We began things by asking Allen what he considers to be his favorite example of survival horror done right, a question he was initially apprehensive to answer. "That's a tough question," he told us. "I'm always loathe to pick a favorite amongst the many titles I've played."
He went on to describe two series that "have always left an indelible mark" on the developer's psyche. "The first," he began, "was the System Shock series on PC. It [had] one of the best atmospheres of any game I've played; truly capturing the feeling abandonment."
"Our mandate was not to change the existing game but to improve on certain elements whilst maintaining the core experience."
"Secondly for generating fear," he added, "the Fatal Frame
series I've always felt was one of the greatest... The first time I played the game, I couldn't play it alone and at night. I had to wait for daylight before I'd brave those dark hallways." This last bit made us chuckle, if only to know that we were not the only ones
to come away terrified by Tecmo's take on interactive horror.
But of course, Allen's heart at the moment belongs to Silent Hill
. "I felt it has the greatest depth of characterizations and the most compelling narratives of all the survival horror games I've played." But will this carry over with his team's own telling of the Silent Hill
"Our mandate was not to change the existing game but to improve on certain elements whilst maintaining the core experience," commented the game's lead designer, who told us of his belief that when it comes to survival horror two "prime components" are puzzles and fighting.
Of course, some explanation is in order. "Very often the puzzles are abstractions and have little to do with the core of the narrative. We've tried to focus on making the puzzles an integral part of the narrative experience; to ensure that the reason for solving the puzzle and the puzzle's construction are understandable in the context of the journey."
He continued: "Secondly, we've tried to focus on making the combat more accessible to casual gamers, whilst providing depth for the more experienced players. That said, Silent Hill
has always focused more on the narrative elements of survival horror and not simply been about killing the next monster."
"We've tried to focus on making the puzzles an integral part of the narrative experience."
He had us right up until he dropped the dreaded C-word
, leaving us hoping that by taking a more casual approach to combat, the devs will somehow keep from dumbing it down. Still, Allen reassured us somewhat, however, noting that "the team has always strived to maintain that distinctive Silent Hill
experience, and it's that experience unique to this series that sets it apart from the rest of the games within this genre."
As it stands, we remain hopeful that Double Helix will manage recapture the series' near-trademark sense of dread and leave us shopping for a change of pants when Silent Hill: Homecoming
ships for the Xbox 360 and PS3 this September.
For now, however, we look to wrap up our look at some of 2008's most notable survival horror titles tomorrow by analyzing just how creepy
little girls can be in Monolith's upcoming follow-up to F.E.A.R., Project Origin