I love scary games. Resident Evil 7 is probably my favorite VR game to date and is very likely my overall favorite game this year that isn’t part of the Zelda franchise. That being said, demoing supposedly scary games in a convention setting is usually a bad idea. The lights are bright, the sounds are loud, and the constant shuffling of bodies makes it hard to really focus on the experience at hand. But in the case of when I played The Inpatient from Supermassive Games and Sony, none of that was the case.
At E3 2017 one of Sony’s press demo areas was located behind its main booth on a back wall of the expo hall and behind a check-in desk that filtered out non-press individuals. The demo area was secluded, private, and extremely quiet. Add in the fact that I was wearing a PlayStation VR (PSVR) headset to block out visual distractions and an over-ear headset to immerse my senses in the sounds of the game and it was pretty close to what it’d be like playing at home by myself.
I was a huge fan of Until Dawn when it first came out and thought Until Dawn: Rush of Blood was a clever on-rails shooter based in the same universe. Much to my delight at E3 we learned that The Inpatient is actually a prequel that takes place decades before the original game with different characters in familiar places. You’ll likely recognize some of the locations in the trailer above if you played the PS4’s choose-your-own-adventure title that began the franchise.
For my demo I started by waking up strapped into a chair. An ominous doctor paced in front of me before leaning in extremely close to my face and talking to me. Off to the sides dialog options appeared that I could choose from to progress the conversation. The game’s demo representative told me that in the final build of the game some basic voice recognition would be there as well so instead of selection a dialog option you could just speak the words associated with it. For example, to have my character say something like, “Tell me the truth right now!” in response to an NPC, the game may have a word like “Scared” behind it, which I could say with my own mouth and trigger the full response. For this demo I just had to pick using head tracked pointing and the X button.
While sitting in this chair my character was forced to recall the same memory several times in an attempt to fully remember what happened. Each time the memory got shorter and the doctor got more upset, causing him to eventually give up and send me back to my room. It was a thrilling encounter even though it involved zero movement. It reminded me of the interrogation scene from PlayStation VR Worlds’ The London Heist, although the proportions felt a little off. The doctor’s face in The Inpatient seemed more like a giant staring down at me than a correctly sized human head. That stuff is really tough to nail down with VR perspectives because when watching off-screen as others played it looked fine.
The rest of my demo had me walking around a room in what appeared to be a mental hospital. Before long things got weird and I was back in a hallway slowly taking one step at a time down the hall when BOOM, jump scare. A horrific orderly appeared right in front of me to turn and scream with one of the most grotesque faces I’ve seen. Jump scares are cheap ways of getting your audience scared, but when they work well and send chills down my spine, I consider it worth the trouble.
After I reached the end of the slowly building hallway that was ripe with ominous voices and sounds…my demo ended. It wasn’t long, but it did a great job of establishing the tone and mood of the game. The representative told me those dialog choices will factor into some true branching narrative points and make the game different for everyone that plays it, similar to how Until Dawn worked. Supermassive seems to be a big fan of the “Butterfly Effect” in their development processes.
The Inpatient is a PSVR-exclusive currently slated for release next year in 2018. Supermassive is also working on Bravo Team, another PSVR-exclusive, as well as a dual-screen interactive team experience called Hidden Agenda for non-VR play. What do you think of the game so far? Let us know what you think in the comments down below!