Survival Horror is a well-loved genre that keeps making glorious comebacks until the next game in a series heads in an action-shooter orientated direction. Dead Space 2 and Resident Evil 5 being prime examples of games that went for action over horror. With Silent Hill being dead on arrival every time this generation, our main hopes for actually being afraid of the dark again might be better invested in a new IP, something like the upcoming summer PSN title, Amy.
This new title merges the despair-smothered atmosphere of the Silent Hill and Dead Space games with the ideal of protecting another character through it all, as perfected in Ico and more recently with Bioshock 2’s Little Sisters. It also seems to be attempting to upstage Elizabeth in Bioshock: infinite. Older gamers may also be interested to know that the creator of Flashback (1993), Paul Cuisset, is one of the key creative staff members on board.
The story is based in the year 2034, although many of the settings seem fairly grounded and familiar to modern times. No flying cars yet, but the future is indeed grim. Global warming has kicked humanity to the curb in brutal retaliation with diseases spreading around the world while natural disasters ravage the planet too.
If that wasn’t bad enough, a comet recently hit Silver City, the location for the game, and turned the town into chaos as it brought a mysterious virus with it, turning most of the survivors into violent, knife-faced mutants. You play as Lana, who has been infected too, but hasn’t yet turned into the gruesome monsters that the rest of the city have. There are two ways to deal with your infection: take meds from the corpses of the soldiers that appeared after the comet struck, or with the help of a small girl called Amy.
Amy is thought to be an autistic child, which might be a gaming first as a character you are going to directly interact with. Amy does not speak; it’s unclear at this stage if she is mute or simply too terrified thanks to the recent events. Her facial expressions will be key to understanding her as she can express fear and sadness we’re told. Presumably, she’ll show a few more positive emotions later on as Lana earns her trust.
Amy can be guided around by holding her hand with R1, which will presumably be used for a few frantic escapes too. Interestingly you’ll be able to feel her heartbeat through the DualShock 3 controller, which will keep you updated on her stress levels. This could be put to great use if she’s in the habit of spotting something dangerous off camera that you’re unaware of. Amy’s childlike curiosity means she will draw your attention to some items you might miss and she can crawl through tighter areas you can’t reach. Although from the looks of the game, there can only be bad things in there. Most of the game will be set in dark environments like abandoned hospitals, sewers and subway stations. It’s a survival horror game after all and we’re guessing there’s only so much room for innovation.
The developers have teased that Amy will have some other abilities that they’re currently remaining tight-lipped on. However, it would seem that a cure for the disease could lie with her. One video we caught showed Lana looking very ill, with dark veins pulling the life from her face as she began to resemble the infected monsters. However, once she had made sure the coast was clear and retrieved Amy from her hiding place in a locker, a thin green aura seemed to repeatedly ripple over Lana and just before the video ended, she looked a little bit healthier.
This could become an interesting mechanic in the game, especially if using Amy to heal you has a detrimental effect to the helpless girl’s health. This opens up the potential for two different endings or at the very least, some Trophies rewarding you for not taking advantage of the child’s gift. Hopefully you will be presented with some sort of moral choices at various junctures involving the easy option of using Amy or maybe taking the riskier option of looking for dead soldiers to rob, even though whatever killed them is probably still nearby. How far you let the infection go untreated in Lana could affect the game too. Will Amy still trust you when you look more monster than human?
One advantage of being in the later stages of infection is that the monsters think you’re one of their own, if you move very slowly. Think of it like that part in The Walking Dead (TV) where people covered themselves in zombie guts to go out for a stroll amongst them.
The soldiers, rage-blinded residents and the infected monsters all seem to know how important Amy is, which makes you the only thing standing in their way as you try to protect her. The combat looks to be more melee based- than anything else, Silent Hill inspired crowbars and the like essentially. So the best option would be to avoid a fight whenever you can by hiding or legging it.
With so many enemies after you, it’s also possible to set them off against each other if. For example, you could lead a group of soldiers into a pack of monsters or angry citizens so they can tear each other to pieces over you while you make a hasty retreat. Maybe you’ll go back later to loot the corpses for any meds or weapons.
Much of what I’ve mentioned regarding Amy will sound familiar to anyone closely following the progress of Bioshock: Infinite, which could be wishful thinking, but there’s definitely something interesting happening here with this ambitious PSN title that looks set to work on the importance of its characters like no other downloadable release so far. Let’s just hope the gameplay will make it all matter.
Amy is being developed by Lexis Numerique and will be released on the PSN in the annoyingly vague time frame of ‘this summer’.