The survival horror genre has been through a few changes over the years and yet some aspects of it have remained the same, you usually end up blasting your way through stacks of almost identical enemies in some spooky setting (usually a mansion, nothing new here in that respect) while some plotline about horrific experiments/viruses/rituals unfolds as you plod along gaining better weapons with which to fight bigger foes.
In the Project Zero series, or Fatal Frame series to non EU gamers, they have done away with all the knives, guns, bombs, missile launchers etc and instead placed you behind the lens of the camera obscura device, while traditional cameras when aimed at ghosts posses only the power to take blurry shots that eventually find their way onto cheap cable TV shows about the supernatural, the obscura possesses the power to obliterate ghosts completely although at the very beginning you are armed with only the former type of camera, its not long before you grab the obscura and start blasting.
They have also done away with trying to provide the scares via over the top ‘shock’ gore and violence and rely instead on atmosphere and surprise tactics to scare the player and this does work very well.Nightmare scenario
The heroine of The Tormented is Rei Kurosawa, a freelance photographer (lucky!) who at the beginning of the game is on a routine photography trip to a supposedly haunted estate with her assistant and former Project Zero series star Miko, interestingly ‘Miko’ is a Japanese term for “A virgin sacrificed to the gods” which ties into the games theme of ritual sacrifice.
Needless to say, the photo shoot doesn’t go exactly as expected and upon returning home from the surreal experience which ensues there Rei begins to have a series of nightmares about a spooky estate known as the Manor of Sleep which is similar to the one she experienced while out with Miko, and this is where you the player as Rei come in.
You will need to explore the dilapidated estate of Reis nightmares to uncover the mystery it is linked with, the urgency of this is stepped up when it becomes apparent that Reis very life hangs on you doing this before she is consumed by the nightmare and the curse it is tied to completely.
As you go you shall encounter various ghosts of varying grotesqueness and threat, some will float (Japanese culture states that ghosts do not have legs, the majority abide by this) slowly around and get snapped relatively easily while others can be absolute pains to get in the frame although it makes it more satisfying when you finally nail them, your reactions will need to be really sharp at times, this is not really helped by the fact that the characters move painfully slowly given the situation which has overtaken them.
Exactly how the picture is taken directly affects how much damage you do, If the ghost is close up and centred in the frame you will do more damage so it is best sometimes to resist the urge to shoot until the ghost is close by and you have lined the shot up right, however the fact that the ghosts can disappear and reappear somewhere else meant that I usually started snapping away anyway in case the ghost vanished.
Other things can happen to make the camera obscura more powerful too, for its ‘ammunition’ it takes film and the higher quality the film the more damage gets dealt as the ghost gets trapped on it.
The obscura also gets upgraded with attachments and can be enhanced by you spending the points you earn for taking the shots of the ghosts which means it’s a good idea not to miss any out, you can see how many you have got and how many there are in total via the menus.
The camera can be upgraded by the points in the areas of power, charge time and range (the idea of a camera having range doesn’t make sense – if I take a picture of the night sky does my camera have a range of billions of light-years? No, it doesn’t work that way) you will need to spend the points wisely and remember that they are shared across the three playable characters.
Speaking of the playable characters, you also get to work Miko and a guy named Kei, these have different abilities to Rei, Miko is able to get much more out of the camera obscura via her abilities to take double shots and slow down time, this is important as timing the shot right results in a ‘fatal frame’ which does more damage, Kei is not so good and his ability is to be able to hide against walls from the ghosts, an onscreen indicator will let you know if you have been spotted. Reis ability is to knock the ghosts back and leave them vulnerable for some fatal framing. Most of the abilities cannot be used over and over indefinitely per mission so you’ll have to use them wisely.
The different characters are also able to access different areas to each other at times.Graphics and Sounds
The design of the Manor of Sleep is right on the mark, color is used sparingly and as such a dull depressing look and feel is maintained throughout, the walls are peeling and everything looks as beat up and rundown as it can get really without the very building collapsing with wear and tear. Some of the ghosts look genuinely scary and the way that they can just pop up adds to the effect a lot, I mean some of those tortured expressions…and the way they are shoved in your face at times…yeah it gets quite intense now and then, don’t play this late at night or you’ll fear for your dreams I gotta tell you.
The majority of the sounds come from sound effects rather than music, you get to hear the whining and moaning of ghosts which serves as both a heads-up and a frightener, the knowledge that something is there making the noise doesn’t make you feel as at ease as you might think.
When not inside the Manor you are awake and at Reis home, here you can get item research done or look over the notes concerning the curse in order to get clues with which to unravel the mystery.Conclusion
Project Zero III: The Tormented is quite an unusual experience at first but once you get used to it you’ll be fine, obviously players of the previous games will be at home right away and should welcome the return of old characters and linked plotlines. As I progressed through the game I got quite absorbed in the story and wanted to continue in order to solve the mysteries of the Manor of Sleep and the strange markings which appear on Reis body, hopefully you will too.
A criticism can be levelled at the camera angles which sometimes make it hard to place the ghosts but sometimes the camera can provide some awesome shots and be responsible for some scares.
Overall I found this game to be absorbing and genuinely frightening in parts, despite its faults its worth fans of the genre checking this out, for everyone else I’d recommend a rent first.