by Microsoft Game Studios
The haunted house has been a classic horror scenario for many years. It's worked in many films and in a fair few games too. Of course we've had Resident Evil and, in a rather light hearted way, Luigi's Mansion. These seem like fairy stories though when compared to Project Zero. Originally released last year as Fatal Frame on the PlayStation 2, Project Zero is a real blood chiller. To make matters worse you are not armed with guns or knives, no, in Project Zero you have nothing more than a camera.
The events in the game are centred on the Himuro mansion. A famous novelist, Junsei Takamine, and his party disappeared whilst he was gathering research material for a novel he was working on. This is where the game begins. You initially control Mafuyu Hinasaki, who senses that something is wrong and goes to the mansion to see what he can find out. It's not long before Mafuyu disappears and from then on you'll control Mafuyu's sister, Miku who goes to the mansion in search of her brother.
The Himuro mansion is absolutely full of ghosts. The only weapon you've got against these ghosts is a special, antique camera. This camera has the ability to capture ghosts and see things that the eye normally wouldn't. Of course the camera's strength is dependent on the film you have installed. When you first find the camera in the mansion it is equipped with the Type-14 film. This film only has low powers of spirit removal but is sufficient for ghosts that you will meet at the start of the game. Later on you'll acquire the Type-37 film which has stronger powers of spirit removal. Like in real life though, these films have a fixed amount of exposures. The Type-14 film tends to have a lot more exposures than the stronger Type-37 film so you'll have to be careful and be prepared to switch between the two when you can get away with the weaker Type-14 film. There is also a Spirit Stone that can be found which will give your camera extra functions.
The atmosphere in the game is extremely tense. It's very similar to the Resident Evil series in the sense that the camera angles are fixed and there are only a few save points. The mansion is for the most part extremely dark and the torch (which looks like it needs its batteries replacing) Miku carries doesn't do too much to illuminate it. The lighting effects in the game are brilliant and rather realistically, with the lack of light, the game appears to be almost black and white, which gives the game a particularly moody, and spooky feel. The game is played from the third person perspective although it switches to the first person perspective when you are using the camera. The ghost visuals look very impressive and on the whole the game has received a sufficient upgrade from Fatal Frame on the PlayStation 2.
There are two key factors that take away a lot of the game's tense atmosphere for deaf gamers. The first of these is that the game isn't subtitled. Tutorial messages and descriptive messages are shown in text but Mika's thoughts, which are spoken verbally, are not shown in text. The second key factor is that the game is filled with eerie sounds that chill the blood. Whenever a ghost or a secret location (which requires you to use the camera in order to be seen) is near, a specific sound is given. Thankfully the gamepad will also vibrate and a visual indicator tells you this as well. It's a real shame that there are no subtitles as it makes you feel isolated from the game's plot. You'll find that you can piece together information from the scraps of paper and notebooks that you find but it isn't the same to be honest.
Project Zero is definitely a must for fans of the survival horror genre, especially if you haven't played Fatal Frame on the PlayStation 2. It can cause problems for deaf gamers though and it's criminal that the game isn't subtitled. Still if you're determined to play the game you can muddle through reasonably well. Just don't turn the lights off.
Game Rating: 7.0/10