THE MEDIOCRE HAUNTING
In 2017, boundaries are being pushed in every medium. Be it music, film, television or the world of art, but with the technology at the disposal of this day and age the creative minds of video game developers have took the ball and ran with it when creativity, presentation and storytelling are concerned. It’s all of this that brought Perception to my attention, published by Feardemic and developed through a kickstarter campaign by The Deep End Games, a company featuring former employees of Irrational Games who are responsible for the Bioshock series (hence why I jumped at the chance to check this game out). Perception as a whole brings the simplest of fears and brings it straight to forefront because in this first-person horror adventure, darkness is a constant presence. A truly unique concept that in the grand scheme of things turns out to be Perception’s bane sees you taking the role of Cassie, a blind woman who can traverse her surroundings through ‘Echolocation’ a way of seeing through sound. Hissing radiators, fans, dripping taps, even the wind can be seen through the continuous blackness but the main mechanic involves tapping your cane on the ground in order to get a brief and wider view of your surroundings before you are quickly shrouded in darkness again, a quirky mechanic but after couple hours of gameplay proves to be a tiring one.
Perception begins with protagonist Cassie, a blind woman who is making her way to a mansion which has haunted her dreams for a number of months. As she makes her way around it she discovers about the demise of its previous owners and the paranormal activities that are enfolding within it. A simple and uncomplicated synopsis that all in all becomes somewhat stale as the journey progresses and doesn’t really lead to anything spectacular.
Mechanically, Perception plays quite well. The first thing you’ll notice when yo start a new game is you are given the option of how talkative Cassie is during the game, she can either talk for England during her stay in the New England mansion becoming more relatable to the player and bringing a more human experience by showing exactly how she feels through the game, or she can only speak during certain specific moments, this way the mood isn’t interrupted all that often through constant monologuing. Controls are responsive and well laid out however I feel the fluidity of the movement is unfortunately hindered by the audio. The ambiance holds good value in causing tension as it should do so it says in the big book of Horror Gaming, just see other recent games in the genre like Outlast and Alien: Isolation however, Cassie’s clunky and amplified footsteps overshadows the overall timbre of your surroundings which lets the overall experience down. However there were times when the sound left me ready for some jump scares, slamming doors, babies crying and distant footsteps when you think you’re alone are horror staples and work well in the opening moments of the game but become expected and unsurprising and you progress. And much like the counterparts I just mentioned too much noise can draw attention to hostile spectres know simple as The Presence. This stops the player from spamming the cane mechanic and making you rely on sheer instinct and the other noises of the environment to get around.
But the journey through the darkness is let down with a simple press of the shoulder button snapping your vision straight to your current objective which is landmarked in fluorescent green making the pressure of tiptoeing in the dark a lot less chilling by telling you exactly where to go. The presence themselves also can’t be compromised only drawn way or hidden from making for a good sense of powerlessness as they lurk around. Perception also has a series of audio files and items to collect to give an insight to the mansions inhabitants. Cliché? Most definitely it doesn’t stray away from the norm here but to be honest that’s ok because it serves a purpose.
Perceptions love of what lurks in the endless black doesn’t make great use of its engine, running on unreal 4 an engine capable of creating great things doesn’t really bode well when you are playing a game that leaves you essentially staring at a blank screen most of the time the things you see through echolocation look like little beacons of hope when you’re stumbling around your surroundings and the panic starts to set in and the blue and green hues of these landmarks actually look pretty good and really gives the impression that you are seeing through sounds, in particular when you step out into the snow the normally monotone white we are used to becomes a wall of pale blue which somehow seem more chaotic which is a good touch but it can make you lose your bearings sharpish, and the solid bold red that engulfs the screen when there are nasties nearby helps add to the anxiety and makes the level mindedness go out the window as you plan an escape however I feel the forewarnings could be a little more subtle instead of the game practically saying HEY! YOU’RE GONNA DIE IF YOU’RE NOT CAREFUL!! The mansion itself feels deceptively huge that lack of one major sense makes you feel like you’re in an endless maze even with the added help of showing you your waypoint, finding your way to it can still prove challenging. Finally, the actual location of the game itself-Gloucester, Massachusetts is a nice homage to horror movies that take place in the New England area like The Haunting and Silent Night, Bloody Night and the developers went out their way to see the architecture and the mansion itself fit into that.
A PlayStation 4 Review Code was provided by Deep End Games