We take a look at Tecmo's upcoming survival-horror game.
Fatal Frame--known as Project Zero in Japan--is the latest product from Tecmo's Deception team. Apparently, the team has been at work on this one for quite a while, which is pretty evident judging from the code we've been playing--the game is visually and aurally very tight, and its game mechanics are very well thought out and engaging. It's still a survival-horror game at its core, but its discrete elements do much to liven the experience for those tired of that formula.
The game's story revolves around a young girl's quest to find her missing brother, who disappeared when searching for his literary idol. He managed to track him down at an abandoned mansion in a remote rural region, but he indeed found more than he'd bargained for. The mansion was haunted, as you'd expect, and, as you learn through the game's introductory sequence--which actually lets you play as the missing brother--the poor young man falls victim to some unknown, yet undoubtedly frightful, forces. When the game begins in earnest, you find yourself in the role of Miku Hinasaki, the missing young man's younger sister. She's decided to brave the mysteries of the mansion to find her missing brother, and she proceeds to venture forth unarmed. However, she soon finds a weapon quite capable of dispatching any hostile spirits that might lie within.
Fatal Frame's hook, as it were, is the weapon that you'll primarily use as you explore the haunted mansion--a plain-old camera. It has a couple of essential functions, but it serves primarily as a weapon. When you capture a hostile spirit within its viewfinder, you can damage it by snapping shots. You can also locate hidden doors and the like by examining the environment through its viewfinder whenever you suspect you're in the vicinity of something hidden. There's an onscreen light that gradually brightens as you approach something hidden, so you'll likely know when to switch to your viewfinder and start scanning. Other sensory cues are present as well, including ghostly, panning sounds and subtle controller rumblings, all of which help nudge you in the right direction.
The actual layout is classic survival-horror, however. Though everything is rendered in real-time 3D, you're allowed to explore the world via a series of mostly fixed angles, with a few dynamic yet scripted perspectives thrown in as appropriate. If you've ever played a survival-horror game, you'll likely be quite accustomed to the way you interact with the world; if you see something suspicious or otherwise worthy of inspection, you simply walk up to it and press the X button. A short dialogue will then appear, which describes the object in question and provides commentary from your character--very much par for the course. As you explore the mansion, you'll also come across various documents that let you piece together the site's mad history, and all of these you can file for perusal later. Journal entries, madmen's scribblings, and newspaper clippings are all lying around waiting for you to find them, as well as things like audio tapes, which you can play back and listen to in the interface menu. All in all, it plays very much like its kin. Where it manages to break free of the survival horror category's constraints, though, is when things get hairy.