Three years ago, Supermassive Games blew me away with their horror adventure PS4 game, Until Dawn. It really felt like I was playing a horror movie, constantly building dread and anxiety while trying to figure out what was happening. The Inpatient, a scary but flawed PSVR prequel to Until Dawn, builds even more fear (thanks to the virtual reality hardware) and mystery through most of its story, but leaves far too many questions unanswered.
The Inpatient takes place sixty years before the events of Until Dawn at the Blackwood Sanatorium, a locale that is equally creepy open or abandoned. You are a patient suffering from amnesia, struggling to regain your memories and find out why you’re there. While everything seems fairly normal (for a 1950’s psychiatric hospital) at first, you are soon plagued with strange and absolutely terrifying visions. Eventually people start dying, and you must find a way to get out alive.
I wish I could explain more about The Inpatient’s story, but… I don’t really understand much more than that. I was able to piece together a vague idea of what happened at Blackwood, but that’s only because I played Until Dawn. If I hadn’t played the first game, I would have absolutely no idea what happened at all. Being linked to another game is one thing, but this feels extreme. There’s no explanation for your visions, your doctor’s role in what happened to his patients, or anything else really. Maybe the other story paths and endings give out more information, but being forced into multiple play throughs in order to get even the foggiest idea of what’s really going on? That’s not good.
The Inpatient wasn’t a total loss though, because being on PSVR enabled it to scare the crap out of me. Seriously, I screamed out loud more than a couple of times while playing it. Wandering around the hallways, hearing something moving nearby, or just seeing lights flicker made me uneasy and afraid of whatever was coming next. Wearing my PSVR headset and surround sound headphones created a new kind of immersion that I’d never felt in a game before. Sure it was mostly jump scares, but they were damn good ones, and there were a few moments that built genuine suspense with absolute mastery. There was even a “right behind you” sequence that might be the scariest moment I’ve ever experienced in a game. Before playing The Inpatient, my first experience with PSVR, I was worried that VR games were going to feel like a cheap gimmick, but now I see I worried for nothing and sincerely hope that more game developers start utilizing it.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend buying The Inpatient, but I don’t completely regret playing it. It’s a strong example of how effective VR gaming can be, especially within the horror genre, despite its exposition and ending leaving a lot to be desired.