Resident Evil was always planned to be a survival horror journey, right? Surprisingly no. As reported by CBR, Shinji Mikami revealed that he actually planned to play a first-person game. Imagine it – the original Resident Evil as an FPS as Resident Evil 7. The problem was that the technology at the time wasn’t able to provide the detail needed, and so Resident Evil became an isometric issue for more than a decade. We won’t see until the end of the PlayStation lifecycle where we’ll see 3D environments that work well, as with Alien: Resurrection.
But for those who can’t help but wonder what it could be, there’s the nightmare of decay.
Developed by Checkmaty on their own, Nightmare of Decay is what Resident Evil could be, with just a little Lovecraft thrown in for good measure. There is no evil biotech company inside these palace halls. Ghosts, giant monsters that collect corpses for fun, and multidimensional flesh holes with eyes that swap body parts are all just a fraction of the horror in store.
This is particularly impressive given the shortness of the game. Decay nightmare short. Really short. There is a brief introduction where you learn that someone who is Nightmare On Elm Street introduces people to this mansion who has no apparent escape. It takes less than twelve minutes before you rush into the game, no delays or holding hands. Straight to the mansion lobby after a brief zombie stabbing tutorial.
However, you will not think about it while playing it. Nightmare might be one of the best horror games of the year, if not of all time. The massive escalation rate is nothing short of exciting. Nothing is more welcoming. Everything is a killer, no filler.
To be clear, you’re still doing everything as you would in the traditional Resident Evil game, faster; Puzzles that require collecting three elements from simpler puzzles and battlefields, combat spread across a vast indoor environment, encouragement to stay away from enemies and take only calculated risks, and big bosses with huge health bars require as much planning as they do careful centering. Inventory management, a mini-game that rewards you with additional ammunition and equipment, limited keys and locks; Everything is there, brilliantly executed no less.
The way Nightmare puts up the tutorials without realizing it’s awesome. The intentional, handcrafted nature of everything is as charming as the retro aesthetic. It may seem like you’re walking around in a short FMV scene from the ’90s, but the game’s design is top-notch modern thinking. Checkmaty clearly understands that while slow-paced combat and complex item hunts are key to the Resident Evil formula, the limitations of the controls and length of gameplay are not.
This is not to say that surviving is easy in Nightmare. You sometimes have to line up half a dozen headshots with your gun to take down a single zombie. Measuring the distance with the melee radius of two knives is more difficult in first person perspective, leaving you vulnerable to fight and eat. The rifle and dynamite are very useful, and their ammunition is extremely rare. A room with four enemies is sometimes more nerve-wracking than the actual jumps, or the slow-burning ones you might miss at first.
There are a lot of zombies, but unique encounters may never be repeated after the fact. I would say this is the case for monks with guns who can somehow shoot faster and more accurately than you, but that’s not the case.
Most enemies and even bosses are well designed, but the monks somehow manage to embody the “okay we need to step things up with some action” mentality that appears in the average horror sequel, which is odd because the Nightmares have suits of armor that would make the road more logical. Demon shooters with slower rates of fire will feel a lot fairer than those Monk Tucs who became obsessed with the evil dead with their Glock. Maybe if you can run in combat longer than a nanosecond, that can be compensated for, but you only have an unlimited sprint outside of combat.
On the other hand, zombies are very good. They act choppy, sometimes spinning in a circle while struggling to get their directions. These undead corpses are clearly struggling to function. I don’t know of another example of a first-person horror shooter trying to portray zombies in this way (let alone a game with talking cats and meat holes).
The Nightmare would have been better off without the shoddy voice acting, which can eerily undermine a brilliantly created frightening moment. You had better not have “voice” acting in the traditional sense at all, or actual audio renditions as in Nightmare’s latest counterpart in the space-independent horror, Chasing Static.
However, if the worst complaint a horror game can have is mediocre voice acting, that’s pretty good. With a free demo and a hugely repeatable campaign across two difficulty settings, crowd mode, and randomness – it’s the perfect bit of zombie bashing to scratch the Resident Evil itch while we wait for the expansive DLC for Resident Evil 8: Village. And if you are new to survival horror in this style, this might be one of the best ways to dip your toes into the genre. The controls are intuitive, the tempo is great, and the entry price couldn’t be lower.
Turns out Mikami-san was right from the start – whether it’s modern or old, Resident Evil works great as a fps.
Next up: Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts is a secretly immersive Sim