In 2015 Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn provided players with a tense interactive take on the teen horror genre. A snowy mountaintop, an isolated lodge and an abandoned asylum made for an interesting narrative-driven survival-horror game.
Supermassive returned to the franchise with the weird 2016 PSVR rail-shooter Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. Instead immersing us in the world of Until Dawn, Rush of Blood was only really a shooting gallery featuring environments and characters from the main game.
The Inpatient is a proper VR prequel to Until Dawn. Set in Blackwood Pines Sanatorium, players become patient in the “care” of Dr Bragg, some sixty-years before the events in Until Dawn.
You can choose to play as a male or female character. This doesn’t really affect the game, but will change the sex of your cellmate to match you chosen gender.
The game starts with the player waking up in the sanatorium with only fragments of their memory. What follows sets up the mediocrity of asylum life before introducing a rather unhinged roommate, in Anna/Gordon Bennet.
Every now and again your character gets pulled into visions/memories that I actually found a bit unnerving. The visuals and audio really immerse you into your eerie surrounding. Add in some jump scares and you’ve most definitely got a game that’s not for the feint hearted.
This type of immersive psychological experience was VR’s stock and trade for early adopters of HTC’s Vive VR kit, a year ago. The PC SteamVR title, Chair in a Room: Greenwater, immediately came to mind whilst playing The Inpatient. Simply placing the player in a realistic environment creates the perfect canvas for a VR horror game.
In VR, even the most innocuous surroundings become something special. Add a supernatural element and regardless of your metal, and the fact that you know that you are in VR, your flight or fight instincts will take over. PlayStation VR owners that have experienced Resident Evil 7: BioHazard in VR, and especially the RE7 VR demo, “Kitchen”, will know exactly what I’m talking about.
Unlike Resident Evil 7, The Inpatient is not a survival-horror game. Similar to dozens of VR experiences that I’ve played over the last year or so, The Inpatient is more of a branching interactive story. It made me think of Telltale’s adventure games.
The big problem that I had with The Inpatient is that when it wants to scare you it does it very well. But the rest of the time you are just a forced participant in a somewhat macabre tale. Thinking about it, the original Until Dawn could be a bit like this. But I forgave it as it was a bit of a homage to teen slasher movies of the 1980s, which would often feature a bit of melodrama.
You have a few control options available. The Inpatient supports voice commands, but I gave up on this pretty quickly. You can also use move controllers. Personally, being used to the HTC Vive’s super-accurate controllers, I don’t get on with the so-so performance of the Move controllers, especially if the camera loses sight of them. Thankfully, the PS4’s Dualshock works fine with the game.
The game uses free movement rather than teleportation. This may make some players feel a little uncomfortable if they’ve yet to earn their VR-legs. You can, however switch between incremental turns and smooth turns- incremental 15° turns being a lot easier on the stomach.
Supermassive have outdone themselves with the visuals. The characters and environments look almost photo-real. The sense of immersion, of actually being there, in the asylum, is incredible.
The Inpatient is a great showcase for what can be done with the PlayStation V-, to create interactive movies that offer players a real sense of presence. It’s not that long and is not really that action-packed, but it doesn’t need to be, to be effective. If you own a PSVR and liked Until Dawn getting the In Patient is a no brainer. Whilst Resident Evil 7: Biohazard offers up better VR scares; The Inpatient still holds its own.