Fives – Survival Horror

We’ve all been there: you’re alone, walking down a dark passage, firmly gripping an axe in your hands. You can hear your heart pounding in your ears because you’re surrounded by complete silence…except for the mysterious sounds coming from behind the door at the end of the passage. As you draw nearer you stand in something. Something wet. Something warm. It’s blood. Nervously you move your hand to open the door. Locked. Upon closer inspection you notice a diamond etched under the lock.

Obviously all you can do it trek back through the darkness (and unknown) on the off-chance you’ll come across a key that, maybe, has a diamond back? Let’s not forget that there are zombies about as well. And not to mention that what’s making those noises behind the door could be worse than any zombie. I guess there’s no choice but to go ba- Oh wait, axe. In your hands.

Survival horror is a genre that has garnered a lot of fans over the years; from the days of the original Resident Evils and Silent Hills, people seem to get a kick out of fleeing from and fighting the undead, contorted apparitions of the human body, dinosaurs, aliens or even…themselves. And as far as themes go, you could do a lot worse. But in a bid to bring these tense environments, where the player feels constipated for the entire duration of the game, developers often have to, well, to put it bluntly, they have to take the piss out of logic.

Now, no one ever expects a game, of all things, to be REAL – but we have to draw the line somewhere. Let’s countdown 5 cases in survival horror that grab logic by the balls and tell it to sod off. Remember kids – these people are fighting for their lives!

5. Raising my Gun makes my legs go numb

Offending Game(s): Resident Evil 4 and 5

Tell me that it’s “supposed to be that way to make the game more challenging” until you’re blue in the face, and I will still think you’re a complete retard. Resident Evil 4 and 5 have been heralded as defining departures from the series’ roots, and rightly so; bringing the game from the claustrophobic locales of its predecessors, full of suspense and horror, to the more open space areas of Spain and Africa, with a focus more on action than actual puzzle-solving and, well, screaming in terror every time a Tyrant enters the room.

But! Even though this is more action than typical survival horror, you still need to survive, and there is still horror, so it counts, ok?

Of course, when you read action, thoughts of explosions and running through the streets as bullets fly and bodies explode undoubtedly flutter through your head. Well you’d almost be right. There are plenty of explosions and exploding bodies; you get to run through the streets, and bullets certainly fly. But the flying bullets will never happen with the running. Why, you ask? Well that’s because Leon and Chris were both born with a motor defect that prevents their legs from moving whilst their arms are up in the air holding guns in a firing position. I would chalk this up to men not being able to multitask, but it would seem that Sheva, Chris’ black-but-not-that-black partner suffers from the same condition. You would think that special units would be a little bit more stringent when they look for potential agents.

Worst Offence: In Resident Evil 5 there’s a part (as if there was one) when you’re literally being chased through the streets by hordes of the infected townspeople. There are many of them and, in theory, you have enough bullets. But when an ACTION game makes you undecided as to whether you should shoot or run merely because you can’t do both at the same time…well that’s where I draw the line. Intentional challenge? Illogical design.

Fun Fact: Capcom developers really do suffer from the aforementioned motor defect, which is why they program upside down.

4. Who had the time to do this?

Offending Game: Pretty much every survival horror title

So, puzzles, right? They’re pretty much a staple in any survival horror game, which is all well and good because they do make things that much more challenging; but sometimes, developers can really push things a little bit too far. From specific and obscure keys needed for special doors, to moving statues all around the place to get medallions to drop from whatever – a lot of the time it’s not the puzzles themselves that seem illogical, but rather, who the hell had the time to get everything so messed up to the point your character has to sort it all out.

Okay, I lied, most of the time it IS the puzzle that’s the most illogical. Chess pieces as keys? Come on. Really?

With an entire city/spaceship/research facility in disarray, which one of the bright citizens/crew members/scientists thought it would be a good idea to lock the very special door that needs a very special key and wander off to, say, the sewers, and subsequently die? Or better yet, how smart must the engineering team be to design a lock that needs two medals to open it, and then have the medals stored in two completely different locations behind a painting or something. That’s not really efficient if the lock opens the way to a facility that’s used daily by several people.

Also, who designs an entire city filled with these kinds of workarounds? It’s almost as if someone EXPECTED a zombie/dinosaur/alien outbreak to occ- oh wait. Yeah. They probably did.

Worst Offence: Resident Evil. ‘Nuff said. Chess pieces? Seriously? Come now.

Fun Fact: To gain access to the Capcom offices you actually need to find the Holy Grail and the mummified corpse of Adolf Hitler and combine them in the holy altar of Atlantis.

3. It won’t open!

Offending Game: Again, most survival horror titles

Perhaps it’s a bit unfair to put this here because it happens in a lot of other genres as well, but nowhere is it more prominent (and more frustrating) than in survival horror. Why? Because you’re already freaking out as it is, claustrophobia isn’t helping any. Oh yes, the point.

You enter a room housing the last fragment of the round disc thing you need to get past the gate on the second floor, skipping the save point outside. Whoops, maybe you need that save, so you turn around, EXIT and save. Back in the room, you grab the fragment and move towards the door. CRASH! A giant monster with eight penises on its head drops into the room.

“Screw this!” you think to yourself, and you head for the door. OH WAIT! Somehow, MAGICALLY, the door has locked itself, trapping you in the room with the octo-penii monstrosity. Great. Fine, we need to battle the monster, that’s okay; you spent months modeling each phallus so beautifully it would be a shame for us to turn tail and run; but after defeating the freak of nature and having the door magically UNLOCK itself is just a bit, well, dick. If you excuse the pun.

This type of thing is only made exponentially worse when you’re forced to fight common enemies in a trapped, confined space; and when combined with the next sore point, this kind of thing just makes you want to cry.

Worst Offence: This happens in Dead Space almost every 3 minutes. Doors lock, fight some aliens, doors unlock. And having a voice say “contamination detected” doesn’t make it logical, because everything else in the ship is broken. Everything BUT the lockdown system it seems.

Fun Fact: It has been proven that most doors do not magically lock, but instead game characters confuse the “push” and “pull” actions when trying to p**** out of a battle

2. They came out of nowhere!

Offending Game: Dead Space

Another game that’s decided that action and horror (and you still need to survive) are a great combination is Dead Space. Or as I like to call it, “Event Horizon but not: The Game”. For a great deal, Dead Space actually pulls everything off really well except for the sore point mentioned previously and…this.

Because you have a game that has a lot to do with action, you obviously need to up the amount of enemies you have to face. That’s fine, that’s great, we love killing things, and we have the weapons to do it. But come on.

Aside from common ‘spawned’ enemies, games like Dead Space also have ‘triggers’. This is an action done, or set of conditions met, that ‘triggers’ something else. In Dead Space’s case, the something else is an onslaught of enemies. The trigger? Moving a meter in any direction.

Alright, that was a bit hyperbolic, but this is definitely taken to a new level of frustration when you’ve expended health and ammo killing so many enemies. But what makes this extremely silly is the fact that they literally appear out of nowhere. An empty room can be filled with up to 5 enemies with no visible mark of entry. More than once. It’s almost as of the developers are shouting “Look at our awesome enemy design! Here! Look again! And again! And again!”

We get it. It’s an action game with survivor horror elements. But this sort of thing just makes what should be a tense environment pretty much frustrating and predictable.

Worst Offence: With no spoilers, there was a part where Isaac (the protagonist of Dead Space for those not in the know) had to move a certain something on rails. He touched it, cue onslaught. He moved it TWO SPACES, another onslaught. There couldn’t possibly be another after he moves it a few more spaces…could there? Oh, how wrong I was.

Fun Fact: Real life triggers also exist. Picking up something from the store and leaving without passing the proper checkpoints is often punished with an onslaught of uniformed enemies. You can’t run away, so it’s better to stand your ground and fight.

1. The right tool for the job

Offending Game: Silent Hill: Homecoming

Silent Hill has always been known for a few things: being the foggiest and darkest town in Virginia; creeping you the eff out and possibly scarring your childhood and/or adulthood – but most of all, the sentence “This door is locked”. That’s right, corridor after corridor of locked rooms that are in no way accessible in this reality, or in fact any other.

Now it’d be easy to already give the developers the award for top failed logic cop-out right here because they gave the protagonist(s) one, or rather, two things which would defeat the dreaded locked door: you know, a couple of legs. A derelict building with flimsy wooden doors which are already rotting away? Yeah, I rate a game developer could even break one down – especially if their life depended on it.

But no, to further add insult to our beautiful logic, the game not only throws at you lead pipes, poles and katanas, it also has the audacity to practically hand you an axe! It’s almost as if the developers are giving you a golden invitation to hack your way into any room in the game, and then snickering to themselves when you find out that the axe is actually made of cheese, and it was all a big joke.

Worst offence: In Homecoming, you’re required to literally hack your way through thick boards to access some rooms and areas. Sure, but every other room in the hall is locked and you can do squat about it. Limiting us is one thing, but to blatantly defy all logic is another.

Fun Fact: Inside every locked room in Silent Hill there are exactly 24 health drinks and an RPG rocket launcher + ammo. And pictures of boobs.


Scattered Arms

This deserves a special mention because it’s true for any survival horror: there are about 6 guns in the entire city, and there is ammo for those EXACT guns scattered everywhere. The reason this didn’t make the countdown is mainly because, while completely illogical, it’s a vital gameplay dynamic that you can’t really change to be more realistic. Still, it’s always entertaining to be in the most obscure location ever and wonder “How did that rocket launcher get here?”

About Quinton Bronkhorst

Quinton is a designer and random rambler that really likes referring to himself in the third person. That should make you wonder: is it Quinton writing this, or perhaps some objective third party? You will never know. In unrelated news: Quinton is awesome and attractive and everyone wants to marry him. Facts. [Articles]