DreadOut is a game I desperately wanted to love. I fought my better judgement and constantly reminded myself that this was made by a small Indonesian team, to stave off my obvious disappointment. DreadOut feels like a ten year old PS2 title and not just in how it plays. The textures, character animations and even lighting would have been on par with Project Zero’s third installment – The Tormented.
The fact that the game was a chore to run on my fairly high spec laptop reeks of optimization issues. It’s understandable considering the scale of the project and the size of the team, but considering how bad the opening cutscene ran even on a top of the line PC, it’s fairly inexcusable. Visually the game is noticeably dated, but as with most independent titles I was willing to overlook the gaudy textures and stiff animations. Scares were what I signed up for… and luckily DreadOut does terror well.
Sadly, there’s just not enough of it. I mean, I get that in horror less is often more… but due to the long loading times, poor level design and lack of direction actually reaching some of the horror is often a task in and of itself. Don’t get me wrong. When a ghost does flash up in front of you in a darkened corridor, you are likely to jump… it’s just that in between that jump-scare and the next you will undoubtedly wander aimlessly – often for close to half an hour.
The story takes it’s cues from titles like Project Zero/Fatal Frame. You are a young asian schoolgirl with obnoxiously large boobs and the camera angle hovers far too close to your… posterior – which happens to be the best rendered object in the game. You are on a school tour with friends, when you stumble across a ghost town and an abandoned school. From there, you are tasked with exploring the school and using your mobile phones camera to destroy the evil spirits inhabiting the town.
There are moments where the story does show potential and it’s unfortunate that through the games 5/6 hour run time, these moments are scattered few and far between. Combat is just as conflicted as the rest of the game. For example, it’s hard to know how much health your opponents have. In Project Zero, the enemies always had some kind of health bar, allowing you to gauge how many more shots it would take to destroy them. In DreadOut it’s a gamble and in one encounter it could take 5 photos, while another could take 10.
Dreadout is the type of game that if released in the PS2 era, would have stood every chance of becoming a classic franchise, as gamers didn’t have the same expectations they do now. Unfortunately, even though I wanted to love DreadOut and did find moments of greatness lurking under the surface it’s tough to recommend it to all but the most dedicated survival horror enthusiasts out there.
Kudos must be given to the small team at Digital Happiness for taking on such an ambitious project and here’s hoping they have more success with their next release.