In 2015 Supermassive Games attempted, somewhat successfully, to change the way horror games are delivered. Until Dawn took a great cast of friends, put them into a typical horror scenario and blended exploration and interaction with a script and styling that merged film like quality with gameplay. It was met with positivity from both critics and gamers and led to a spin off title made purely for the release of PSVR. Until Dawn: Rush of blood was a virtual roller coaster ride through the maddened mind of the originals protagonist in which you confronted killer clowns, giant spiders and ghastly monsters and ghosts. It was a nail bitting thrill ride filled with jump scares. Now we see a new PSVR title of the same franchise, a prequel to the original and a title that attempts to blend both of these two previous outings.
In essence, The Inpatient is a walking simulator for PSVR. You take on the role of an unknown character, who is a patient at the Blackwood Sanatorium in the 1950’s. Fans of Until Dawn will instantly recognise the name and setting and the story adds value to the originals origins which is something that lacks within most prequels.
Your character has no recollection of how he was admitted, in fact he has no recollection of anything as his memory seems to be entirely gone. Throughout the game your memories are pieced together via flash backs, that aid in uncovering who you are and how you have come to be in the present situation. These memories are discovered by either interacting with objects or moving close to shining light reflections. There is still much confusion throughout as the memories seem quite disjointed, missing a few makes this worse which is a shame as the characters back story is an integral part of the story. In the end though you discover your identity, well worth the journey!
You are able to play The Inpatient with either the Dual Shock 4 or two move controllers. Unlike most first-person VR Games, The Inpatient has your character represented with a full body, most games have a pair of floating hands representing yours. The reasoning is due to the tracking of VR. As it tracks the controllers (your hands) it cannot decipher correctly what the rest of your arms are doing, resulting in limbs moving at angles that would make the squeamish fill ill. This is much worse here with the Move controllers, each arm moves which feels more natural, that is until you interact with an object and your hand move at angles that would near detach them from your arms in reality.
I found the control scheme more comfortable with the Dual Shock, R2 controlled your right arm for interacting and the light bar used the torch (acquired later in game). The tracking was impressive too, I never found myself resetting the screen (a constant problem usually in VR) and navigating the asylum was quite easy.
The story itself starts out slowly, you are introduced to a few characters, including your cell mate and a few of the staff. You spend the first section of The Inpatient confined to your room, however during rest or sleep you are transcended into dream sequences, or perhaps a little madness I’m not sure which is correct. During these scenes the asylum is greeted with a green mist, the doors are open and you are able to move around. Your exploration here is a little pre planned though, as there are always images of other characters leading you. Things are extremely creepy in these sections, the sound through my headset, noises, moans, scratching, voices, it all adds to the atmosphere and builds tension. There are a couple of jump scares within the game but The Impatient delivers horror in a much better way, fear is built through dread, tension, the feeling of haplessness and the unknown.
For gamers who are returning to the universe, you’ll be happy to know that the Butterfly Effect makes a return. Choices you make via communication with characters and choices made shape the story. The dialogue is chosen by either looking at the answer That is preferred, or by voice recognition via the camera mic. This is a great feature, and it works extremely well, also adding to the feeling of being within the world.
The Inpatient is a well-crafted game indeed. It is one of the more impressive looking PSVR games to date. The characters are extremely well crafted although some of the animation seems a tad stiff. The environment likewise is well designed and through this detail the immersion is aided. During some of the dream/madness sequences I found myself moving slowly, takin in all that the environment had offered. The lighting deserves a special mention also, it is quite easy to get the feeling that this world is quite real.
The frame rate is solid, as it should be given that your movement speed never gets quicker than a slow walk. I never encountered any real bugs graphically, I did however run into a bug in which the game wouldn’t progress, this was not due to technical build though.
Until Dawn was a huge surprise to me when released and I have followed Supermassive Games closely ever since. Rush of Blood was a great tie in and super fun but I am happy to see the series return to it’s original horror approach. Not relying on jump scares but a story of helplessness and feeling of dread with a slow burn approach rather than action is a welcome approach. The only real criticism I have is the length and shift in story telling half way through. I enjoyed this game a lot, I just wanted more. The replay ability that links with the Butterfly Effect is a welcome distraction, and I really hope that Supermassive release another fully fledged, longer horror experience for PSVR in the future.