Horror has always held a special place in my heart. Books, movies, shows, and, yes, even games. As we are on the verge of a new generation of gaming, we’ve got a lot of potential to grow horror gameplay in more diverse and potentially more wild direction. With at least two major horror games coming out within the launch window of the PS5 and Xbox Series X (Resident Evil 8 and The Medium), it would be important to look at where the genre can grow.
One of the first things that can be done is expanding the complexity of the world. We’ve seen at least two interpretations of the game worlds in franchises like Silent Hill and Deadly Premonition. We’ve also seen interest from Konami in rebooting and continuing the Silent Hill again. However, with the next-generation, there’s a lot of room for growth in how the world(s) and its/their effects on gameplay. The Medium, at least in terms of what’s been revealed so far, seems to illustrate that potential and the complexity that I’m talking about. Both the normal world and the spirit world are rendered at the same time, which can lead to rich and suspenseful gameplay if implemented correctly.
Coupled with this, more enemy types would be great. We’ve seen it with the generational evolutions of franchises like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. To a certain extent, it does seem like Resident Evil VIII: Village is offering some of that growth with more enemies that seem to be inspired by the Universal monster movies. I wouldn’t be surprised if the mold from REVII came in with some new variations as well. That said, horror and its enemies can largely be metaphors of what scares people or society at the time. Developers, it’s time to truly get weird.
To set the atmosphere, hopefully developers make the use of the new tools like raytraced lighting and audio. More realistic lighting and shadows, reflections, and sound will be a boon to the genre. The gameplay could end up meeting a lot of the promise of cinematics rather than still having that gulf between cinematic fidelity and gameplay fidelity. There are a lot of ways this could be used to increase suspense and tension. Echoes and realistic sound dampening due to more realistic acoustic and the materials of a room could mask where the enemies are. More realistic lighting effects and shadows could lead to interesting and disorienting tricks of the eye while creating more hiding spaces for enemies that could be hunting and trapping you. Better reflections could also offer some potential for scares as well.
Lastly, and this is something that can be done during any generation. More diversity. Yes, I’m using diversity in every possible sense here. More time periods. More races, especially if the minorities don’t rely on horror tropes. More ages of playable characters. More women and transgender characters. More economic classes. More religions. More types of horror and gameplay. I’m saying this as a fan of the genre who thinks that more could be done with games. I want developers to challenge themselves. Just for an example, how about an investigative horror version of A Way Out. You and a friend play a duo (Husband/wife, siblings, parent/child, friends, etc.) investigating claims of witchcraft during the burning times. As the story unravels, evidence points to a single witch influencing the craft in the region. Who is it?