Xbox One keeps getting more and more horror games released for it, and while not every game is great, there are some exceptions that really shine some light on the genre, those that doesn't have to rely on cheap jump scare tactics in order to become "good" or scary. Despite there being a few issues with it, obviously, Hollow, Forever Entertainment's new sci-fi horror game for the Xbox One, is one of those games. I've completed the game, and I definitely have some aspects to talk about. Platform: Xbox One S.
Introduction The game begins with the protagonist, Mark, sitting in what looks like some kind of emergency pod that is floating around in space, all while speaking to himself about that he never cared about the ship, and how he can't remember who he is. Seconds later, I see the pod being aligned with a ship, which is also the very place I wake up in shortly after. Once awake, I'm able to fully control the protagonist, walk around, and interact with objects.
I see a explicit confidential report paper detailing that the person who wrote it, wants Mark alive, that someone named Sara has helped him, and how he's the only one left that has rejected their fate. After wandering around, I find myself in a command center that's been abandoned, which is where I locate my first save station, containing a message from someone named Mike, with a plan on how to escape the ship. Visuals/performance I can't say that the game is that graphically pleasing, but it's definitely not bad either. Pair the visuals with a level design that isn't half bad, and some scenes accompanied by the good lightning can look great. Textures are of high resolution, or so it seems, and character models are detailed & realistic. One thing that's certain, however, is that they could've done a much better job with the optimization, as the game is constantly debating whether it should stay near 60fps, or 30fps.
There were times where I easily noticed that it got up to 60, and stayed there for a while, but most of the time consisted of a very fluctuative framerate, even though there was no reason for it to drop at all. The resolution seems to be of a native 1080p output, but I can not say for sure, and that is partly due to the fact that there looks to be some sort of filter put in place. Now, the game isn't the best when it comes to graphics, but I've seen way worse looking horror games out there, like Syndrome, for example.
Syndrome is a game that I compared Hollow to a lot while playing through it, and that's mostly because of how its level of gamma made it close to unplayable. Hollow is very different when it comes to brightness, cause unlike Syndrome, it actually does feature an option to turn it up or down. There's a few bugs here and there, as well, with one of them forcing me to restart the game since I fell out of an elevator, and one at the end resulting in me having to restart the last section over & over, multiple times.
Audio design is rather bland, and isn't really that special, but some effects do have a good ring to them. Voice acting is actually pretty good, at least when it comes to the protagonist. So, the game does a decent job at being good looking, but there's too many issues both when it comes to the performance, and bugs, for it to be perfect. Gameplay Gameplay is pretty simple, but this game doesn't really have any jump scares, so while it is a horror game, it succeeds in being somewhat scary without them. I say "somewhat" cause the game IS scary, but doesn't have enough horror elements in it for it to become truly terrifying. I mean, during my time of wandering around in the Shakter-One,
I never really did get THAT scared, other than when I found myself following a mysterious person in a yellow suit, pointing me in a creepy way, the right directions to go, for instance. Sure, the atmosphere, the dead & gored bodies lying around, the enemies, and the overall dark look of the ship interiors did have an unsettling feel to it, but I really was expecting the game to be a lot more...well, like a horror game? With all this said, though, the game does a surprisingly decent job at feeling like a first-person Dead Space game (minus the amount of horror), not that this is what I imagined one to be like, but I'll take it.
It's played in first-person, and the controls are the same like any other horror game, kind of. Many survival horror games doesn't let the player defend itself with guns or melee weapons, but this one does, and there's actually a few of them, but then there's the fact that the game is terrible at letting me know that I'll actually have to look for them in order to obtain them. I only found two weapons in my playthrough, and I know for a fact that there is at least 1-2 more weapons to be found. I used two different weapons, one called the Pinner, and another one called the Ripper.
The odd thing is that they output the exact same damage, only being different to each other as far as appearance, ammo and sound goes. I like the weapons, they just have to be more unique in themselves. Now, enemies are obviously a big part of the game, so there is a lot of them, and they're honestly some of the most disturbing things I've seen. I know that some games has some really weird enemy types, but this game takes it up a notch - there's literally a creature in it that is called the Puker, and that is 4-5 meters tall (or even higher), with 9 gigantic visible female breasts featured on it.
Other enemies are: the Wanton, and the Reaper, with the latter being the least present one. They're pretty creepy looking, but their (Wantons) running animations are really bland, they're not smart at all, and they're so easy to defeat. Much of the gameplay consists of running around the ship, gathering supplies and ammo, encountering enemies, trying to find weapons, uncovering what's going on in Shakter-One, exploring, and more. It's a well known gameplay concept, but there just seems to be something missing from this one, as if it's boring in a way, though not entirely all the way through.
There are sections that I enjoyed more than others, but some got kind of dull, not due to the gameplay in general, but rather in the way of being unable to progress at times without having to look up a video walkthrough, as the game doesn't tell you much, and finding codes for certain locked areas are really hard to find. The game being very short, too, doesn't make things better, as it only takes around 3-4 hours to complete it, something I didn't expect at all. There's also puzzles, but they're all the same, and they're very easy. Story The game certainly does have a story, and there's even a second game in the works, continuing Mark's weird yet interesting story. The problem with it, however, is that it feels like I'm playing a sequel to another game. There's no background information about what's going on in Hollow, and most of the time, I had no clue of what I was doing.
I mean, literally around 15 minutes into the game and I'm seeing a cut-scene play out where I'm introduced to Mark's ex-wife, Sara, talking with each other like as if I'm supposed to know what has happened between them, and who they are, without any actual knowledge of practically anything besides the fact that I'm some pilot in space that has entered a ship where everything has taken a turn for the worst. Don't get me wrong, I liked the story, I even thought it was surprisingly deep in some way, but I didn't really approve of the fact that I was thrown into it like as if I was supposed to know the story behind it all just like that.
Other than that, it's pretty good. There's only two people in the game that are ever seen alive, Mark and Sara, but it seems like Mark is the only one that's actually there. You see; at first, I thought Sara was part of it all, and that she really was with Mark during cut-scenes, but the longer I played, the more I realized that that's not the case. I honestly still don't know exactly what the story is about. Mark is a pilot that's essentially stuck in some weird loop, I think, at least as far as memory wipes go.
Sara helped Mark escape the ship from earlier, only for him to return and get a second chance of revealing the truth. Throughout the story, mark is experiencing hallucinations featuring Sara, about their past, and it's obviously something that is haunting him. Sara is not the only one that is haunting him, though, as Mark sees other stuff, too. So, I did like the story, but I wanted know a lot more, especially beforehand. All in all Hollow is undoubtely a good horror game at its core, but the absence of a true horror element does deny the chance of it ever being fully fletched out. Performance is something every game needs in order to be playable, and Hollow does have a questionable framerate, as well as bugs here and there, but despite all this, the game is playable from start to finish in a decent manner. The game isn't breaking any records for its visuals, either, and some might argue that they could've been better, but compared to other horror games, it's very good looking. The story confused me more than any other game has done recently, I really did want to know more instead of having to wait for a second game, especially since the game is very short. Gameplay is not bad, but I can't say I enjoyed it entirely, mostly due to how stale it got some times.
Hollow is available digitally on the Xbox Store, and is priced at the reasonable price of $20. Are you interested in buying the game? That can be done here: Hollow - Microsoft Store. A review code was provided by Forever Entertainment for review purposes. This review is written by Jesper Ingemansson, and is based on his honest opinion about the game.