Time to invest in new pants

 
Steve Dinneen
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GAMES
SILENT HILL: DOWNPOUR Cert: 15
****

The new Silent Hill has a lot to live up to. For many gamers it was the first title that not only made them jump but got under their skin; that made them look over their shoulder while playing and sleep with the lights on.

In this installment your character finds himself lost in the titular ghost town after an accident on his way to a maximum security prison. Downpour is at pains to prove it is a mature title. The somewhat gratuitous introduction forces you to stab a naked prison inmate to death (a paedophile, you assume – you can tell by his face).

But the horror starts in the town itself: you see flashes of figures in windows, people vanish into the swirling mists. The beauty of Silent Hill is that not a great deal happens: the terror is created by the possibility of something happening. It borrows heavily from the book of horror cliches – creeping through basements with only a cigarette lighter to guide you, the distant sound of ghostly children laughing – and uses them to chilling effect. There’s nothing startlingly original here but that won’t stop it scaring the hell out of you. The ability to look over your shoulder, allowing you to catch a glimpse of whatever might be creeping up behind you, is a master stroke.

Alas, it falls down on the gameplay. Fighting is a clunky affair that will have you weeping bitter tears of frustration. The game’s insistence on locking onto a single opponent makes fighting multiple enemies nigh on impossible. But the world itself is (just) enough to compensate. After a few minutes playing in the dark, I sheepishly got up to switch the light on. In a market saturated with mediocre horror titles, that’s a rare seal of approval.

GAMES
RESIDENT EVIL: OPERATION RACCOON CITY Cert: 15
**

Shoot shoot kill throw slash. Crap, more zombies. Shoot shoot shoot. OMG a big thing with a giant eye on its shoulder.

If you’re short on time, this sentence pretty much sums up Operation Raccoon City, the latest installment in the 16-year-old Resident Evil franchise.

The new spin is that you’re part of a team employed by the evil Umbrella Corporation, sent to destroy evidence of its involvement in the zombification of the world. It’s a nice hook that soon gets lost amid Raccoon City’s ceaseless blasting of the undead.

You won’t find any of the suspense horror that made earlier installments so terrifyingly playable – this is a by-the-numbers line-em-up-and-blast-em-up that’s high on body-count but low on scares.

While clearing room after room of lumbering zombies has a certain charm, the action isn’t without its drawbacks. If you try running in a direction the game doesn’t like, for example, you’ll just jog against an invisible wall, which can be very frustrating when a big thing with a club is bearing down on you.

The AI is, rather unhelpfully, set to “kamikaze” and in later missions you’ll spend as much time running around trying to resuscitate your teammates as you do fending off waves of weaponised zombies. It plays a bit like an old-fashioned arcade shooter (crouch, shoot, reload, repeat), with none of the finely tuned combat seen in games like Crysis, nor the sheer mindless joy of Dead Rising (a game that parodies exactly the kind of relentless slaughter presented here without a trace of irony).

There are plenty of diversions down memory lane for long-term Resident Evil fans. For everyone else, Operation Raccoon City is below-par shooter you could quite easily ignore.

Zombies take over St Paul’s

Mindless, lumbering creatures were drooling onto the steps of St Paul’s last weekend. “Not again” you might sigh. But don’t worry – the protestors haven’t moved back in.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City maker Capcom organised a real-life zombie-hunt to promote the launch of its new title.

Fans were invited to download an augmented reality app leading them to the scene of a zombie infestation, where they had to blast waves of the undead with their phones before finding a computer and erasing the all important evidence (see review left).

While blasting away at virtual monsters, real life blood-suckers (or at least actors very convincingly dressed up) showed up to chase them around.

The final location on the app’s radar led to the Umbrella Corporation HQ, where zombie hunters were handed rifles loaded with rubber discs and told to mow down one last wave of the undead.

I was rather chuffed when my name (albeit briefly) appeared on the app’s in-built leaderboard. My bubble was suitably deflated, though, when one young gamer gawped at me before asking: “Do they still make games for people in your age range?”

I hope zombies eat his brains.