Husk Review: Sadly, Lives Up To It’s Name

Husk
Developer: UndeadScout
Publisher: IMGN.PRO
Release date: February 3rd, 2017
Game was purchased by reviewer as part of the March Humble Monthly.

UndeadScout’s first major release is a dark story of domestic abuse, hampered by dull, clunking gameplay and bad design choices.

I wanted to like Husk. I really did. The premise of a man visiting his dying father, despite giving him a horrible childhood full of abuse, had promise. It’s an ugly subject that many developers wouldn’t go to, and UndeadScout tells it’s tale well, for the most part. Players take the role of Matt, a man desperately searching for his wife and daughter in his childhood home of Shivercliff after a train crash. Only Shivercliff is abandoned. And Matt is hearing voices in his head.

One of the major flaws of the game is in it’s lack of originality. The town of Shivercliff itself is almost a carbon copy of Alan Wake’s Bright Falls, and uses similar locations; forest, police station, even a lumber mill. Throughout playing I just kept being reminded of a better game, and when playing a game just makes you want to play another game, something is wrong. UndeadScout clearly wear their inspirations on their sleeve, with the psychological horror elements clearly aping Silent Hill, but unfortunately the entire experience ends up in a mish-mash of both games that ends up nowhere near as good as either. When the game isn’t palette-swapping Bright Falls, the game just goes to cliches; the majority of the late-game takes place in a generic spooky hospital with almost identical corridors, which mean you get disoriented. And not in a good, psychological horror way. In a “where am I going, this sucks” kind of way.

The most grating thing about Husk is how the gameplay itself doesn’t seem to fit with the story at all. I personally fail to understand how a story about a man facing his inner demons and looking for his missing family translates to an action-horror where you shoot your way through a town of generic, faceless monsters. The no-combat, run-and-hide form of horror has been done to death, but actually would have suited this narrative more than what we actually got. Not to mention the combat itself is awful. When the one gun you get isn’t clipping through and around your character’s hands, you’re forced to try and stun an enemy with a pipe to get past it. Only when I got close to the enemy, it hit me… and nothing happened. So I hit it with my pipe… and nothing happened. This stalemate ended with me being forced to run away, and taking a hit in the process. It got to a point where whenever a monster appeared, my heart started to sink because I knew that any tension the game had managed to build was about to be destroyed by the awkward, clunking combat.  

However the game isn’t completely terrible. In the moments of calm, where the game chooses to focus on the story, there are flashes of brilliance. The opening level and the road to Shivercliff have some creepy atmosphere, and there’s an inner monologue on a boat which works particularly well. Plus the game looks very pretty, with the Unreal 4 engine being used to it’s full effectiveness. And for an indie horror game, the writing and voice acting is very competent, although at some points it did sound like Matt’s actor was attempting a Max Payne impression. There’s only one voice that the game could really do without; the manifestation of Matt’s “inner demons” is an awful, cartoonish voice which utterly destroys the tension of the game, spouting cliches and berating our main character. It’s not sinister. It’s not menacing. It would be funny if it didn’t ruin the experience every time it started.

Overall, this had potential. Having followed the game’s progress since it was featured in a PC Gamer article, I was looking forward to the finished product. Unfortunately, the strong start soon gave way to a flawed, disappointing experience. Given that this is their first major release, I hope UndeadScout can take the feedback from Husk and go on to create something truly original and great. Because despite imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, Husk cannot compete with it’s influences. It ultimately falls well short of the mark.

FINAL SCORE: 4/10 – A daring narrative clashes with sub-par gameplay which cannot hope to match with other titles of it’s ilk.

 

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