Review by MarkusIII

Reviewed: 11/03/06

Could have been titled "Hide and seek".

Ever played something called “hide and seek” in your real life ? Of course you have. Ever done it any kind of tv-/PC game ? No ? Does it sound interesting ? Then you should try out “Haunting Ground”. This game can basicly be seen as a quite “usual” survival horror game by Capcom or any other creators. It includes the classic running in corridors and opening doors, collecting different kinds of objects, puzzles and so on. There are however two things that this game contains that is not so usual about horror games, which I will explain about under “gameplay”.

STORY

In the game you play as a girl called Fiona, who has been trapped in the cellar of a castle in the middle of nowhere. She survived a car accident and was in some way brought to the castle. She wakes up, sitting in a cage. She comes out of the cage and after You, the player has searched around the house for a while, she founds a dog in the castle’s garden named Hewie. Together with this dog, you are to survive the strange people that roams the house and escape from the place. A pretty simple, yet effective story, and it’s the characters of the game (which I will come to later) that makes the story interesting.

GAMEPLAY

As I introduced in the beginning, there are some things that are quite unusual in this game compared with other horror games. First thing is, that this game does not have thousands of enemies which you are to blast with some shotgun, no. In this game there are a few “main characters”, that kind of lives in the castle you’re exploring and try to escape. Fiona can not kill these enemies by herself, since she does not have strong weapons and much power. To help to distract the enemies, she has the second unusual thing with the game, the dog Hewie. he helps Fiona with a lot of things, to jump and bite them in the neck, legs and so on, You just order him to attack, and he does, and while he’s doing this, you have the perfect time ro run away and HIDE, this is the third unusual thing, the “hide and seek” of the game. You can run and hide under beds, in closets etc. to be free from these characters, but only for a while. The castle is deluded into a kind of “level”-type, which means that you’re being chased by one main character in a certain area, and in the rooms of the castle you find all these places to hide. To hide can for example help you to get rid of the enemy for a while, and then you can start to search around more for things needed. When the enemy is back, after a while you can repeat to send Hewie on him/her and run and hide. If you hide too often though, and try to hide in a place you’ve already hid yourself in, you will mostly be found, so try to avoid to hide in the same place twice.

Among these “enemies” we have the big ugly gardener and handyman called Debilitas, who is the easiest one of the character to hide from since he’s so slow minded. We have a girl called Daniella who cooks and does housework in the castle. A fast and really cunning character that mostly is really hard to get away from and hide from, she does have a weak link, which is when she sees herself in a mirror, she crashes it, and is gone for a longer time. These are only two of the characters, I don’t want to spoil the other characters and their weak spots. But I can say that all characters are really interesting and cool ones, and they all make the game somewhat more exciting. As I said, most enemies die when their “certain area” is completed. However, the big Debilitas does not die, he is with you in a big part of the game. Vanishing sometimes, but surely is back to haunt you later on again. Seems at first like he is immortal. Each enemy is also a boss in some way, when you’ve came to the end of the area of a certain character, you meet him/her as a boss. This is mostly puzzling, since you have to use your imagination what objects in the room you can use to kill the boss, mostly the dog Hewie isn’t available when it’s boss fights. This is a cool addition and the bosses are funny to beat. Of course, there are these “normal” puzzles in the game, that is always included tossed in here and there. These are all classic horror game puzzles, to the bone...and Capcom has done these before, we know that. Most of the time, I find them funny and some are very easy, while there of course can be some hard ones. What can at places be really hard to, is to know where you should go next, and what to do with certain objects. Sometimes it’s just like running in a labyrinth and you have some different objects that should be used, nut you don’t find any good solution to come out of it and know where to use those objects, some logical, some not so logical.

Anyway, we also have a thing called “panic mode” in the game. When an enemy is really hunting Fiona and getting really near, she can fall into panic. Her heart will then pump a lot faster, the colours of the screen will fade into an ash-grey colour and the controller starts to pound. When this happens, you know you the only thing to do is to run for your life. It is mostly very hard to steer Fiona and now where you are going, since you do not see much, which makes it even more stressing, and the bad controls of the game does not really help you.

CAMERA/CONTROLS

The controls of the game is very similar with controls in series like Resident Evil, Alone in the dark, Silent Hill and so on. Which can be seen as a fairly negative thing, because controls in horror games are often pretty clumsy and quite hard to use. The camera can also at times make it really hard for you. It can be stuck in a beginning of a corridor, and if it’s a long corridor you can see Fiona far away and you have no idea what’s waiting around the corner. The camera can also be at really weird places at times, and almost seems like it’s made for making the game harder.

GRAPHICS

Really nice actually and the few cut scenes does of course look even better. Sadly that they did not throw in some more of these cool cut scenes. In overall, the graphics are very detailed in both environments and characters. They move very natural and the dogs appearance is really well made, and all sounds he makes, barks and walking etc. sounds really realistic.He for sure moves and acts like a real dog, too.

SOUNDS

In overall, it’s great. Through almost the whole game there are some cool sound effects to be heard in the background, which creates a great atmosphere. And with this, you do of course hear the walking/running of Fiona and Hewie. But, when an enemy really is nearby and Fiona enters into “panic mode”, we do really get some cool music. It directly changes into a darker and gloomier tact, frantic and wicked sounding and the music makes this panic thing more creepy. It really makes you feel more hunted, and i’m glad about that. And of course, that is the meaning, I guess.

OVERALL

Haunting Ground is not a game that is really “horror”-like, for sure when you’re hunted and goes into panic, you can really feel the enemies at your back, and sometimes can be a little bit creepy. But mostly – but not always - you have a pretty long time to just maniacally run away and hope for survival. But in the end, what the game fails in is just the horror-side, and that all this hide and seek get a bit tiresome in the end. And certain parts in the game did really get on my nerves. Especially the dog, which mostly is really annoying in places where you are stressed and has many other things to do, and at the same time needs to order Hewie what to do. Sometimes the ordering does not really seem to go through really. You can order, but still he just stands there and looking stupid, and if it is an enemy nearby, guess if you get irritated. So, even if this with Hewie is a nice addition, it can easily get on your nerves. The game does also have 4 alternative endings, don’t know though if it’s worth playing the whole game through so many times, just to see another ending. However, when completing the game the first time you also get some new hot costumes for Fiona, which of course makes it a little bit more fun for the eyes ;) And plus, you’ll hopefully see another ending. It’s your choice what you want to do.

On the big whole, I do anyway think that Capcom has succeeded pretty good with this game, showing some unusual sides of how you can make a horror game, and an alternative title to the game could really have been “hide and seek”, since it is much of that after all. Even though the game does not really live up to the same level as the bigger names within the genre, I still think it’s worth playing.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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