There are very few games in the indie-horror genre that hold any distinct qualities anymore. Besides some notable titles like “Silent Hill,” “Slender Man,” and the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” series, there has been no innovation in the indie-horror genre in the past couple of decades. Everything else follows the same archetypes set by the more popular games: a dark, scary forest, an old and withered house, random blood stains, signs of hostility, skulls, bones and severed limbs. Then a jumpscare, and with that, the game ends–no story, no motive, and no quality whatsoever. The atmosphere that is created feels cheap, and the “horror” that comes from it is artificial. You could get scared because of a poorly executed jumpscare, but that’s all there is to it. The lack of plot gives the player no personal connection to the character and the lack of production makes the game a short-lived experience. Each game lasts a mere fifteen to twenty minutes, maybe a whole hour if the game was well put together or if you’re just bad.
But there is one hidden gem out there that has failed to reach a larger audience. A game that breaks the mold created by all the classic indie-horror titles. A game that is intense, creepy, and most of all, beautifully produced.
“Cry of Fear” was originally developed as a mod to the game “Half-Life” and was later released as a standalone title. Although the graphics are very outdated since they were optimized for Half-Life, which was released in 1998, the game features many unique mechanics, such as the limited inventory system, dual-wielding, and a stamina gauge which severely limits the player’s mobility.
The inventory system limits the number of items you can carry to only six, which challenges the player to make decisions on which items they need and which they can sacrifice. Additionally, the game is not paused when the inventory menu is opened, so managing your inventory can be very risky if you’re not careful.
The dual-wielding function proves very useful in most situations as you can hold any two items at once, but it also challenges the player in that you have to know which items are most practical for the situation you’re in.
However, the game mechanics are not what distinguish this game. It’s all in the plot.
The story spans seven to eight chapters, depending on the player’s decisions. The main character is a nineteen-year-old named Simon Henriksson. One day, he is hit by a car on his way home from school, and he wakes up in a dark alley in the middle of an abandoned and eerie town. Most of the gameplay is spent exploring this dark town while fighting off deformed humanoid monsters that seemingly appear out of thin air. Occasionally, he will have flashbacks that reveal more about what happened after the accident, but these don’t actually contribute much to the story.
Along the way, Simon meets a mysterious Doctor who doesn’t trust him and decides to run away from him. While Simon spends two chapters chasing the Doctor, he encounters Sophie, a childhood friend and love interest, who commits suicide when she sees the monster known as Carcass, who can manipulate people. Simon then has the option to fight and kill Carcass or let himself become manipulated like Sophie. This is the first player-made decision in the game which will affect how the game ultimately ends, but you’ll have to play it for yourself to experiment with the different pathways and endings to the game.
“Cry of Fear” has a very dense plot with multiple possible endings based on the player’s choices throughout the game. This is what makes the game stand out from others: it’s full of action and adventure, and it takes hours upon hours to complete because of the difficulty of the bosses and puzzles. Over time, the player creates a connection with Simon as he traverses through his own nightmarish world. The atmosphere created by the game keeps the player on the edge of his or her seat and the constant action and feeling of eminent danger makes the game a truly terrifying experience.
And to add a cherry on top, you have an entire city to play in. The game isn’t confined to a single building or area. Instead, you are completely free to explore every building, street and subway tunnel in this dark, abandoned city that Simon creates in his book. Not only does the game include four different difficulties ranging from normal to nightmare, it also features a multiplayer mode where two or more friends could connect and replay certain boss levels or puzzles cooperatively.
This game has pretty much everything you could ask for from an indie-horror masterpiece: themes of depression and suicide, first-person shooter action, a dense and bewitching plotline, and most importantly, an organically created setting which captivates the player.
In my opinion, “Cry of Fear” is the perfect video game. Along with having top-notch production quality and an intense story, it has a high replayability value. All of these qualities create the beautiful indie-horror masterpiece that is “Cry of Fear.”