Some Secrets Should Stay Buried
HIGH The hotel chase ranks among the best first-person action scenes.
LOW I’m expected to know when to run towards an explosion?
WTF What, exactly, is a Quantum resonator?
It’s always problematic when I have to talk about a game without being able to discuss exactly what it is that makes it so special. In this case, it’s The Beast Inside‘s story.
This tale is a singularly impressive accomplishment in horror storytelling, and a masterpiece of using mechanics to reinforce themes. It’s also as fantastic a depiction of madness as anything since Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. However, I can’t explain why these things are true without spoiling the amazing reveals and brilliant pacing.
With my hands tied in this way, I am forced to focus solely on The Beast Inside‘s mechanics and presentation to sell it and hopefully that’s good enough, but please take my word that the story is as good as I’m suggesting.
The Beast Inside follows Adam Stevenson, a CIA codebreaker in the 1970s. He and his pregnant wife move to an isolated country house so that he can have a quiet place to work. Instead, he finds madness and murder contained within the pages of a diary penned by one of the house’s previous residents.
The game jumps back and forth between time periods — players are given the chance to explore one man’s terrible night in the year 1864 along with Adam’s gradual realization that his bucolic getaway might not be as safe or pleasant as he had hoped.
Beast follows a fairly standard first-person horror structure with the player exploring eerie, carnage-filled environments, finding out about the area’s horrific backstory, and then escaping threats. There’s a tiny bit of combat as well, but only during a single setpiece. Instead, the player must often dwell on just what kind of monster was responsible for the carnage. It reaches such a high point of ominous tension that it’s almost a relief when there’s a physical threat to run away from.
Both stealth and chase gameplay are well-represented here. There are a few sequences where the player must carefully wind their way through narrow corridors, ever mindful of patrolling enemies that can end their life with a single grab. The most impressive of these is set in a swamp and recalls one of of the standout sequences in Resident Evil 7 without feeling like a swipe or a tribute since its chases and ‘boss fights’ are just as well-produced and offer clearly-telegraphed sequences with impressively uninterrupted kinetic flows.
The Beast Inside‘s presentation is top-notch. I’ve frequently been critical of Unreal Engine 4’s limitations at presenting natural environments, but the developers have managed to prove me wrong — the woods around the house are one of the most impressive forest environments I’ve seen in an indie.
The story will also carry the player into dripping caves, across rickety bridges, and through ruins that forests have reclaimed. The developers ride a perfect line between ‘realistically overgrown’ and ‘still completely navigable’. In an even more impressive achievement, players get a chance to see the same locations across a gulf of time and in vastly different lighting conditions, and it all manages to work perfectly both ways.
The Beast Inside is a truly scary experience, and it’s not just jumpscares — it’s the developers’ commitment to putting the player inside the skins of main characters. Both protagonists are men trapped in increasingly-bizarre situations, desperately trying to figure out what’s happening as their situations get worse and worse.
How impressive is this grueling horror experience? I guessed the ending mere minutes into the demo earlier this year, and yet when it came time to play the full game, I still found myself getting caught up in the twists and turns. That’s right — even knowing the ending before going in, the journey was so powerful that I’m glad to have taken it, and would recommend that any fan of first-person horror do the same.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Illusion Ray Studio and published by MovieGames SA and Playway SA. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game was not reviewed by the ESRB, but it’s a pretty hard M. It contains omnipresent Blood and Gore as well as Strong Language, and constant Violence. Keep kids as far from this game as you can. It’s intensely violent and filled with incredibly disturbing subject matter on top of all of the brutality.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: You’ll be almost completely fine, with only two stealth sequences providing any real problems. Twice players are forced to wind their way through narrow corridors while being stalked by monsters that can game over them with a grab. It’s possible to beat these sequences without being able to hear their footsteps, but it’s very difficult. All dialogue in the game is subtitled. Subtitle size cannot be changed.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. It uses standard first-person controls, with the left thumbstick handling movement, right camera, and face buttons assigned to interacting with the environment, crouching, and the like. In the one shooting sequence, the right trigger is used to fire weapons.
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