Gamer's Notebook

Gamer's Notebook

Like a surgeon: horror makes a gaming comeback

By Chris O'Neal 04/25/2013

 

 


The Evil Within
will be available in 2014.
Surgeon Simulator 2013 $9.99, is available at store.steampowered.com.


When was the last time you were truly frightened by a video game? I’m not talking about frightened in the sense that you may have accidentally purchased Duke Nukem Forever, but truly terrified — remote-throwing, friend-gripping, corner-crying afraid of what might be around the next bend or what-may-happen-if-you-pick-up-that-key (and you’re going to have to!) frightened? Probably not recently. Video games just aren’t scary any more — or are they? Did that scare you, the uncertainty?


Back when video games were scary, nothing beat the late-night combo of Silent Hill and Resident Evil. When one became too much for my adolescent mind, I would switch over until the other caught up. Then, and only then, did I continue, choosing to take my punishment in one big scare rather than in small doses. Over time, however, both series faltered and became more action-oriented.


Resident Evil series creator Shinji Mikami knows survival horror; after all, he helped to make the genre. Out of his studio Tango Gameworks in Tokyo, Mikami has been working on the latest iteration of horror, The Evil Within, a game promising to take us back to being afraid of the games we’ve paid a lot of money to play.


The Evil Within puts you in the (gum) shoes of detective Sebastian, who is called to the scene of a brutal crime. The setting: a mental asylum. In the short video demo, Sebastian enters upon a scene of grisly murder. Doctors and policemen are strewn about the waiting room of the asylum. On the surveillance camera, Sebastian witnesses a slaughter, and then is knocked unconscious.


Harking back to the days of true survival horror, Sebastian is equipped with a gun with very limited ammunition. This isn’t Resident Evil 5 where weaponry can be found in every closet and on every pedestrian. Mikami’s ideal for The Evil Within blends the old with the new; old survival techniques such as the conservation of ammo and simply running away meets with the new convention of fighting back. After all, Mikami isn’t aiming for the player to be helpless.


What stands out the most about The Evil Within is the Lovecraftian-inspired horror and design of the game. Enemies are impossible — a brute with a safe for a head that, when opened, reveals a tentacled mess. A four-armed demoness who is somehow materialized out of pools of blood. This isn’t simply horror, it’s madness. Don’t play this one in the dark.


How about a little bit of reality in your horror? How about sticking your full fist into someone’s chest and ripping out a beating heart? This and more are possible in Surgeon Simulator 2013!


Originally made in 48 hours for the GameJam contest and then made available as a free-to-play browser game, Surgery Simulator puts you in control of a surgeon’s hand. You’re given a body, as most surgeons are, with the task of removing or fixing or whatever. There are goals, but the goals fall by the wayside as your floppy hand starts knocking ribs and organs to the floor.


In this sequel, you’re given even more tasks involving bodies. You still control a hand, but this time the movement isn’t as sporadic. Let’s take the level simply known as “Kidney Surgery” knock all of those ribs out of the way and snatch that gnarly kidney. Toss it on the floor and, boom, you’re a graduate of Harvard!


Just kidding, your patient died. Believe it or not, ripping out organs is not the best way to achieve success as a surgeon. If you manage to replace the patient’s kidney without losing his 5600 milliliters of blood, congratulations, you’ll finally receive your doctorate in the mail within two to four weeks. Or not. You’ll probably kill the guy.


Chris O’Neal is writing this from the International Space Station. Follow him on Twitter @agentoneal.

 

 

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