There aren’t very many great survival horror franchises out there, and even if there were plenty to choose from it’s my personal opinion that we could always use more. Even as the popularity of the zombie sub-genre has skyrocketed, the number of true survival horror series have actually dwindled to an elite few. Left 4 Dead is more action-centric, as are Dead Space, Doom and Condemned, and the more recent Resident Evil titles have been a unique blend of action and comedy. Fatal Frame is a great example of a true survival horror franchise, but the newest installment in that series won’t be gracing American consoles anytime soon (with the exception of importing the game).
Silent Hill is really the last of a dying breed, a lone series in a near extinct genre of gaming. Unfortunately, ever since The Room, the last handful of games in the series have been sub par, and with the news that longtime veteran Akira Yamaoka (the creative mastermind behind the music) might be leaving Konami, the future of the series is unknown. This leads me to my point: we need more survival horror franchises, and since in today’s fragile economic climate very few companies are going to take the plunge and invest millions of dollars into a new IP our only viable option is to take already established franchises and mix them up a bit. What follows are the ten series that I think should take that plunge into the disturbing and unfamiliar world of survival horror and how I think they can accomplish such a feat.
Viva Piñata is cute. Some might even say too cute. I say we de-cute this game by throwing a couple buckets of blood and gore. In the game your goal is to create a paradise for your various piñata animals and to protect them from intruders. I say we keep that goal the same but add a little twist by replacing those adorable intruding piñatas with malicious, evil piñatas that will viciously tear your pets apart. The most interesting aspect of a possible survival horror Viva Pinata (we would probably have to change the name to something along the line of Muere Piñata) is that instead of you playing as the one being hunted, in this game you’re trying to protect the victims.
Zombies take over Liberty City. That got your attention, didn’t it? Picture GTA’s extraordinarily high level of polish, great storytelling, than just sprinkle on a handful of zombies and you have yourself an amazing open-world zombie game. Better yet, forget zombies! What about mutants? They seem to be all the rage right now in open world games like Prototype and the upcoming Crackdown 2. Either way, an open-world survival horror game is something the industry needs. Imagine teaming up with your friends and trying to defend yourselves against waves of enemies? You could even throw in a mini-game where you have to run over creatures for points (but GTA’s wonky driving would need some tuning for that).
Mirror’s Edge is all about freestyle running, picking up momentum, and maintaining it as you run across gorgeous levels. Now, visualize that same thing but now something sinister and terrifying is chasing your ass through the levels. That’s pretty scary because you can run, but you can’t hide. Like most horror games Mirror’s Edge focused on fleeing rather than fighting, so there really isn’t much you would have to change to make a truly intense survival horror game out of EA’s new IP. Well, the vibrant environments might need some dirtying, and those Esurance inspired cutscenes have got to go, but once that’s done I can see it being a great game.
This game revolved around metal music and the environments were heavily inspired by metal album artwork and lyrics. All you have to do is have the next game focus on death metal and the environments will become dark and twisted. Just listen to a death metal song, song being a term I’ll use loosely, and you’ll see what I mean. I’m not sure how real-time strategy could be made scary, but if anyone can do it Tim Schafer can manage. The only major problem with this idea is that if you’re not terribly fond of that style of music (like myself) the soundtrack could get old fast.
When I think of a Modern Warfare horror game I picture something along the lines of Condemned, but with a much-improved story and Modern Warfare’s colossal budget. It’d even be a fairly simple task; just have us go on a top secret mission to explore some hidden research facility where they’re experimenting on something illegal, that something gets out, contaminates the nearby area, and there you go. It’s Resident Evil meets Condemned.
You have the simple goal of making your way across the country to a designated “safe place” on the coast. Unfortunately, standing between you and this safe haven is a ton of creatures that want nothing more than to eat you alive. Fuel is another issue: do you want a fast car that also seconds as a gas-guzzler, or a slower car that makes it farther for less (a hybrid, perhaps?). Stopping to refuel your vehicle would put your character in jeopardy, and there’s no guarantee the station will have gas, so there’s an element of strategy to the mix. Gran Turismo’s deep vehicle customization system would be included, but with a twist: instead of options like underglow and spinners you’d be choosing from offensive and defensive add-ons for your car. Throw in a points system that awards you for running over whatever hell-spawn creatures are in the game and I’d say you have a damn good survival horror racing game.
They did it and it’s called Dead Space, you say? You’re probably right, but this game would be set in the Halo universe and feature the Flood (for those unfamiliar with Halo, the Flood are basically space zombies). You probably shouldn’t be able to control the Master Chief, so instead we’d go the way of ODST and give you some weak ass soldier to make you feel really underpowered. Or, maybe you would get to control the Master Chief but the AI chip in his helmet is malfunctioning giving him false messages and hallucinations, adding a psychological element to the game. Obviously, you wouldn’t have a massive arsenal of weaponry at your disposal, and the ammo would become scarce (a staple of the genre), but if done correctly, the flood could be a frightening enemy.
This game would be interesting simply because you would be able to turn back time. If you make a mistake or find yourself using too many items you could just reverse time, but if you die you’re done for good. I really think a horror title that takes place in Prince of Persia’s bright and sandy environments would be a nice change of scenery for the genre. There also aren’t too many horror games that also include platforming, so if the enemies in this game can climb and run as well as you can, that would add a lot of tension to the game.
It’s already been rumored in the past that Kojima has considered diving into the survival horror genre, and with his pedigree I wouldn’t mind seeing him do so. Survival horror Metal Gear could be interesting, instead of fighting whatever it is that’s hunting you, you have to use Snake’s arsenal of super stealth gadgetry to hide from them, sticking to the shadows. The proximity system in MGS4 (that ring around your character that shows you where people are and how close they are to you) would be a very cool feature for a survival horror game since you always want to know where your enemies are. If you’re having trouble picturing this game a good way to explain it is if Metal Gear and Siren got together to make sweet, sweet baby love, this game would be their beautiful offspring.
If you’ve played Half-Life 2 you know it’s possible because the Ravenholm section is the perfect example of this. Just expand this twenty-minute part of the game to a full length Episode and you’ve got yourself a great horror game. We already know that Valve knows horror (they’re the masterminds behind the addictive Left 4 Dead series) and storytelling is their forte so I’m positive a Half-Life episode that’s scary would be a lot of fun. Obviously the story would have to center on some sort of headcrab infestation where you’re the only survivor (or something along those lines) whose trying to escape the city before you get crabs. Stop giggling.
So do any of these games tickle your fancy or do they all sound like complete garbage? You can be honest, I can take it. Whether or not you agree with the above ideas, do you have any of your own? What series would you like to see take the plunge into survival horror? Ratchet and Clank? Barbie’s Horse Adventures? Let me know.