It’s no secret to fans of horror games that the majority of them have rather clunky and awkward controls, a feature that adds an element of helplessness and suspense to the experience. However, in a day and age where gameplay has evolved past such archaic control schemes, is it still acceptable for developers to hide behind poor controls in the name of horror? Silent Hill: Downpour producer Tomm Hulett doesn’t think so.
Speaking to MCV Pacific, Hulett explained that horror games don’t need frustrating controls to be scary. The best way to create a truly horrifying experience for the player lies in more clever, thought out game design.
I think the genre was lucky, to an extent, when it started out. A lot of horror elements ‘clicked’ such as clunky combat, confusing cameras, and so on.
However, shoddy gameplay can’t be a feature forever, and so everyone fixed the combat – resulting in action games with creepier monsters. If horror games are going to be ‘scary’ in the future, it’s going to take careful game design to do it.
Hulett then went on to reference Downpour, discussing how he and his team at Vatra Games went about approaching horror. Instead of heading down the action-heavy route that so many other developers are currently taking to appeal to the average consumer, Vatra focused more on pacing “to make sure it maintains that original ‘slow-burn’ and keeping the player off guard with less predictability.”
In the end, it all comes down to game design, so if developers can nail the “tense, frightening gameplay” coupled with “orchestrated designed-scares” then the horror genre is on the right track.