nav’s running you in circles and your flying car thing, which looks a bit like Kit from Knighrider – if any of you are old enough to remember that, falls from the sky. You black out.
When you wake up, you’re amongst the wreckage of your vehicle surrounded by the decaying homes of what used to be some kind of normal civilisation.
Time to survive
From here you get a good taste of what Hollowbody has to offer in its roughly 30-minute demo. As you meander down the destroyed street with crumbling buildings and wrecked cars you’ll immediately get a sense of the style of Hollowbody. It has that classic survival horror feel to it. The camera perspective isn’t quite fixed and will sort of follow you around as you move. However, it still leans to that awkward fixed angle that obscures what might be hiding around corners.
A tower block of flats will eventually appear as you explore and it is here that you will be spending most of your time. Firstly you’ll need to find a way in. That being said, judging by the look of these flats there is no way I’d be trying to get into them. However, finding some kind of radio to contact someone for help is kind of your only option. So, onwards we go.
As expected inside the building is a grim picture. Mold all over the place. The walls are crumbling away. Absolutely no signs of life – unless you count decaying bodies as signs of life? Time to get exploring. As you move from one floor to the next, searching through the empty apartments you will find a few items scattered around. And you can take a look at them in your very retro menu that surfaces memories of old CRT monitors.
The tension builds
The more you search the worse things appear, but the mystery of what has happened is unknown. As you search each apartment the tension builds. You know something is coming – you have a gun after all. But what, we don’t know. It’s at times like these that I start to feel a little too tense, too apprehensive about what lurks around the next corner. But I soldier on as the knocks and bangs from adjacent rooms begins to intensify.
I know some people get put off by the ‘PS2’ visuals. But I think they look brilliant. The world feels extremely immersive, each of the apartments feels real and lived in, despite how they might appear now. All of this is helped by some very solid voice acting from the main character.
When the action does kick in, it has that slight jank that survival horror should have. You’re easily able to line up headshots like some spec ops master. Your aim is cumbersome, your shots only stagger enemies. You need space around you to run, just in case. It all puts you in a sense of unease in the best way.
The blend of exploring, action, and intrigue is well-balanced here and I can’t wait to see more. Sure, this is only a taste of the whole game but if it’s more of this then I think we’re on to a winner. The question is, will I be brave enough to play the whole thing… I’ll try because it’s awesome.