Let me get this out of the way right now so you know where I'm coming from; I love horror games. I was always more of a Silent Hill guy rather than a Resident Evil fan, but I still loves bagging me some Lickers with a Shotgun. To me, Silent Hill 2 is the benchmark to which all Horror games must be judged; it was a masterpiece of suspense, storytelling, character development, and atmosphere. I like to think of it as the Se7en of the videogame world. It's terrifying in its progression, yet unmatched in it's psychological twist, and not many games, let alone horror games, have come close to besting Silent Hill 2 in terms of using gameplay as a means of storytelling. Each enemy you find (not fight necessarily) gives you subtle insight into the mind of your character. Horrifying nurses hang their chests out in low-cut hospital gowns, straight-jacket wearing creatures vomit acid through a vaginal hole in their chest, and Pyramid Head wears a giant phallic-symbol. It's all cluing into the fact that this poor widower is a sexually frustrated mad man. In the end (SPOILERS), it turns out you were your wife's killer, you're the villain, and you want to be punished for your actions. That is why Silent Hill has manifested these sexually horrific enemies and why Pyramid Head seems to be a rapist and an executioner(SPOILERS OVER). Why haven't games been able to match this subtlety? Why have Horror games turned into action games? It seems that ever since Resident Evil 4, Horror games have become the equivalent of videogame Thrillers instead. Silent Hill 5 employs a combo system, dodge roll, and overpowered weaponry; why? Not to mention that they don't work for shit, but was any of this necessary? What happened to the subtle, atmospheric world of Silent Hill? Look at Resident Evil 5, which isn't even a Horror game anymore, it's strictly a third-person shooter. Even 4 had it's fair share of freak out, "HOLY SHIT" moments. Why are horror games falling by the wayside?
Recently, a game called Dead Space was released, which is basically the Event Horizon videogame (Event Horizon isn't even that great to begin with...). It was hailed as the best horror game since Resident Evil 4, which to be fair, isn't really that huge of an accomplishment considering how many horror games have been released since then, and how many have been total crap (Silent Hill Origins, Siren, etc.) It seems like people totally forgot Condemned and Condemned 2 and looked onto Dead Space as the beacon of Horror game totality. Dead Space is definitely a step in the right direction, many things about it were terrifically done (Sound design, Graphics, the integration of the HUD into your suit, the boss fights, especially the last one, etc.), but it didn't really succeed as a horror game; the scares were routine, the weaponry (The Plasma Cutter especially) was overpowered, the enemies weren't exceptionally well-designed, and the set piece moments (Being dragged into a creature's hole, being chased into an elevator, etc.), while exhilarating, were few and far between, and many were reused and recycled; being dragged by the tentacle loses its thrill after the third time it happens. I won't pick on Dead Space too much considering how great it was as a videogame, but I'm surprised how much credit it gets to reinvigorating the horror genre. Has it really done that? No, of course not, and Resident Evil 5 is a testament to how much a horror franchise can be effected by expectations and mass appeal. I enjoyed Resident Evil, don't get me wrong, but it didn't feel like a Resident Evil game in the way that all previous entries, even 4, did. Not to mention that there were many things to bitch about (Inventory System, Partner A.I., Cover System, Stiff Controls, etc.).
With the two biggest, and dare I say best, horror franchises seemingly out of commission in terms of horror sensibilities, there is no horror game to make the statement that people wanted Dead Space to make. There needs to be a savior of the genre, and it doesn't seem that many studios are trying to do so. It's not like horror games don't sell well; Resident Evil 2 sold well-over 4 million copies and Dead Space has sold close to 2 million copies. So why the sudden lack of interest in the genre? Is it the declining quality of horror games? Silent Hill 4, Origins, and 5 were all terrible games, Resident Evil 5 is probably the weakest in the series, Condemned 2 took a turn for the worst about half way through, and Siren was awkward at best. Don't even get me started about Alone in the Dark. Even Alan Wake seems to have turned into Lost since the last time we saw it. There is one glimmer of hope however; Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, a retelling of the original Silent Hill. It's being developed for the Wii by Climax, and seems to take advantage of the Wii's motion controls in a way that horror games have not yet tried. The E3 trailer shows no combat, but instead frantic fleeing from horrific creatures, which is a good sign to say the least; the last thing we want in a horror game is an powerhouse manly man of a main character. It's about having a empathetic everyman/woman that people can identify with, so that the scares seem closer to home. If Shattered Memories succeeds where previous games have failed, than we might be able to crown a new king of Survival Horror. While I doubt it will top Silent Hill 2, I'm hopeful that it will at least be able to top the later entries of the Silent Hill franchise.
Why has it taken so long for a developer to "get it"? With the overreaction that Dead Space garnered, it seems that developers will see fit just to emulate it, which will in turn just add to the already growing number of RE4 clones. The thing that made Resident Evil 4 one of the greatest games ever was the way it gave the feeling of hopelessness and overbearing evil; every villager was a challenge, as dwindling ammo supplies forced you to flee from some of the games more frantic firefights. Every enemy revolted at your shot, making it all the more obvious that they weren't the unsympathetic zombies of the old games; they were just as human as you, and they couldn't control themselves. Resident Evil 4 also had a well-implemented inventory system and weapon shop, great boss fights, excellent controls (Especially thew Wii version, which is the best version of the game), replay value that not many horror games offer, and great thrills. Most importantly, it was in isolated areas and in the night. Resident Evil 5 has tense firefights, but there's never the threat of ammo depletion. It's always light outside, revealing every threat to you, you always have Sheva at your side, who single-handedly destroys the feeling of isolation, not to mention she's a fucking moron when controlled by the game's A.I. Resident Evil's evolution from a tense third person horror shooter into Gears of War 3 is the perfect analogy of what is happening to not just horror games, but games in general; the flagship franchise of the genre abandoning it's roots to become a fun Co-op shooter. Even Horror has to be played with a buddy. When Silent Hill 2 is remade and now has you accompanied by one of the other unfortunate residents of Silent Hill in a co-op third person shooter, where the story abandons its subtlety and gives way to the cutscene-only model, that will signify the death of the horror genre to me