When PlayStation VR was originally announced, the genre that immediately came to mind for me was Survival Horror. It is, without a doubt, perfect for virtual reality. Being completely immersed in a world, having the jump scares literally right in your face, and seeing everything up close and personal should be an amazing experience. Horror can come from all different directions and places, but the one aspect of it that has always intrigued me most is the psychological realm of it. It is this area that Tangentleman and Santa Monica Studio focused on when developing Here They Lie. But, after playing through it, I’m concerned with several things. Read on for our full review of Here They Lie.
Title: Here They Lie
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Tangentleman/SIE Santa Monica Studio
Available On: PlayStation VR
Reviewed On: PlayStation VR
Release Date: October 13, 2016
Copy purchased for the sake of this review
The psychological horror effects begin almost immediately. While Here They Lie does occasionally use jump scares to catch you off guard, and sometimes rather well, their form of horror is a much slower build. You will find yourself walking through an area, round the corner, see a dimly lit room that looks ominous, hear some creepy music playing, and inch toward that room ever so slowly. Once you get there, you find nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was only there to mess with the player, and that type of feeling works extremely well in virtual reality. It’s these types of effects we hope continue to be used in future titles.
The world that was crafted within the VR headset originally left me with a sense of awe. It was the first actual world that I was getting to walk through and fully experience, being able to look around in full 360 degrees. Looking up and seeing buildings stretching far into the sky, and then down into a grungy looking area is rather impressive, and remains one of the best things about Here They Lie from our experience. It’s also a very monochrome world, to give it an even more eerie feeling. There is a strong blur sense featured throughout the world, which I honestly feel was a design choice at this point, because it helps soften everything and puts more emphasis on the few things that actually are in color. But that sense of wonder quickly wore off, as the issues with Here They Lie, and VR in general, made themselves apparent.
More specifically, I’m talking about the control scheme. From all the virtual reality games I’ve played so far, the ones that have you moving around in a 3D space, like Here They Lie, have made me ill to the point that I have to stop playing after an hour or so and lie down, because my head is swimming. I know I’m not the only one to feel this way, as I’ve spoken to others that have had this same issue. Locomotion is going to remain one of the key aspects when talking about any VR game on any VR platform, not just PlayStation VR. I have a hard time faulting the game for this though, because there are others who haven’t gotten sick at all. It’s one of those situational things where some people get it, some don’t. But still, that problem needs to be addressed with VR in the future.
Other than that, Here They Lie is fairly straightforward. The narrative behind who you are and what you are doing, which is better left found out on your own rather than reading about, guides you along. There are pictures you can pick up and examine for a little back story, and ringing telephones will signal that you are moving along in the right direction. There are side paths you can walk down and explore, but ultimately everything leads in the same direction. Eventually, you will start to encounter the monsters that are roaming the city, and let me say, they are terrifying. In a non-VR setting, they’d probably just be run-of-the-mill enemies that I wouldn’t even think twice about. But here, with the atmosphere in place and creepy feeling surrounding you, it’s intense.
There is no combat in Here They Lie, so your only option is to carefully walk past the monsters so you are not detected. This can be harder than it seems, and I found myself getting attacked and ultimately killed more than once. More often than not, the monsters will run away down side alleys that you cannot physically explore, but there are certain ones that will attack you if you screw up. Being attacked by a monster up close and personal was a feeling that’s hard to describe without just being there, so screw up once and see how it feels. Certain things in virtual reality are just meant to be experienced and are otherwise tough to describe what emotions are running through your mind when it happens.
Ultimately, Here They Lie is not a particularly great game. It’s very average, and if this wasn’t taking place in a virtual setting, and wasn’t one of the original show pieces for the tech on PlayStation, it’d probably be borderline bad. But, because of when it released, and because it is in virtual reality, it’s worth at least checking out sometime if you can.