Boredom abounds in this mundane and uninspired horror experience
Pure horror games have undergone somewhat of a revival in the past couple of years. Resident Evil, arguably the forefather of video game horror, has gone in a direction described by its creators as “dramatic horror”, thus allowing smaller developers to step into the limelight. This re-emphasis and resurgence of horror is perhaps most beneficial to independent who now have the chance to fill this “true horror” gap in the market. Such is the case with indie developer Deppresick Team, the creators of Grey.
Grey places you in the role of the title character, who finds himself thrust into an increasingly deteriorating world of monstrous hallucinations and dilapidated locations. This is a fairly standard genre conceit and much like the rest of the game, ends up being utterly boring and derivative. The narrative is mainly told through psychedelic visions and load time monologues, neither of which is engaging. The drab and lifeless writing, combined with the sparse, subpar voice acting, make it very difficult to become immersed or emotionally invested.
Exploration and combat are what players will be concerned with for most of the game’s two hour length, with the odd puzzle being thrown in to balance things out. Unfortunately none of the game’s environments are interesting enough for the player to want to explore them as they all blend into a brown, forgettable mess. The game’s combat is just as undercooked.
Melee fights are skilless affairs that inevitably boil down to mashing the left mouse button. When you consider how other games have tackled hand-to-hand combat, like Condemned, the bar for it has simply been set much higher than it used to be. Gunplay is introduced in the game’s latter half and is more enjoyable; but throwing pure Call of Duty mechanics into a horror game feels like a mismatch.
The audio design is probably the game’s strongest point. Music is appropriately haunting and the various enemy samples are reasonably terrifying. Visually though, the art direction seriously lacks inspiration. Combine this with the ever-aging Source engine and you find yourself with a game that is not particularly pleasing to the eyes, even when taking into account the lower expectations for independently developed games.
Grey is an underwhelming and unsatisfying experience from start to finish. Perhaps its biggest sin is that it simply doesn’t scare, either cheaply or psychologically. No single element, whether mechanically, stylistically or narratively, is executed beyond average and when viewed together as a whole, they form a work of pure mediocrity.