First Impressions: Project Zero

October 5, 2009

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“Why won’t she fucking RUN?

It is a proclivity of all ‘survival horror’ titles that your character must move… agonisingly… slowly…. (the influences of Resident Evil are obvious in the opening stages of Project Zero), but the frustration of this fact ramps up considerably when a wailing spirit emerges from the ether right behind you and your only defence between you and a grisly death is an old camera. Faced with those odds, can you blame a guy for trying to turn tail and flee? Despite the fact that our heroine Miku is seeing things from beyond the grave, she never so much as breaks into a light jog, let alone busting her gut to get away from all the ghosts.

But then, this is ‘survival horror’ after all. Everything is geared towards the atmosphere. And Project Zero delivers atmosphere in spades; slapping it on so thickly that the result is a cloying sense of unease manifesting itself in your very bones within an hour of play. Despite Project Zero being the most quoted title in a thread I started over at Eurogamer, with a question identical to the one posted on this blog (“Has a videogame ever scared you?”), I still wasn’t convinced that I would be genuinely scared by it. How wrong I was.

It’s the sounds that do it. Guttural, tortured chanting. High-pitched screams. Desperate wailing lamentations on the manner of the ghosts’ final moments in the corporeal world – this game is not frightened in piling on the misery. All combine to weave a soundtrack that perfectly compliments the grainy, bleak visuals and left my girlfriend whimpering and goosebumps running up my arms. Well, the first chapter is called ‘The Strangling Ritual’ after all.

Clunky controls and slow heroines be damned; if Project Zero can keep up the intense fear factor of it’s opening stages, I’ll be clinging hold of the controller with cold, clammy hands all the way to the end credits.

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