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Game Review

Virtual reality is arguably the most immersive type of gaming you can find these days, since it actually plops you down into a 360-degree digital world. So the next question for gamemakers becomes, "How do we kick the VR experience up a notch?" And the gang behind the survival-horror prequel The Inpatient thinks they've come up with the perfect answer: Give it a voice.

Crafted by Supermassive Games, the folks who created 2015's Until Dawn, this related adventure takes us back to the Blackwood Pines Sanatorium. Only this time, it's some 60 years prior to the events of Dawn. Gamers wake with a start to find themselves strapped into a wheelchair while being questioned by a doctorish guy named Bragg. And he seems very concerned about people with bad memory loss.

It's an unnerving situation, one in which players initially have no idea who they are, where they are, how they got there or why. All of those unknowns become part of a mystery that must be pieced together while searching through an increasingly dark world—one that only gets creepier and creepier as its 1950s-style nostalgia gives way to supernatural deadliness.

Scream …If You Can

That voice element I mentioned above comes into play at the very beginning of the game. Like Until Dawn, The Inpatient utilizes a "Butterfly Effect" gaming system. That causes the story to shift and change slightly based on your reactions to, and interactions with, other characters in the game. But instead of simply asking you to click on a list of choices, The Inpatient uses the PSVR headset's built-in microphone to let you talk directly to the people you encounter.

You can opt out and revert to a click-an-answer mode, but reading one of two answers and letting the game recognize your intentions gives those interactions more narrative heft. As you speak out your "lines," a deeper sense of emotional connection inevitably sets in. You're now moving and speaking as part of this onscreen cinematic illusion, rather than simply making a choice and watching how it plays out.

It may indeed feel a bit cooler to be a much more enveloped part of this scary drama. But as you stare into the frightened eyes of graphically realistic-looking faces and cry out, "I don't want to be here!" loud enough to notify the neighbors, the frightening side of the shadowed horror onscreen cuts a little deeper.

And Run for Your Life

You don't pick up an ax or grab a shotgun here to fend off the creatures screeching in the dark. You're simply an innocent who's trying to piece together what's going on and make it out alive—running, crawling and stumbling from point A to point Z. But in a way, that immersive defenselessness jangles your nerves all the more.

Even if you're not doing the hacking, though, there's still lots of gore dribbling from the walls, staining clothing or pooling beneath the dead. We see people shot (including one woman who's executed by a bullet to the head). And fearful cries of f- and s-words, foul blasphemes of God's and Jesus' name, and a variety of other crudities regularly ring out all around us.

Then there's the supernatural side of the tale. It's not all fully explained. But we certainly encounter information about the fetid, flesh-eating creatures we encounter in the dark, as well as the gruesome actions and foul curse that gave birth to them.

By the time we reach one of several possible endings, it's clear that the gamemakers have done all they can to drag us just a bit deeper into this M-rated virtual world¬—one in which even your own voice becomes an integral part of this horrific tale.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

PlayStation 4

Publisher

Sony Interactive Entertainment

Released

January 23, 2018

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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