“Metro 2033” and the limitations of horror in gaming

I’ve been playing the game Metro 2033 lately.  (I saw they were playing it on Spoiler Warning, and I realized I should finish it myself before I watched the series.) It’s an interesting game, and appropriate for the Halloween season, when I always try to play as many horror games as possible.

The game is based on a book, which is fairly unusual in itself.  I have not read it yet, but I want to. The post-apocalyptic wasteland setting is pretty played out, in my opinion, but this game does about as good a job as it can making it interesting.  I suspect that the book would be more frightening than the game, though; since most of its scares are of the monster-jumping-out-at-you variety. I wish the game gave you more of a chance to savor the spooky atmosphere of the haunted underground tunnels.

The other problem is that the game uses a checkpoint save system.  This means it’s very easy to accidentally be running blindly through a tunnel, with no gear and no weapons and bumble into a save point from which you cannot hope to escape in your condition, at which point you’ll have to go back and start the whole level over again.

This would be annoying in any game, but it’s dreadful in a horror game.  Nothing kills horror like having to do it over and over again.  I’m assuming the book won’t make you go back and re-read it if you read one section wrong.

That is the problem with horror games. (Well, one of them.)  Ultimately, games are about the player (protagonist) succeeding, whereas the horror genre is about engendering fear and often even a sense of hopelessness. The two goals are at odds.  You have to be very confident to make a game that doesn’t let the player somehow “win”.

Still, it’s a decent game.  It has intrigued me enough that I want to read the book, at least.

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