I consider myself a pretty big fan of horror games. Resident Evil and Dead Space are two series very near and dear to my heart but I’ve of course been burned over the years as Dead Space 3 and Resident Evil 5 traded some of their classic horror tropes for some Gears of War style action and set pieces. No disrespect to Gears of War of course; that’s one of my favorite series of games. I just like my horror games to maintain that sense of horror. There’s just nothing like an immersive horror game that tugs at your soul as you creep down corridors that you know should be empty but something whispering in the shadows ever so faintly tells you that you’re not alone. Dead Space is an incredible example of a modern day horror game but it, of course, began to shift into less horror and more jump scares and action which left many of us pretty disappointed with the way the series left off. Hollow seems different than all of these games though–even earlier Dead Space and Resident Evil, which has me excited and on edge.
I was pretty excited when I first saw the trailer for this game so you can imagine my response when Alexx Aplin (head of our reviews department) said there was a 1.5-hour demo out for Hollow and he needed someone to cover it. I couldn’t volunteer fast enough. I pretty much just bashed my head into the keyboard until the words “I wanna cover it! I volunteer!” were spelled out. Or something like that. The best stories are the embellished ones, right? Anyway, Hollow looks like it could get us back on track for what modern horror can truly be with today’s technology and hardware specs. I mean if we could create horror games that pulled at us and injected a sense of dread into our spine in the mid 90’s then what’s the holdup twenty years later? With Resident Evil VII, Outlast II, and Hollow releasing near enough to each other to create a powerful shockwave in the horror loving side of the video game community, I think we may finally have a shot at bringing horror into the modern age in all the best ways.
Hollow reminds me of Dead Space with its isolation in space and its dim lighting. That sense of dread and not always knowing exactly where to go also comes to mind. The enemies look otherworldly as well but that’s about where the comparisons can stop. They seem like they’re cousins to each other though. But they’re different enough and that’s not a bad thing on either intellectual property. Dead Space had a sense of dread about it but Hollow really minimizes what Dead Space did in that department. It’s also just a different kind of game. This is a very, very immersive experience, not only because it’s first person but also just in the pacing and the sense of discovery. I truly felt alone, lost, and hopeless as I walked from corridor to corridor. That sense of mystery that was pretty present in Dead Space was interrupted here and there by “ISSAC, HEY, WE’RE OVER HERE. GO DO THIS TO HELP US! WE’RE GONNA GET OUTTA HERE. I PROMISE!” and it worked for Dead Space but in the demo build of Hollow, I got much more of a Peragus vibe from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. I was alone. I needed to figure out what the hell was going on. And I needed to survive.
The demo build of Hollow starts off by reminding players that this is not only not the final product but elements (general or specific) may not even end up in the final game. This feels like it’s the beginning of the game but at the same time, they may just be throwing a few concepts together that help give a gameplay and narrative feel for the game. I personally suspect the pacing will end up being a little slower in the actual opening, not that it was too fast or poor in this demo. It just feels like the developer is hiding something from us. It doesn’t feel like they’re showing us all their cards and in a world filled with “horror” games like Resident Evil 5, I’m completely okay with that. The opening here though is pretty unnerving and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous and on edge. The game begins by having you alone, no power, no one around, and with your character having no idea of what’s happening. It’s perfect. Like I said, Peragus in KotOR II, which if you haven’t played that go do that when you’re done reading this. Anyway, you end up moving through the areas, opening doors, solving a puzzle, and getting the power on and attempting to piece together more of what’s happening. It works very well. It’s mysterious. You feel powerless and like you may be able to influence a little bit of what’s happening but mostly like a victim to whatever events are going to unfold.
I don’t want to go into too many details because the presentation is extremely on point. The developer knows exactly how to have a demo flow. It isn’t too long before there’s some combat and a little tiny bit more is revealed about what’s happening around you. Everything just works together so well. It’s to the point where I’m surprised Microsoft or Sony hasn’t tried to nab this as a console exclusive on top of its PC release. This could work extremely well in VR. You hear that Sony? Please? Oh well, maybe it’ll have Vive support if nothing else. Hollow controls extremely well too. It has typical keyboard and mouse first-person controls and also features full controller support. I’m a big fan of controllers so I attempted to use my Xbox One controller but for some reason, it wasn’t working properly. I was able to walk with the left stick but that was it. It’s probably just an issue with the demo or something else. Who knows? That’s the downside to PC gaming’s strength. Things are open and we don’t always know why something doesn’t work. I will say though that keyboard and mouse controls were great though and I didn’t have any issues with them. Walking down a corridor with very low lighting emitting from my flashlight felt as good as it could have possibly felt.
I was very impressed with how Hollow looked too. It looks beautiful and the graphics really help bring the world to life. Lighting feels pretty realistic and the surroundings seem to behave believably as well. Even the physics engine seems great. A lantern bounced slowly down the stairs and scared the hell out of me. I don’t know if it was a planned set piece sort of thing or if it just kind of worked out that way but either way, it’s a testament to not only what’s possible in Hollow but for how well the developer hid the puppet strings as they crafted this beautiful game. The atmosphere is undeniably good and the graphics and sound design play a bit part in that. Music and sound effects were normally subtle but they would know immediately when it was their time to be front and center. I was very impressed with how Hollow looked and sounded.
This is definitely a game to keep on your radar if you like horror games or just love games that excel with immersion. My only major fear with this game when it releases is will I be able to finish it or will I get through a few hours before cowering in fear and being unable to see it through to the end? I guess we’ll see when it releases. All we know about the release so far is Q2 of 2017 which we’re already in the middle of so I’d expect to see the full release any week now and hopefully with some marketing because this only popped up on my radar because of word of mouth when the trailer first released and this is the exact kind of game I’d be interested in purchasing on release day. I’d hate for sales to not be good even though I know there’s a massive and dedicated horror audience out there that will love this game, or at least that’s the vibe I get from what I’ve played so far. Speaking of horror fans, I know if I am unable to finish Hollow when it releases that our biggest resident horror fan Jerry Dobracki will be able to dive right in and tell me why I need to overcome my fears and check it out.