I was a huge fan of Supermassive’s game Until Dawn and made sure that all of my friends were giving this game a chance. We would even play it as a party game with friends screaming out decisions and getting scared together. So when I heard that Supermassive Games was putting out a prequel to Until Dawn and making it a Virtual Reality game, I was pretty stoked. That excitement soon fluttered away like a bored butterfly.
The Inpatient takes place over 60 years before the events that happen in Until Dawn. You play as a character who is suffering from amnesia and who deals with nightmares that appear to be straight from a B Horror movie. And like in any horror movie, things get much worse before they get better. In this case, it’s a downhill ride until you take off the VR headset and do anything else.
The Inpatient keeps one of the key factors that made Until Dawn so good, the Butterfly Effect. Your choices affect the outcome of the game, and they can have some serious consequences. Even a choice such as choosing which gender to play as can have an effect on how the game progresses.
Supermassive did an excellent job of setting up the game. The atmosphere is fantastic and really drives home the tone of the sanitorium. The visuals aren’t overly impressive but the developers were able to deliver an environment that made me uncomfortable, in a good way. At times it was as though I could feel the thick, stale air circulating Blackwood and it’s horrors.
The atmosphere of The Inpatient is complimented nicely by the audio design of the game. Whether it’s the small, subtle effects around the game to put you in that space or the voice acting in general, the sound direction was top notch and a stand out for the game.
While having a great sounding and looking game, the game suffers from its playability. Since gameplay is king, this killed my experience with the title. I played the game with both the PlayStation 4 controller and two Motion Controllers. Both methods offer strengths and weaknesses, making it hard to pick a desired method of play.
Using the DualShock 4, it was much easier to move around freely in the game and since the game is basically just walking and talking, this was the optimal option for me. Although, picking up items to interact with them is just impossible. I spent way too long trying to force a sandwich into the air for my character. The other issue is using the thumbsticks to look around the game. The combination of using the headset to look up and down and using the right thumbstick to look left and right put me into a dyslexic standstill.
I would get so caught up in using the thumbstick to look around that I would pull down on the thumbstick to, in theory, look down. However, that causes you to do a 180-degree turn. If the game would have told me that my character was in the sanitarium because my character was a chronic “turner,” I would have believed it. But what also makes this so frustrating is that the game lacks a “walk backward” button. A universal option that games have had for years, The Inpatient decided they were past the point of taking even one step backward.
I hated using the Motion Controllers for this game. They make picking up items ideal since it can’t be done with the Dual Shock 4, but your movement is crippled with these controllers. I turned off the “free turn” option so I could move in 15-degree increments but there’s no decerning factor on which way your character turns. If I wanted to turn to the right, that was fine as that seemed to be the default option but I had a bigger issue turning left than Derek Zoolander. I would have to just about break my own neck looking to the left so the game would comply and get me looking the right way.
Even walking forward with the Motion Controllers was an issue. I would be facing one direction, the direction I’d want to walk in, but the character you play as must have been born with a crooked waist because they would go in a different direction. It seemed that the top half of my body and the bottom half were always facing different directions.
The controls in The Inpatient are so irritating that was a giant turn off and made the rest of the game a complete annoyance. And I really hate to spend so much time in this review talking about the controller options but it would’ve been a nicer experience if this game was a movie and I watched it through my VR headset. Hell, the game is only 3 hours long, it could have easily just been a movie I could sit through and look around in VR.
Unlike Until Dawn, The Inpatient is pretty dull. Much less action and tense moments than the first game. Like I have mentioned, it’s a lot of walking and talking. There are plenty of parts throughout the game that keep you on edge, but the suspense is few and far in-between. This game feels more like a stroll rather than a rush like it’s canonical successor. And once the psychological aspect of the game is thrown out it becomes a dull ride.
The Inpatient has, at times, an incredible amount of immersion through a combination of stellar atmosphere and audio design but those elements are often overlooked. Once you’re at the mercy of the terrible controls and uninteresting story, the game loses its horrific charm and breaks any chance of immersion.