If you’re like me, some of your strongest gaming memories came in the era of the Playstation 2. Part of it was because I never owned a PS1, which was a pretty exciting system in its own right, but I never had the distinct need to own one when it was the freshest system on the market. Truthfully, I came into the scene a bit late, having only an NES, Gameboy and PC to my name, playing only SNES, N64 and PlayStation when with friends. The experience was enough for me to know the limitations of the PS1, how game design had to happen around graphics most of the time. However, that didn’t keep us from having heaps of fun with it, because creators got creative and it pulled off tasks we’d never seen handled before. Twisted Metal on the PS1 had levels that modified themselves based on tasks, such as blowing up the Eiffel tower. It was amazing for the time and a great platform for RPG’s, plus a select few horror titles.
Then we entered the era of the PS2 and (Xbox). Games were on DVD’s (sometimes CD-ROMS), but rarely pushed the size limits of the discs or hardware limitations of the system. Many PS1 titles were a few gigs when the discs could realistically hold up to nine. Most titles weren’t canned anymore and we were introduced to highly interactive environments. In the original Red Faction, not only could we blow stuff up, but we could blast through most areas of ground and wall, truly unleashing imaginative options. With the system as a whole, we saw new atmospherics and there was a strong balance between flexible, explorative gameplay and graphics. Very rarely did graphics override gameplay, even on titles that pushed graphic limitations, such as God of War 1 &2. There were also survival horror treats in the Resident Evil series, plus 3 additions to the Silent Hill series, each with vast graphical improvements upon the last.
When the PlayStation 3 came out, we were treated with highly updated graphics and a few small innovations, the best of which was the Move controller. The joy was in seeing Wii games ported over and tackling detailed environments in Infamous. The issue was the PS3 was exceptionally difficult to program for and was a one-trick pony. Once high graphics were established, interactivity took a hit, as few toned them down to add extra destruction. Really, it was an ideal RPG and survival horror machine – a chance to do what the original Resident Evil did in a similar framework – considering the static environments, but developers weren’t highly focused on that. Most horror titles fell deep into an action focus on account of how much commotion the system could handle and, while I enjoyed several games (Dead Space, Resident Evil, FEAR), too many were similar and the system only truly shone with its extra capabilities: divx support, 3D blu-ray play, the introduction of a trophy system, ports of older titles, etc.
Now, in the age of the PS4 (and Xbox One), we’re seeing a strong focus on games that burn memories into our skulls. With the PS3, leaning toward a cinematic feel seemed to just mean more cut scenes, but now we’re hitting a realm where we can essentially play cutscenes with few visual interruptions and without being limited to quick-time sequences. For instance, Del Toro and Kojima’s PT, based off the engine for the new Silent Hill. We’re so close to photorealism.
Then, of course, there’s Until Dawn
Other games, such as The Evil Within and Dying Light, focus more on the interactivity elements most common to games, the former in a bit more minimalistic of an environment, but appear to do it by conscious choice more than anything.
In short, we’re in an age where heaps of new horror material is coming out, showing us styles never before available.