March 27, 2023
Signalis is old-school PlayStation-era horror at its finest

Signalis is old-school PlayStation-era horror at its finest

New resident Evil the games are great, but there’s still something about the slow, grimy, and mysterious old entries in the series. There’s a special vibe that comes from the steady pacing, rough graphics, and convoluted puzzles that always make PlayStation-era horror stand out. And while developer Rose-Engine reported is a modern take, it channels some of the best parts of series like silent Hill, Resident Evil, and dinosaur crisis for classic scares.

reported puts you in the role of Elster, a kind of synthetic worker who, at the start of the game, finds herself waking up on an empty, destroyed spaceship. Her memories are mostly gone, but she manages to get to an underground facility, barely knowing anymore that she’s looking for someone. The rest of the game consists of a dozen hours of piecing together who Elster is as well as the truth behind the horrors of the facility she explores.

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If you’ve played any of the aforementioned horror games, reported will feel instantly familiar, evoking long-lost days of tightly gripping a gray PlayStation controller while running from zombies. The third-person horror game has a steady pace; Elster fortunately does not have the infamous resident Evil tank controls, moving more fluidly, but she still explores slowly, and aiming can be difficult.

This, of course, makes it all the more terrifying when bloodthirsty synthetic machines are after you. reported isn’t technically a zombie game, but many of its enemies – the glitched remains of a colony of underground workers – can look like wandering undead. As a survival horror game, reported also has other genre staples, like a small inventory (you can only hold six items at a time), limited resources (I still need more shotgun shells), and oh so many doors that require encrypted key cards before you can proceed. That said, there are a few more modern touches, like less punishing save points and, my favorite, a map with just the right amount of useful information.

The game also looks like the game. Whereas reported is not a 32-bit game, it often feels like one, with grainy, blocky visuals and frequent glitches that make you feel like a synthetic being slowly losing its synthetic mind. The rooms are small and cramped inside an oppressive, brutalist building, which adds to the tension, and the enemy plans are simple but menacing. There’s a real analog feel to the game too, with puzzles that involve lots of big switches and dials, and the ability to look closely at polygonal objects in your inventory, as if they were real objects.

A screenshot from the horror game Signalis.

a:hover]:black-text [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black text-gray-63″>Image: Humble Games

reported does an amazing job of steadily increasing fear. When it starts, it’s mostly loneliness. You are alone in a dark facility, most of which is enclosed. But as you open doors and go deeper into the basement, the terror increases exponentially. You go from researching in bland, dark offices, to stalking in medical facilities, and ultimately to extremely gross horrors that I won’t spoil. The same goes for the cryptic narration, told mostly through old notes and journals, which begins with a few simple descriptions of the facility before descending into madness. It’s the kind of game where you’ll open a note that just says “leave this place” and nothing else.

That said, while I loved the old-school vibe of reported, there are places where it can feel frustratingly dated. A few of the puzzles are way too convoluted and forced me to do some trial and error, which temporarily killed the momentum of the game. (The majority of the puzzles are awesome, though, and I even pulled out a pen and a notebook to solve some of them.) And while I appreciate the small inventory and how having to make tough choices about weapons and healing items can make things scarier, still annoying; I spent a lot of time backtracking as I had to store my key cards or other items in a safe until I needed them.

These moments may add a bit of boredom to the experience, but they don’t take away from what reported is. It’s refreshing to remember why this style of horror is so effective. reported isn’t shy about its influences, but it’s so well crafted. By the time it’s all over, the game definitely has its own distinct identity – and plenty of gritty horrors to haunt your dreams.

reported is available now on PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.

#Signalis #oldschool #PlayStationera #horror #finest

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