Games: Survival horror games trade suspense for thrills

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The term ‘survival horror’ was first coined to describe the original Resident Evil game in 1996.

It represented a breakthrough in something horror games had lacked before that point: atmosphere. Since then the series has gradually moved away from frights and suspense towards a more high-octane action orientated experience. EA’s Dead Space became the only truly scary game on the current generation of consoles, but that too has swung away from fear towards action with its sequels and spin-offs.

Given that the great strength of these games has been the immersive atmosphere they create, it seems odd that they would move away from it. Perhaps it can be explained by simple economics: military shooters sell by the bucketload.

Resident Evil 6 (18+, PC, PS3, Xbox360, £39.99) was unleashed this week amidst promises that Capcom had listened to the wishes of the fans.

The shambling zombies of Racoon City have returned, and the controls have been updated with the ability to move and shoot at the same time – something that Dead Space did with great effect but incredibly Resident Evil 5 seemed incapable. Sadly, though, it appears that an overriding sense of dread and suspense is not present in this newest reworking. Resident Evil favourites Leon S. Kennedy and Chris Redfield are joined by new characters in intertwining storylines spanning continents.

Four single player campaigns, each as long as a previous Resident Evil game are promised, alongside co-op and versus multiplayer modes. It seems as though Capcom have tried to pack this game with something for everyone, and it certainly represents good value for money. However, with Dead Space 3 seemingly also eschewing fear for gunplay, Resident Evil could’ve done with a return to basics.

A game which gets the tension of survival very well is Tokyo Jungle (12+, PS3, £9.99), which made its way onto the PSN last week. Humanity has died out and the city has been reclaimed by freed zoo animals and feral domestic pets. You can play as anything from a small Pomeranian dog to an Elephant as you try to survive the concrete jungle, scavenging, hunting and reproducing. It doesn’t look flashy, but it’s a very deep and rewarding game.

Edinburgh developers Blazing Griffin are to give away a copy of their classic wink-murder game The Ship (12+, PC, £13.99) for every pound raised by Sick Kids Save Point for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation next weekend. Considering last year the gaming marathon raised £21,000 for the charity, that’s a lot of free games.