Sunday, 15 December 2013

DreadOut - Preview

For those that loved the Fatal Frame series, the upcoming Kickstarter-funded indie-horror by Digital Happiness, DreadOut, will be of interest to you. Imagine if the protagonists of Fatal Frame ditched their ancient cameras in favour of a smartphone and you have the basic premise of this Indonesian horror. What’s more horrific than a picture of a ghost that can be immediately uploaded to Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat? Well, I can’t tell you, because I was much too scared whilst playing this demo to find a WiFi connection.

This third-person scare begins with Linda – an extremely Western name for an Indonesian girl, I thought – being woken by the buzzing of her mobile phone. She’s in the dark, all alone, and can barely see a thing. Seriously, DreadOut is dark. I was already extremely tense by this point. Where was I? Why was I called Linda? And – wait - someone actually wanted to speak to me? Really?

Selfies will never be the same.

One of the first things I noticed about DreadOut, other than how dark it is, is that the controls feel a little awkward. The sensitivity was set too high, with no way to change it during the demo, and so I settled for the clunky strafing of the lead schoolgirl. On the bright side, the ineffective manoeuvrability of characters in certain horror series, such as past Resident Evil and Silent Hill games, has been known to actually increase tension – also known as the ‘Oh god, oh god, it’s chasing me and I’m stuck on this wall’ moment - and I could see the same effect being had here.

After finding the phone, I answered a call from Ira, Linda’s friend, who told me that ‘they’ were all dying to meet me. Then the phonecall began breaking up, and repeated the phrase “we’re dying” over and over until her face on-screen warped into a grimace of pain and death. Thanks, Ira… I’ll hurry right over.

Turns out I needn’t have hurried, as Ira was standing just outside the door; waiting.

Thanks Ira - I feel much better.

Even if Linda was as graceful as a ballet dancer, this game would still be scary; the 
developers have made sure of that. Wherever the hell we are, it’s crawling with ghosts so twisted that they could only have come from terror-inducing Eastern world, and you never know what to expect around each corner. It’s safe to say that the girl from Ringu (The Ring) or Ju-On (The Grudge) would settle in nicely here.

What makes the game even more horrifying is that the only way to see any distance in front of you is to look through the camera of the ‘Iris phone’ – I see what you did there Digital Happiness, nice. In the same way that Outlast uses a video camera, DreadOut uses a smart-phone, and it changes the perspective from third to the first-person. You are not only immersed further into the horror, but also feel completely helpless at the times when you do see someone, or something, staring back at you.

Fine, I won't upload it to Snapchat, just put the scythe down.

The demo ends with something of a boss fight, which I found to be the least enjoyable/scary section of the demo. Switching from tense, corner-hugging fear to a more action-orientated outside area meant that the awkward controls often spelled out my demise. This was somewhat frustrating, and I feel the DreadOut is at its best when jammed into claustrophobic interior spaces.

Once this was wrapped up, the demo was over, and Linda woke up yet again, in a minibus and surrounded by her fellow students. She looked across to see Ira smiling back at her; innocent, alive, stupid. The camera zoomed back and the player is left feeling helpless to stop it as the minibus heads towards a small Indonesian village in the distance.

Natural beauty is real beauty.

After the short, but altogether twisted, demo, I am definitely looking forward to seeing more of DreadOut, even if it’s just so that I have an excuse to enter into the world of Asian horror, which I have always found to be more terrifying. Despite some awkward movement, which may give a helping hand in your death more than once in any faster-paced sections of the game, the DreadOut demo delivers a chilling snapshot into the potential of Digital Happiness' indie horror.

If you think you’re ‘ard enough, check out the website, and try the demo for yourself.

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