Haunting Ground PlayStation 2
Published by Capcom
Developed by Capcom
Release Date: Out Now
Haunting Ground, an introduction.
Coming from Capcom and with a name like Haunting Ground you can pretty much guess that the game is one of those that is going to leave you in a cold sweat. Capcom excel in creating games that both absorb and chill the blood and Haunting Ground is certainly one of these games. Haunting Ground isn't your typical survival-horror title though. The emphasis isn't on combat, rather escape, and you have no health bars or any such gauge that will indicate the state of your character's health. Capcom have decided to show such details in a more original fashion.
What's the game about?
You'll play the game as Fiona Belli, a young woman. The game begins with you in the lower levels of a castle, locked in a small cage and clothed in nothing but a silk sheet. Flashbacks occur of what appears to be a car accident (her parents were apparently killed in this accident) but otherwise nothing else is known. The only person Fiona can see is a hideous malformed man (called Debilitas) who is chopping steaks on a blood drenched table. Needless to say Fiona is terrified and as soon as is practical, she takes herself out of the cage (the padlock is open for some reason) and tries to find a way out. You make your way into the main castle and shortly enough you'll be greeted by a mysterious woman who has laid out some clothes for you. She says little and soon disappears but not before talking to a portrait and referring to it as 'Master'. Of course the main objective is to escape the castle but it's not going to be easy and there are puzzles to solve. To make matters worse Debilitas (who is not the only enemy in the game) is determined to get his hands on you and with him being grotesque and mentally unstable it's highly desirable to avoid the brute at all costs. If this wasn't terrifying enough Fiona will also have to deal with tiny creatures known as Luminessants that rupture and produce a sound that attracts nearby enemies.
What's good about the game?
Haunting Ground manages to be a true psychologically terrifying game without resorting to the blood and guts antics of many titles in the survival-horror genre. Your main concern in the game is keeping Fiona calm because if she loses it you'll have a hard time controlling her. Haunting Ground attempts to take the survival-horror genre that one step further and let you feel the characters anguish. You'll feel Fiona's panic attacks as her heart rate is relayed to you via vibrations through the Dualshock 2 controller. Not only that though you'll see the screen change colour and go blurry as she becomes frightened. Fiona will also fall over a lot and become very difficult to control if panic really does begin to set in. We saw a similar thing to this in Eternal Darkness on the GameCube but it's been done to a much more dramatic effect in Haunting Ground. Fiona can regain her calm by hiding and using certain items (you'll also find a few restore points that completely restore Fiona's state of mind). Try not to use the same hiding places too often though otherwise you'll be found out. Fiona is not completely alone however and she will eventually have the help of Hewie, a four-year old German Shepherd dog. Initially Hewie isn't that obedient but as he grows to trust Fiona she can use him to help her out in various situations. Fiona can also create various items that will stun and damage her enemies which can buy her time to escape.
What's not so good about the game?
The most irritating aspect of Haunting Ground is the sudden death traps that you'll encounter. These can bring up an instant game over message and they are annoying to say the least. That said though it's certainly interesting trying to avoid these situations. Naturally where there's puzzle solving to be done, there's usually a fair bit of back tracking and Haunting Ground has its fair share of it. It's not just puzzle solving you'll backtrack for though. As you progress through the game you'll note the clocks (the save points in the game), the hiding points and recover points and more often than not when faced with danger you'll want to head back to these locations of safety. Whilst backtracking always feels like a chore in a game it would be harsh to criticise Haunting Ground for it especially, as we've just highlighted, it's pretty much essential to progressing through the game.
How does it look?
Haunting Ground looks great and Capcom have once again managed to create a game that takes full advantage of the hardware it was designed for. The detail for both the locations in which the game is based and the character models is impressive and they are certainly as good as in any other game on the PlayStation 2 to date. As we mentioned earlier the screen does distort and discolour somewhat when Fiona is scared and the effects for this look very good and definitely add to the feeling of desperation that you experience when Fiona is in trouble. The game supports both progressive scan and 60Hz modes which is great to see.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
I was thrilled to see that Haunting Ground is subtitled and as a result you'll be able to enjoy the games story, dialogue, cutscenes and all. Tutorial messages are shown in text and can be recalled at any time from the in-game menu. When Fiona is hiding you'll receive a text message ('Hiding') to show you that you can't be seen and once the immediate danger is over you'll receive a 'Coast Clear' message to notify you of the fact. Whilst all of this is great the game does make use of music to highlight when trouble is around the corner. The nearby presence of Debilitas is signified by music and whilst this is a decent warning system for hearing gamers, for deaf gamers it's completely pointless. I'm not trying to make out that this will cause major problems but there will be times when you're attacked and you had no prior warning of the approaching enemy.
Haunting Ground offers quite a unique survival-horror experience that is filled with suspense. It's more of a thinking person's survival-horror and relies more on being able to solve the puzzles and avoiding the enemy rather than firing weapons in order to progress through the game. The game looks and plays great but as we mentioned above there are moments when it will be trickier for deaf gamers than it should be as music is used to convey the nearby presence of enemies. That said, if you're a fan of the genre it's well worth picking up.
Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10
Deaf Gamers Classification
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Another great survival-horror experience from Capcom. Whilst the game is subtitled, it could have done with being a visual warning system for nearby enemies as the game relies on the gamer taking note of the change in the music.