Intruders Hide And Seek Review: It Was A Dark And Stormy Night (In VR!)
Although it actually released in late 2016 (wow, that long already?), in many ways, the Playstation VR experience feels like it's just getting started. As the selection of PSVR titles starts to expand, and the platform becomes worth the investment, we're seeing more quality as developers figure out what works, and what doesn't, in this fledgling medium.
New horror entry Intruders: Hide And Seek is one of these little quality gems. It's a shame that this game didn't get a huge ad blitz, as it is a PSVR title that's actually worth buying and playing if you dig stealth horror.
Home Invasion: The Game
The setup of Intruders is incredibly simple. You are a little kid spending the weekend at the family vacation home. After learning the layout of the mansion by helping mom and dad around the house, you stumble upon a secret panic room you weren't aware of, and then all hell breaks loose as a group of criminals breaks in and ties up your parents.
Essentially, what you get here is a more horror-themed version of the home invasion segment of the 2006 movie Firewall (or, perhaps, a slightly less horror-themed version of the first The Purge movie). Your sister hides in the panic room, and you try to get help while your parents are held captive in the basement. This gives you plenty of opportunity to roam across a big, beautiful mansion out in the wilderness.
Rather than being old, creepy, and dilapidated, the setting is a sleek, bright, high end home with tons of rooms. The creep factor instead comes from the dark and stormy night environment, and the leader of the kidnapping crew insisting on wearing a very wendigo-style mask.
Despite the simple setup, and easy to learn stealth mechanics, Intruders feels more open, and plays significantly more like a full game, than The Inpatient, a stylistically similar title available on PSVR. While The Inpatient often felt like a sitting and standing simulator, Intruders gives you the freedom to roam across the setting without restrictions.
Surviving The Night In VR Mode
The bulk of the game consists of figuring out different routes through this opulent home in order to avoid kidnappers, all the while completing objectives like trying to email the police or find medicine for your kid sister. For the most part, this works out very well in the virtual reality medium.
My one big complaint is a frequent problem with PSVR games in general: there's no Move controller support. My soul turns a little blacker every time a PSVR game comes out that only uses the Dualshock, as I wonder for the fiftieth time or so why the hell I spent $100 on those damn Move controllers.
This is a game that would be greatly improved, on the immersion front, if you could use your hands to actually interact with key objects. Even just being able to grab the edge of a couch, before peeking out to see if anyone is nearby, would be welcome.
That issue aside, Intruders has one big leg up over the competition: an option to choose between frame based turning, like we saw in The Inpatient, and full normal smooth turning. If you haven't played VR games before, it's hard to overstate the importance of the feature. Most games right now force you into one or the other, with no option to switch between the two styles.
Frame based turning is stilted and reduces immersion, but it is a necessary evil right now, as it has less chance of making you feel nauseated. For those lucky people who don't get sick playing VR games with free movement, smooth turning is a significantly better option, making the chase sequences more fluid.
While free turning movement is a smoother experience, if it doesn't make you sick, it's another instance that shows the current limitations of PSVR games. Unfortunately, it's hard to implement both proper forward movement and interactive hand controls with the Move controllers, which is probably why the developers ditched that option and just went with the standard Dualshock setup.
Umm...shouldn't I have a lap here somewhere?
Despite taking a big step forward by offering free movement, the game does move backwards in other areas. The most noticeable one is that there's no physical depiction of your body in the game.
Instead, you are just a disembodied force that strides around while making shoe clacking sounds. When you look down, there's no torso and legs below your view, and there are no hands found at the sides.
Additionally, the death and capture sequences aren't particularly grisly or memorable, which may be due to the fact that you're playing as a child. While I get that having a kid horribly mutilated might be a taboo that the developers didn't want to cross, it does result in less motivation to be stealthy.
It also seems clear that there could have been ways around that issue. Why not implement a sequence where the kidnapper drags you into the basement and makes you watch while one of your parents is executed? Same effect, but no kid death.
In other horror reviews, I frequently mention how the first Outlast game made me play more cautiously, to the point of paranoia, because I didn't want to see my head get ripped off again. A visceral reaction on that level is really needed to make these first-person hide and seek horror games work as intended, and we're sadly missing that here.
That being said, there is one major way in which Intruders is actually superior to games like Outlast. Specifically, getting to learn the map layout before the home invasion begins means that there aren't any of those super frustrating moments where you are running full speed down a corridor and miss the vent, doorway, hatch, etc. and have no idea where you are supposed to go.
Additionally, Intruders adds in an interesting heartbeat mechanic when you are hiding and a pursuer gets close. If you don't shake the controller to a nice steady beat to calm yourself, you'll inadvertently breathe too loudly, or make a noise, and attract attention. This is a nice touch added to the standard hiding mechanics.
The Bottom Line
- Much more open and unrestrained than most PSVR horror games
- Ability to choose between frame movement and full turn controls
- Excellent overall level design
- Lacking key immersive details like Move controller support
- Very short overall experience
- Dialog isn't the best
If you've felt the PSVR horror selection is lacking, and that the handful of titles that are available are too limited in scope (aside from Resident Evil 7, obviously), Intruders is easily worth your time. With more gameplay mechanics, a map to fully explore without restrictions, and even collectibles to find on multiple playthroughs, this is one of the most fully realized Playstation VR horror experiences so far.
The dialog probably won't win any awards, but the plot will keep you engaged as you try to figure out the personal stake the intruders have in your family and how it connects to your little sister's illness. Unfortunately, it isn't a particularly long game. You are likely finish it in four hours, and maybe less if you are particular adept at this kind of stealth gameplay and don't ever have to re-play a segment after getting caught.
While short and lacking in key immersion features, Intruders is still one of the better horror entries for PSVR so far. That said, it is also a reminder of just how much farther VR needs to go before it really hits its stride.
[Note: A copy of Intruders: Hide and Seek was provided by Tessera Studios for the purpose of this review.]