Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Rating: M for Mature
In the fall of 2015, Supermassive Games finally released their horror masterpiece Until Dawn. After the game was a massive success, it was obvious there were to be more games set in that universe. These games have come in the forms of PS VR launch title Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and The Inpatient. While Rush of Blood was not much more than a horror themed roller coaster, The Inpatient is more inline with its predecessor. Set 60 years before Until Dawn, you find out how Blackwood Mountain became infested with Wendigo
Violence: Characters are killed in violent fashion by wendigoes and shot by other humans. (Context is a spoiler.) You never engage in any combat yourself and everything happens around you. You see blood and sometimes entrails on the walls and floor.
Language: F*ck and sh*t are used multiple times by the other characters as you are a silent protagonist.
Alcohol/Drug Content: The head of Blackwood has a bottle of alcohol on his desk. It is assumed he is consuming it in sorrow.
Spiritual Content: A priest tells of the Native American legend of the wendigo.
Where do you take your franchise when it hits the ground running? Do you continue the story of the characters, introduce someone new, stay in the familiar or go in a totally different direction? These questions always rise up when some piece of media is well received by critics and fans. While the answers for these questions may be the same, the results here are mixed.
The focus is not always on the right thing about what made an original great. Resident Evil 4 changed the franchise to be hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time, but two games later and Resident Evil 6 became known as the weakest of the mainline series. The focus went from a new perspective to make the relative horror more immersive into a Bayhem-esque shoot ’em up with gross enemies.
Supermassive seems to understand this. What The Inpatient does is take the choice-based narrative from Until Dawn and puts it in first person. This works pretty well. The atmosphere feels more real, scary moments are much more immersive—the whole package works. I truly felt as if people were treated and kept against their will within Blackwood Sanatorium and Hotel. You hear screams and noises from the patients through the walls, and it is all expounded upon when you find the collectible memories.
The game runs smoothly on a base PS4 with few loading screens. As with this being a first person VR game, you will need to rotate your character as you navigate the sanatorium. The game gives you the options rotating in intervals of 15, 30, 45 degrees, and free movement. The first three options sort of have a sudden jerky-ness to them when you input rotation commands. The free rotation was my preference because it provided a smoother experience moving around the environment. I must warn, however: this will certainly cause some motion sickness in the player after a short period depending on how your body handles it. I normally do not experience this; I was feeling it at around the 2 hour mark of one session playing. When using Move controllers, there are no options to choose, so one must use free rotation as you hold a button on the controller and move it to rotate. This feels much better when playing than using a DualShock as I felt more in control than when using two thumb sticks.
With Until Dawn, you are in control of eight characters putting you in a trope-filled horror story. You play puppet master the whole game as it asked, “If you are so smart, how would you resolve this situation?” This leads to a story that is unique to you. You go from the passive audience member yelling at the screen over mistakes to making those mistakes. In The Inpatient, there are no real tropes being mocked. You become the passive audience member for the most part. Everybody around you has greater control of the story, and you have control over the minute details of why who makes it out alive does so. Until Dawn‘s eight characters feel like a moving puzzle with every piece moving, twisting, breaking, and connecting, to come together to form a picture that changes each time you complete it. The Inpatient feels more like a game of Plinko from The Price is Right with two prize buckets. You hit all the choice pegs, but in the end only one of two things happen. It does not feel as fresh and bold.
The length of the game works to in its favor. The story does not overstay its welcome, and ends at the right spot. As this is a prequel, it does not need much expansion if you got all the collectibles in Until Dawn and watched the accompanying video. The finer details are nice enough that you do not mind learning more if you love the universe of Until Dawn. You can complete the story somewhere between two and five hours depending on if you are searching for the memory collectibles or not.
The soundtrack and effects used while you are moving around help build tension. You hear creatures scuttle around in the dark, footsteps echo through the halls, and pipes creak all around you. Dreams sequences use these the best. They have little whispers in your ear, and this works best if you are wearing headphones that make you question if your character is truly insane or not. Foreshadowing is used to great effect in the environment as well. As the wendigo is symbolized as a deer skull with its antlers; you see deer paintings smudged to look like the skull, and sometimes shadows cast the skull as well. These are nice little details that foreshadow the fates of all characters involved.
Overall, The Inpatient is a great addition to its franchise, even if things are played a little safer than I had hoped for. Choices and consequences do not seem to have the same impact on the overall story despite being a selling point of the previous titles. If you wish to play a scary title on PlayStation VR on the cheap, The Inpatient is for certainly one of the best options.
The Bottom Line
The Inpatient works quite well by adapting the formula of Until Dawn into a VR title. I just wish it did not play things so safely.