Review by Neptune2venus

Reviewed: 05/04/05

Fiona Is Dying To Come Out Of The Closet!

Trapped in a European castle with no recollection how she got there, you take the role of Fiona Belli - an apparently ordinary teenager but with a twist in the survival horror genre. She doesn't only sniff lavender like an addict and hide from her captors.. she has also a weapon! Hewie the lovable white German Shepherd.

Some inevitable comparisons to Clock Tower 3 are made (sorry couldn't help myself!)

Graphics: 9
Capcom has done a great job - backgrounds come to life in a believable gothic setting of a Castle (no mansions this time!). The character models are finely detailed and show real emotion - Fiona smiling at Hewie for example - it's one of the best capture of character expressions, I have seen in a game. Most of the cut scenes just use the in-game graphics, but you won't mind as they are that good! The opening FMV co-produced by ROBOT really impressed me, the skin details was amazing!

Did I mention there are no loading times between rooms or infact the entire game? (Apart from loading your save) Everything is streamed from the DVD.

Fine work by Capcom!

Story: 7
It starts off mysterious enough as Fiona trapped in the castle, trying to find out how she got there while trying to escape her captors at the same time. Whilst her captors have their own personality quirks and reasons - I feel that they were not explored enough in-depth to amount to chasing poor Fiona the whole time. There are plot holes especially with Fiona, it's all thrown at you at once and you are left wondering how did it all happen and more importantly: why?

If you've played Clock Tower 3, you will notice quite alot of similarities and so by the end of the game it felt like I was playing that all over again rather than Haunting Ground.

Overall, it has a decent storyline - more impressive if you haven't played CT3.

Gameplay: 8
Once you get hold of Hewie there are moments when you have to use him for puzzles, but mostly you'll be using your favourite white German Shepherd fending off foes while you run for your life! Sometimes Hewie can be a naughty dog, and not follow your orders even when your dying! So you'll have to scold him sometimes.. our Fiona has to be cruel to be kind! But if Hewie does something right you can praise him and therefore upgrade the friendship level so that he is more responsive to your commands.

Unlike Clock Tower 3 where you could see your panic bar and run and hide quite easily because your captor disappears after a time - Haunting Ground is a step above.

In Panic status the picture quality changes in real-time, so the more Fiona is scared the more the picture details will deteriorate until it becomes black and white. You even can't press select to bring up your menu to heal yourself at this point!

The A.I is good - they will chase you, they will search for you and if you abuse hide spots... they will find you! The hiding spots are essential when it comes to surviving - unless you outrun them somehow - you'll be diving to the nearest cupboard or under the bed. But that doesn't mean your safe yet, they can easily catch you hiding and you'll have to run even more!

The safest way of knowing is not by trusting the 'Coast Clear' but rather listening for the music to change from the 'chase' music to 'normal'. Many times annoyingly, I stepped out during Coast Clear and they came back into the room a moment later!

However it can be easy, Fiona recovers her health fairly quickly so unless you get repeatedly attacked - you won't be dying any time soon.. unless it's an instant death. You can use 'medallions' to create health items for Fiona and Hewie and not all of them are good for you. I found this feature while to be interesting, it is hard to understand and a bit random - I didn't use it at all on Normal mode.

Beware - there is alot of backtracking and can get especially frustrating when you trying to put Item A into Slot B and you can't remember where it is. The areas are huge and can be daunting at first but given enough time and running and hiding - you'll get to know the castle whether you like it or not!

Sound - 8
The voice acting I found overall was well done and suited to the characters especially Danielle's laugh - scary! Fiona's voice sounded a bit forced at times but the rest of the characters make up for that. Die to hear disturbing sounds - depending who are chasing you at the time. It is worth hearing at least once! Also, each one has their own 'chase theme' as it were, speeding up and slowing down depending on how near they are to you. It's a dead giveaway when there is complete silence.. as there is probably going to be a chase around the corner!

However I think Capcom was a tad lazy when it came to Hewie. His bark sounds so mechanical, there is no variation whatsoever! The growling and whine are better, but come on at least use real recordings of a dog barking!

Reply - 8
I completed this in about 9 hours which is longer than *most* survival horror games. You'll probably want to play through it again to complete the unlockables which include different outfits and a hard mode. (Normal was too easy!).

Pros
+ Lovely Graphics
+ No Loading Times
+ Interesting Characters
+ Hewie Adds a New Edge To Gameplay

Cons
- Storyline Feels Lacking In Some Parts
- Chasing Can Be Overdone
- Areas Can Be a Bit Daunting To Begin With
- It's Not as Unique as it Makes Out - Clock Tower 3 Anyone?

Rent/Buy - For Survival Horror fans there isn't a choice.. this is a must buy!
But for those who are sitting on the fence wondering whether to buy, rent to see if you like it first.

To me, It's a worthy addition to anyone's collection!

Haunting Ground has moments of brilliance let down by a glossed over storyline and usage of the 'unique' traits of the Clock Tower series (Chasing, Panic Status, Some Items) so it doesn't feel unique anymore even with the addition of Hewie.

Overall - 8/10

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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