Imagine yourself trapped in an abandoned building, low on ammo and gravely injured. As you cower in the bathroom, loud footsteps echo throughout the structure as your attacker draws closer every second. Suddenly the door is broken down and you come face to face with… a guy in a Nutcracker outfit.
While this may sound funny, the concept of being stalked and hunted is nothing new to the Battle Royale genre. This explosively popular mode has taken the gaming scene by storm. From Call of Duty to Dying Light to mega-giant Fortnite, all of these titles have players viciously battling one another for survival. It’s a perfect recipe for crafting hilarious and triumphant moments. Yet, there is a darker side to this genre that has always lingered just below its colorful surface.
Which makes us wonder, how has there been no great Battle Royale horror game?
For the unfamiliar, the Battle Royale mode revolves around a large number of players (typically 100) dropped onto a large map. Users have to then scavenge for medical supplies, weapons, and armor while simultaneously trying to stay alive. Since everyone has one life, every choice made will determine their survival. The last person left standing -regardless of how they got to number one – is the winner.
At its core, this mode offers an extremely intense and demanding experience. As amusing as certain weapons or scenarios can be, there is always a lingering sense of dread hanging over. There are 99 other players out there, all of which want to hunt and brutally kill you. This turns the mundane act of looting a building or exploring a new area nerve-wracking.
Is someone waiting for me in the closet? What if they are watching me through the windows? Battle Royale games never give players a real sense of security, which is something many horror titles attempt to do. Horror has used the feeling of vulnerability to great effect since most developers never want the player to feel stronger than the creature hunting them. Being hunted by a gang of bloodthirsty killers – be it in the swamps of Lousiana or an abandoned island – is a terrifying experience.
Even Fortnite boasts some horror elements despite its colorful and playful attitude. Setting aside some of the unsettling in-game skins, (Seriously, these Tomato people are nightmarish) Fortnite’s building mechanic can become an exercise in futility. Being pinned down in a small wooden box that you are frantically trying to fix apes horror survival games like The Forest. No matter how many times or how fast you repair the wall eventually that opposing force will break it down.
It’s remarkable how many horror elements have worked their way into the Battle Royale genre. However, there is currently no prominent or polished title that completely embraces the terror this mode is capable of. This isn’t to say that there aren’t games attempting to mesh horror and Battle Royale, but none are even close to polished titles such as Fortnite or PlayerUnknown’s Battleground on a good day.
A game like Crytek’s addictive PvPvE (Player vs Player vs Environment) Hunt Showdown is too different while Vostok Games’ Fear the Wolves needs to find its footing. VecFour Digital’s Hide or Die shows a lot of promise, but like Hunt Showdown this isn’t exactly a Battle Royale game. A possible close contender would be the Russian Steampunk game Egress, but not enough is known about that one. Most multiplayer horror titles revolve around one player taking control of a monster while everyone else is a helpless survivor. This is certainly an engaging experience, but Battle Royale is something else entirely.
Having 100 people drop into an abandoned amusement park or a creepy, old forest is perfect for this mode. The great thing about a horror Battle Royale game is the general mechanics can go largely unchanged. What would separate this type of Battle Royale game is the atmosphere, sound design, and art direction. An island filled with classic horror locations would certainly stand out amongst the crowded field of BR titles.
This could be taken a step further by focusing more on melee combat since dealing death from a distance can be a disconnecting experience. Dying Light: Bad Blood is a solid example of this, even if this zombie Battle Royale game revolves around mobility rather than horror. Having a foe rush you with an axe is far more exhilarating than participating in another drawn-out firefight.
Ultimately, time will tell if the horror genre manages to capitalize on the Battle Royale fervor. The potential is there and given the huge success of recent horror games, it’s clear that people still long to be scared out of their minds. Whether it’s being stalked by a squad of players in PUBG, hiding in a bush from an attacker in Fortnite, or running low on health in Call of Duty, this mode knows how to instill fear.
Horror and Battle Royale were made for another.