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Haunting Ground (PlayStation 2) artwork

Haunting Ground (PlayStation 2) review

"Your vision slowly creeps in on itself, black murk seeping in and covering your gaze. A vision that rattles every few seconds from your heart pounding behind your eyes. Everything is blurry. Your palms are drenched, and each sound that echoes in your eardrums resemble footsteps coming towards you. Your focus flicks back and forth, because every time you look one place, you swear you see something in another. Youíre in a state of panic, defined by the dictionary as: A sudden, overpowering terror,..."

Your vision slowly creeps in on itself, black murk seeping in and covering your gaze. A vision that rattles every few seconds from your heart pounding behind your eyes. Everything is blurry. Your palms are drenched, and each sound that echoes in your eardrums resemble footsteps coming towards you. Your focus flicks back and forth, because every time you look one place, you swear you see something in another. Youíre in a state of panic, defined by the dictionary as: A sudden, overpowering terror, often affecting many people at once. That doesnít matter though, because only one word resonates in your head: RUN!

And so you do. Mainly because Haunting Ground isnít a battle of firepower like so many of its survival horror counterparts. Instead it is a battle of witsópreying on your instincts, your fears and your weaknesses.

Every survival horror has at least one classic, shocking moment: The phone ringing with your daughter on the other end in Silent Hill, the creeping, hissing Lickers in Resident Evil 2. And who could forget Nemesisóthe brooding, sick monster wielding a rocket launcher and stalking you endlessly all while muttering only one line. This is where Capcom finds the formula for its newest game. Scare the hell out of you. Not once, but the whole time.

Enter the role of Fionaóa charming, lovely eighteen-year-old girl who has just moved away and started college. On a routine drive, from a more routine visit to your parents their car slams into a tree. You awake to find out youíre the only one alive, and you find yourself not in a hospital or still in the car, but rather a large cage, watching as somethingÖ plays with what seems to be dinner. Turning around and seeing that youíre awake that big, creepy man baby named Debilitas sets his eyes on you. What heís planning on doing I donít know, but if you donít want to find out, I suggest you get Fionaís cute little rear out of there. AgainÖ. RUN! Get used to it, youíre going to be doing it till games end.

The whole idea is putting you into the role of someone who doesnít know how to take care of themselves, instead of a tough cop or a hero in desperate need to save his daughter, you are a meek girl whoís probably never had to defend herself a day in her life. So as an alternative she runs, hides and down right panics. Luckily she finds a faithful companion named Hewie, a white German Shepard who blindly latches onto Fiona after she sets him free, and ends up saving her from all sorts of trouble. Itís a decent concept and when I first heard about this game I was psyched. Iím a huge fan of survival horror. But Capcomís newest dabble into the macabre leaves something missing, and ironically itís because they added too much. Iím not going to lie; this game is terrifying at times, but only when itís not trying to be.

Capcom has opted for a new system in order for you to get the feel of this game. Oddly enough, itís called ďPanic ModeĒ and itís well done for the most part. With no combat system, Fiona gets nervous if the enemy gets too close to her and instead of fighting she turns tail and runs the other way. The longer you remain with the enemy, the worse your panic is going to get as your vision takes on a clouded, black and white form while your body seems to lose all sense of direction. Your only instinct becomes survival. You canít use items, you canít search for anything and you start to trip without any obstruction in your way as you try to escape, much like the dimwitted damsels in horror movies do. The panic mode is decent to watch, but so irritating to deal with. It seems like everything sets the girl off and it just comes across as the game is telling you when to be scared, which kind of defeats the purpose. Lets be honest, if you were watching a movie and a disclaimer came on the screen saying ďThe scary part's coming up, get readyĒ it would ruin it. Kind of the same thing here. Anytime your enemy is in range, the music changes and your Dog Hewie starts to bark before anything even shows up.

Not to mention the characters arenít really all that scary to begin with. Granted, there are a few, but most of them just strike me as entertaining. Anybody remember Goonies and that ďBaby RuthhhĒ ogre, wearing the Superman shirt towards the end? Thatís Debilitas, I swear. How could a wonderful memory of my childhood be scary? Not to mention, even if you escape this massive halfwit he shows up two screens later. The first few times it may have been scary, but near the end of the chapter Fiona is the only one who still seems frightened by this redundancy. Capcom was way to overzealous in trying to make all moments terrifying, which was a horrible decision, so much that it almost seems funny.

But just when you start to laugh and think itís all a big joke, you turn a corner, your eye catches something. Sometimes itís a puppet, other times itís a dried up corpse sitting on the couch. Itís harmless, but you donít realize that until your chest is hammering. Itís only a momentary jolt, but this game has an abundance of them and they are all intricately placed so that youíre sure to bump into them when you least expect it.

If the sudden appearance of safe but intimidating things isnít enough to rattle you, keep in mind your other senses are going to be frenzied as well. You hear creaks in damn near all places and you have to search every corner of the room just to figure out where itís coming from. Sometimes itís a simple chandelier and you kick yourself for overreacting, other times itís a crazy puppet in a swing over the doorway or one in a rocking chair and you really have reason to be rattled.

If you were to make a decision of this game, based solely on itís intimidation factor, it would only be mediocre. But the mechanics and game play pick up where the repetitive system leaves off. With a mass of well-digitized and descriptive cut-scenes, Haunting Ground has perhaps the best graphics of any survival horror. Each character is designed to near perfection. Tiny qualities like Fionaís freckles, Hewieís fur and the boils on Debilitasí back stand out with stunning detail. Facial expressions nobly mark the fear or the anger each character is feeling. The diabolical is cast into terrifying quality with a huge, eye-appealing mansion for you to peruse. Every object is recreated flawlessly, from the decaying walls to the long shadowed hallways.

Even though the score can sometimes ruin the element of surprise, every tune is fitting of the situation your in. ďChaseĒ music may be clichť but the tuneís are so haunting, you donít have the time to think about it, because you know whatís coming. When the score ends, the voices take over. When Fiona panics and calls out for Hewieís help, her tone resonates with trepidation. Riccardoís voice is striking and piercing, much like the legendary John Truittís. Daniella has sickening, monotone speeches that creep into your head and stay with you long after sheís buried. This is one girl that I really did want to run from. She hisses when she enters the room, and then stops mid-chase just to laugh like a mental patient and flip her head like a bobble doll on crack.

Although a good sixty percent of the story isnít revealed till the later chapters, the one thing that made this tale endearing, and more than random was the relationship with Hewie. Heís protective, heís smart and I found myself loving him like he was my own animal. The bond between Hewie and Fiona develops extremely well, and you earn his respect through the entire game, directing him with the R3 button. Praising him whenís heís found something and chastising him when he doesnít listen. That little dog is one of the coolest companions Iíve seen and by far the best thing in this game.

The replay value of the game is like any other survival horror. You have the ability to unlock a harder version, as well as a few new costumes. You can also view every score from the game and watch every sequence. 110 of them to be exact, and each one is flawless.

Haunting ground is scary, but then again itís also clichť and in your face. The storyline, the graphics and the sound mesh together to make this game petrifying and worth playing; the massive amount of chases and the panic mode make it tedious and irritating. So is this game worth it? Yes, at least as a rental. It has its downsides, but they are minimal and surely not enough to drown out Haunting Grounds unique qualities. It may not be the best thing in its genre; it surely doesnít trip over its own feet either.

True's avatar
Community review by True (September 13, 2005)

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