For a first person survival horror game Husk delivers. Its not just horror but also a story reflected in narration about strained relationships and bad childhood memories of a father and town. With so many different elements and a good amount of mystery and chilling experiences, Husk is turning out to be a fantastic game by developer UndeadScout. There are issues in the game like video glitches and bugs that are being resolved with every patch. However, for the most part the game ran well on the highest settings. Besides the minor technical issues the game overall had few faults in the gameplay, it was immersive and drew in the player to the story and mystery surrounding Shivercliff.
Players control Matthew Palmer and the year is 1995. The game begins on a train with Matthew’s wife and daughter going to visit his father in Shivercliff. From the beginning you know that there are bad memories in that town. Considering this is the first time his daughter is seeing her grandfather and he defiantly does not like the idea about going home. Whatever his decision he will be facing his past. The first moments seemed harmless although there was this foreboding feel to it. Maybe it was the lighting and train environment or the fact Matthew was unsettled. Even so it didn’t take long for everything to go wrong. When it did our Matthew was thrown into a mystery and terrifying reality. Now everyone is gone and only Matthew is left after a train crash to find out what happened. The secret lies in Shivercliff.
The game does end up being more then just finding clues to what happened. Matthew throughout the game confronts his own personal demons, while battling real demons. In Husk the player looks for clues, explores the town and its surroundings, fights monsters, and comes across some very weird stuff. I did enjoy this aspect of the game. The one that is not just about monsters but also a psychological horror and personal story. From Matthew’s narration he describes a bizarre town with strange people. When exploring some of the apartments and finding odd areas you become to understand why he avoided this strange town. It is also through his personal narration you learn of abuse, mental illness, and frightening memories of this town. Besides the unsettling nature of Shivercliff, the best part of the game is the first person experience and your reaction as a player to the different scenarios.
Making a game a first person horror is the best way I believe to capture the essence of a good horror game. It all has to do with the players reaction and emotion to situations without the characters reaction. In Husk, we don’t get much of a reaction from Matthew though he will freak at certain times. Once when a monster bursts out of an interrogation room in the Shivercliff police station he freaks out, curses, and then murmurs to run. When he say run you run, especially if you are weaponless. Though I was confused that in an entire abandoned police station there is only one gun and 6 bullets. Though afterward and after the warehouse there were lots of bullets for my gun. Not a good situation when you have deadly crazed monsters roaming around.
The monsters in this game are unforgiving and once they see you they attack to kill. However, there was plenty of situations were I was expecting more of a reaction. Though if there was more of a narration and reaction from our protagonist then we as players won’t be able to put our emotions into the game. That is the best part of being a first person game; you are experiencing what Matthew is experiencing without him telling you what he is feeling. What he did tell us were memories from the past and how life was like when he was a kid growing up in Shivercliff. There were also moments where objects caused him to hear mysterious voices in a dream like state. What these voices are is apart of the mystery of the game.
When exploring the town and surroundings you will find some weird stuff. One of the weirdest things were the dolls and mannequin pieces everywhere. Strange artwork was also adorning walls, and weird black goo was falling from everywhere. Usually a monster accompanies this. See black goo, run and prepare to fight.
During the exploration there will be useful items to find like medicine and med kits, pistols, ammo, and other items that can be used to hit monsters with. Just be aware that these items are not frequently found. Which caused me trouble with some of the tougher monsters. Some items will give clues to the mystery, such as writings and tapes. Others can have PIN numbers to open doors and there will be keys to open doors. I found myself opening all the doors not knowing what was on the other side. When in a horror always open doors and look in every corner, alleyway, and crevice. I found myself drawn into this game and living every moment of the experience. As for the environment, the fog and mist adds to the suspense. Dark caves and warehouses can be frightening especially when there are monsters and shadowy figures standing around. There is a horror component and it’s not just the monsters but also the psychological aspect of exploring a deserted dark and foggy town. Cornfields, abandon houses, warehouses, dark forests, and a lighthouse doesn’t help to ease the suspense. Except for the birds, footsteps, and the soft ominous music Shivercliff was very quiet.
Without a map or real direction you end up just walking around. There are clues in the environment that direct the player. As far as a HUD there is not much for the player. I didn’t feel anything missing for the most part, maybe the map but it might have distracted from the environment and the feel of the game. Interactive objects glow and text appears to guide players on what to do with certain objects. For example E opens doors, F allows you to read writing and use flashlights. There are guides to use weapons. You can also interact with switches and elevators. It’s simple but useful. At the very beginning there was no actual direction. My family left and I was just left alone before deciding to explore the train. It didn’t feel as time went by but the purpose for Matthew to leave his cabin must of been time. Then I went out and was alone in the train, concerned, and looking for someone or something. I felt as though this was a positive, having the game make me decide the next step and control the player’s actions.
There is not much to the game as far as game control and movement. Most of the game is done walking. Players can sprint but must stop to catch their breath or risk being exhausted when fighting off a monster. Fighting is done with guns or blunt objects like crowbars. The game does have a good aiming system and taking out monsters with ballistics isn’t to hard. Other times using objects besides melee or ballistic help with the tougher boss fights. Weapons and objects are found throughout the game and it is worth exploring all interactive doors. Not all areas are necessary to explore but there are hidden clues and items everywhere. Also parts of the story occur when interacting with objects.
What’s a horror game without some form of monster? and Husk has monsters. These monsters are freaky and can be terrifying when you know one is there but can’t see it until its too late. They kill fast so bullets help but melee can quickly stun. Not all are easy and some just need to be outsmarted. Stealth didn’t work in this game, you can try and sneak around but I had little success with sneaking around monsters. Running is good but then they eventually catch you. They seem to always find the player. As for the monsters, Husk has a variety to keep players entertained including tough boss monsters. The game also has a decent AI and it works to add to the horror aspect of the game.
Husk has some great environments that work well for a horror game like the seaside port, abandoned town, cemetery, cornfield, dark forest, and mysterious warehouse and factory. In addition, this game had so many little surprises and creepy things. The mystery and suspense made the game a more psychological horror then just fighting off monsters. In the end it was this personal struggle and reliving these memories of violence and painful memories of a childhood in Shivercliff that made the game. I felt Shivercliff and Matthew’s story was created perfectly for a horror game.
As for a horror game Husk delivers. There are still technical issues to work out but as for the gameplay and story it was well done. Being a first person game it puts the player in the experience to live the moments and capture the emotion of the situation without Matthew telling you how he felt. Some moments had to have a reaction but most interactions with the character directed you to the next area or was narration in the story. It might be only a four to five hour game but in the end it was worth playing for the experience. For players of the horror genre and those that are looking for a decent first person horror with a personal story then Husk is for you. Its also a good first time horror game for those wanting to get into the genre. Check out Husk and experience the town of Shivercliff.