I’m not a fan of jumpscares. In fact, I hate them. They are the cheapest way to portray ‘horror’ and should only be used as a last resort if the atmosphere and tension aren’t working. So, imagine my delight when I foolishly volunteered to review The Inpatient from Supermassive Games, a team who are well known for their Jump scares in both Until Dawn and Rush of Blood – What was I thinking? Still, I stuck with it and I played it from beginning to end so I can give my overall impression of the game as a person who is very easy to scare and not a fan of cheap scares. So, come with me as I see if The Inpatient will have you playing until dawn or if its a short rush of blood with a hidden agenda…
*Pics from here are off my PSVR recording – quality is higher in-game*
*There will be spoilers for Until Dawn past this point*
Until Dawn was a great experience back in 2015 on the PS4, it was a teen horror-flick where you got to control the action and effectively choose who lives and who dies. Sure, the game had it’s jump scares, but there was more than that as it built tension and suspense along with the mystery of what was really happening. The Inpatient takes us back to Blackwood Sanatorium, the old abandoned building which was one of the main focuses within Until Dawn. Supermassive Games have provided us with a full VR experience which aims to show us exactly what happened here, back in the 50’s as the miners are being treated and begin to mutate into the Wendigo.
You play the part of the aforementioned ‘inpatient’ and have no recollection of why you are within the sanatorium – your character knows about as much as you do at this point. You awake within an operating theatre where a doctor is quizzing you on how much you know. You begin to see flashbacks as you try and piece together what has happened that led to this point. Once this creepy introduction is complete, you receive a tour of the building and proceed to your cell/room. Here, you are introduced to two of the main characters in the game, the nurse and your roommate. The nurse is there to try and ease your mind and bring sense to what’s happening and your roommate is a little unstable, to say the least – just who is he and how does he fit into the events that are happening?
Your goal is to find out who you are, remain calm and above all, survive and escape. The game features the ‘butterfly effect’ events from Until Dawn which will alter the story as you go along. You must be sure to pick the right options in the right situations otherwise people may/will start dying sooner than you would want them too. With the aid of real-life, dream sequences and flashbacks, you will begin to relive the terrible event first hand – something which is quite disturbing and a bit creepy whilst in VR.
The Inpatient is a narrative game – there is no action outside of walking around, interacting with objects and people, and opening the odd door here and there. So don’t worry, you won’t be running around and hiding under the bed or in lockers as you traverse around the sanatorium. The main mechanic in play is the decisions you make as you progress throughout the game – These can be delivered by either looking at the answer you wish to deliver or you can literally read out the comment and become ‘the’ inpatient. This is such a cool mechanic as the game has voice recognition within it so it knows which choice you have made as you read it. This probably isn’t the best option to go for if you are around a load of other people as it requires low background noise, but it’s a neat feature that only a few games have adopted in the past.
You can control the game using either the DS4 or the Move controllers – I opted for the Move controllers as they clearly offer the best experience. The controllers become hands, as you would expect, and you can move them about freely (in most sections) and pick up almost anything. For example, When you first enter your room there is a chess set on the table which you can pick up and move each piece individually if you choose. You can also hold down the trigger, so your hand becomes a fist, and forcefully bang on various structures like the door and window – this offers no purpose but the sounds you hear and the motion of your character make it really feel like you are trying to escape.
When using the Move controllers, you can move around freely – no teleporting here. To do so, you rotate in increments with the X and O buttons and hold the top button to walk forward – this works really well, although later in the game when you start hearing about horrific events and you know something is stalking you, your character continues to walk around rather than run – Clearly this is so that people who get motion sick won’t be affected but it does break some of the immersion. I personally found using the Move controllers to be very responsive and the best way to play the game.
As I touched on above, there are three main states of the game. The first state is the day/night ‘real-world’ events – these are where you are awake and interacting with your roommate or the doctors in the real world. These are generally where you will be choosing various dialogue options which restructures the preceding story arcs. Unlike Until Dawn though, you won’t always get a decent backstory to each and every character you meet and you also won’t always know what the outcome of your actions will be until it is too late. The majority of the game plays out in this mode.
The second state is in the ‘dream world’. This is the part I hated yet it is most likely the best part of the game as well. When you go to sleep you begin to dream of the sanitorium, although green appears to be the colour of choice for your RGB vision here. As you walk around in this highly disturbing and messed up interpretation of the venue, you will receive jump scare after jump scare – even if you know it is coming it will just happen a few seconds earlier and get you as it provides the cheap horror effect. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I hate these segments – I can’t stand jump scares, especially when it happens so often. Take a game like The Town of Light from LKA/Wired Productions – This game is based around a mental institute which is deserted and a patient returning to the site in order to explore and uncover the truth about her past there. That game has zero jump scares yet the music, sounds and atmosphere really creeps you out and makes you unsettled – The Inpatient relies too heavily on jump scares to try and create the same effect.
The final state is the flashbacks – these occur during the first state and offer a glimpse of what you remember from before. For example, the first memory you get is you hiding in a closet as the orderlies are searching for you – a memory which gets fleshed out more as you progress throughout the game. Other events revolve around the nurse and other characters you meet – within these, you don’t interact with anyone and in some, you don’t even move as you are purely there in order to observe. I feel these events are pretty cool but they seem like they are here because the characters aren’t introduced with enough context so when you meet someone and they die soon after why should I care about them? I understand having these is better than the characters blatantly telling you their life story as a set-up event, but still. Until Dawn was great at introducing characters and building up the information but I believe this is down to one of the games biggest flaws…
The game is very short – clocking in at around two hours for a full playthrough. Until Dawn offered us around 8-10 hours with the intrigue of multiple playthroughs in order to get all the trophies, yet The Inpatient has followed the timeframe of Hidden Agenda and has instead opted for the two hours story with multiple endings and choices instead. This can be seen as both good and bad. The good thing about the length is it means it’s possible to just pop on the VR headset and play through the whole game in one sitting, then take a break and come back and sit through another full sitting in one go. If the game was any longer then you would be forced to take breaks. The bad thing about the length is linked to my paragraph above the picture, it doesn’t feel like they have enough time to fully build up the tension and the backgrounds to the events and people, thus making it seem a bit rushed in areas and not as polished as other games.
Another way the length affects the game is in the pacing of the story. The first hour is creepy, unnerving, dark, and intense (with all the jump scares) but then the final hour is a lot more mellow and relies more on the atmosphere rather than the cheap scares. Personally, I would have prefered it if they paced it all out over the stretch of the game as the beginning feels too intense with the scares and the final section feels too quiet and boring.
The game feels like two teams made the game or that they spent all their time on the first hour and were then forced to rush the final part as the majority of the last hour will be walking around and deciding who lives and who dies based on the choices you make. This is a shame as if they would have removed the jump scares, or at least spread them out, and focused more on atmosphere and tension then I believe they would have had a great horror experience here. Especially since they had already created an amazing game set in the same location which had a lot more atmosphere than the majority of this game.
Supermassive Games are great for both sound and graphical design. Both aspects are excellent in The Inpatient. The sounds are creepy and eerie, the voice acting is superb and the fact you can talk the lines like I mentioned above is such a great way to help you get invested and feel like it is actually you within the game. This is all partnered with amazing character detail, realistic looking environments, creepy atmospheres and great lighting effects which fills you with a sense of dread and terror.
And then, like the gameplay, things go downhill halfway through. The detail is still there but it’s not as obvious as you are now in dull corridors or open areas with little to no detail. The sound design also takes a hit as you progress away from the sanitorium and the hallowing screams and noises cease to be. I’m guessing this is because you are moving away from the area so why would you be still hearing the noises? But still, I would have thought the first hour should have been the build-up and the latter the intense moments – The Inpatient seems to have it the other way around.
The Inpatient’s opening hour will require you to keep a change of pants with you as you encounter more jump scares and intense moments than you can shake a Move controller at. However, the final hour feels rushed and creates a very different atmosphere very quickly. There are plenty of different paths which unlock various trophies so replaying the game is a must but the question is, would you want too? If you like horror games and don’t mind jump scares then you will most likely love the first half of this game – if you don’t like jump scares then maybe avoid it. That being said, the game itself is a great VR game in terms of graphical quality and responsiveness – it’s just a shame the game itself brings the experience down a little.
- Amazing voice acting and sound design
- Nicely detailed characters and environments
- First half of the game has some interesting events and dialogue
- The VR in the game works great
- Too many cheap jump scares
- Latter half of the game isn't as interesting as the first
- Feels a little rushed
- The game doesn't make you care about the people you can get killed off by dialogue options
- The game is pretty short - about two hours per playthrough