When I was far too young, I had a fascination with a haunted house ride that was part of a series of rides littering Durban’s beachfront one year, very many years ago. It was a mechanical contraption of cheap jump scares, cotton-wool spider webs, plastic skeletons and other animatronic evils – but it both terrified and excited me.
It’s the same sort of feeling I’ve had playing Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn: Rush of Blood on PlayStation VR. Just like that haunted house of horrors, Rush of Blood is an on-rail experience whose scares you can guess coming from a mile away – but that make you giddy, excited and occasionally terrified anyway.
Yes, it’s an on-rail shooter, not dissimilar from the light-gun games of yore, but once you strap on the VR headset it becomes a surreal, genuinely frightening experience. It also does away with motion sickness, by putting you in a cart that’s moving along a track, like a creepy rollercoaster. This sort of constrained movement cleverly tricks your brain in to allowing you to move along while remaining seated, doing away with the cognitive dissonance that free movement games invoke. Still, the effect is mesmerising and gripping, and everyone who I’ve made play this has moved back in their seats, holding themselves upright as the virtual cart barrels down its track. It can feel like you’re on a rollercoaster, and it’s a wild ride.
It’s only loosely related to Until Dawn, seeming to happen within the confines of Josh’s disturbed mind, but won’t scare off series newcomers as there’s no real plot holding anything together. With its loose connection to its namesake, Rush of Blood lets you use either the DualShock 4 or a pair of Move controllers. You’ll be at a disadvantage here if you don’t use the Move controllers, which show up as a pair of limbs in the game, each brandishing a loaded gun. Shooting in VR is both intuitive and fun. Your guns double as torches, letting you peer in to the darkness ahead – which is usually filled with horrible things to shoot. Clowns, ghosts, crazed madmen, and oh god, spiders are all begging to be pumped full of lead. Coulrophobes and arachnophobes? This game is going to make you cry. While the game is largely unimaginative, employing every cheap horror trope imaginable, it perfectly exploits the immediacy of VR to frequently chilling effect.
Shooting the festively coloured boxes that sometimes show up on levels gives you temporary new guns to play with, some of which – like the shotgun – feel really weighty (and very appreciated when an army of the undead is rushing towards you). Rush of Blood’s other, less deadly threats come in the form of obstacles – like spinning blades, swarms of bats and barrels of dripping sludge – which you need to physically move out of the way of.
Sometimes, the ride will come to a stop and voices (oh god, the voices) and sounds of crying babies and ghoulish and ghastly whispers envelope you, utilising the PlayStation VR’s 3D audio processing to its full potential – perfectly building up atmosphere and tension. Yes its scares are cheap, and it’s a trick used perhaps too often but they’re real, and terrifying, especially the first time around. That level with the spiders? Just horrible.
It’s a short experience though, and you’ll probably have rushed your way through its seven levels in an hour and a half. While I’d love for it to be padded with a few mini games, there are some increased difficulty levels, a few branching paths and leader boards to add a bit of replayability.
Last Updated: November 29, 2016