Whether it's because we're getting desensitized to violence and horror through video games and the cinema or whether it's just because I'm getting older nothing seems to scare that much anymore. I haven't had a jump out of my seat gaming moment since playing Alien versus Predator on the PC six years ago, so it was with great anticipation that I loaded Haunting Ground into the PS2.
Billed as the latest horror extravaganza, Haunting Ground unfortunately is rather disappointing, the storyline is formulaic and the scare factor minimal. The game tries with the daunting music, but a rash of cutscenes puts paid to any pace being built up to really scare you.
Take the first level for example. You play Fiona, a young girl taken from a car wreck, stripped of her clothes, bar the nightie of course, and thrown in a cage. You get out of the cage, on the reasoning that it's not locked (now that would be a dull game) and you've got to wander the halls of a vast mansion trying to find a way out. Eventually you come across a girl who gives you some clothes and then disappears. Negotiate a few hallways and puzzles later, and you'll be chased by a big ogre.
There are some niceties here, mainly the panic and evasion modes. Because not everyone is a gun-toting maniac, you've got to hide from your foe rather than stand and fight. The longer it takes you to find a hiding spot, the more panicked you become. Panic enough and your performance is heavily affected, your vision starts to blur and when you run you fall over, having to scramble to your feet like some bad 1970s horror movie gone wrong. Hide and everything starts to calm down, vision is repaired and running (if you can call it that) goes back to normal.
It seems like the developers have read the Idiot's Guide to horror games development and just followed the script step by step.
Aside from the panic and evasion mode, we can't really see anything new here, and certainly nothing that scares us as I'm sure the games developers intended.
Even when your vision is starting to blur and you're falling over as you run away, the action is somehow dulled as you never really care about whether or not your character makes it.
Hardened fans of the horror genre will be disappointed, while newcomers unfortunately won't realise they are missing other great horror games out there until its too late.