One of the PlayStation VR’s first proper horror games is more Silent Hill than Resident Evil, but how scary is it really?
It can’t be long now, until we get the first tabloid report (true or otherwise) of someone having a heart attack while playing PlayStation VR. As developers experiment with how to best make use of the new technology, the one obvious thing that is already known to work is horror games. But while it’s pretty easy to get a reaction from a quick jump scare, a well-crafted survival horror is a difficult thing to fashion. As Here They Lie proves, for better and worse…
Rather than the video game equivalent of Paranormal Activity and its cinematic ilk, Here They Lie has aspirations to more psychological horror. Silent Hill is a clear influence in terms of general atmosphere and the style of storytelling, although the gameplay is more akin to a walking simulator such as Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture.
The game opens without explanation, in a drab-looking train station, as you say goodbye to an attractive young woman named Dana. Your exact relationship with her is not revealed, but her appearances are one of the few times there is any colour to the otherwise black and white visuals. The rest is provided by the blood soaking the floors and the various bestial apparitions that appear before you.
What follows is a purposefully obtuse journey to discover who you and Dana are, and what this strange dream-like world is that you’re trapped in. The gameplay that results is very similar to Everybody’s Gone To Rapture, as you explore the largely linear game world, looking for clues as to what’s going on. These usually take the form of either written notes or what amount to audio logs via the telephone. Most of these make little sense when taken on their own, and the game expects you to not only interpret them correctly but remember enough of each to piece the plot together.
The immediate problem here is that they’re not terribly well written, and the voice-acting is just as bad. The more interesting revelations though, come from the game’s heavy use of symbolism and some provocative imagery (it’s the implied sex, rather than the gore, that must’ve got the game its 18-rating). And while a lot of your time is spent wandering along dingy, black and white corridors the game does make clever use of some unexpected scene changes.
The storytelling is ambitious and thoughtful, but it’s also pretentious and purposefully obscure. But thankfully the ending is more satisfying than we initially feared, and ties everything up relatively neatly – depending on which moral choices you’ve made along the way.
Since this is the one first party PlayStation VR game we didn’t have time to review last week, we’d already heard from others that of all Sony’s games Here They Lie is the most likely to induce nausea. And yet as further proof that reactions to VR are unique to each person, and each game, we were more or less fine with it. We assume this is due to the fact that turning is controlled either by moving your head, so that pushing forward moves in that direction, or using the right analogue stick to turn in 45° steps – rather than being given full freedom of movement.
Clearly it doesn’t work for everyone though, and much the same thing could be said about the game as a whole. Some will enjoy the obtuse storytelling and bizarre imagery, while others will wince at the poor script and low-tech graphics. There is slightly more gameplay than the average walking sim, with moral choices to make and what could generously be described as a stealth system, but it’s still extremely simplistic.
Even without the virtual reality aspect Here They Lie is a bold and ambitious game, but we can’t pretend it’s a wholly successful one. The weak script is a real problem in a narrative based game and eventually it does start to give in to increasingly more predictable jump scares. As an experiment, for both the PlayStation VR and the developer, Here They Lie is encouraging and interesting. But we’d be lying if we said it was an essential purchase.