Imagine entering a derelict two-story building. It’s dark, quiet, and full of hallways. You round several corners, eventually finding a staircase. Before you’re able to touch the first step, the revving of a chainsaw echoes throughout the place. This makes your heart beat faster as you dart for the exit, but it only gets louder, almost like you’re awfully close. You waste no time checking, only running more. Once you find the exit, you slam the door and breathe deeply because you survived an ordeal.
However, in reality, no matter how long you would have lingered, you would never encounter this psychopath. Just by hearing his weapon get ready, you were frightened. This is an example of how Team Psykskallar’s “Cry of Fear” earns its name.
“Cry of Fear” takes place in Sweden. A young man named Simon gets hit by a car one night, only to awaken in an alley. He receives a text from his mom telling him to get home, and then he’s off on his journey. He quickly realizes that this is no easy task because twisted monsters and supernatural forces are against him.
The trip from start to finish is enticing and always subverts the player’s expectations, but the game itself looks astonishing. Yes, the game is a decade-old Half-Life modification, but the design is still impressive. What’s more effective is how the game doesn’t necessarily carve a completely fictional environment. Team Psyskallar knows that to make you feel truly in danger, the first step is to make everything appear real.
For a large duration, you are alone in different parts of Sweden that are realistic. Sights like the clean floors of a technical college, a deserted asylum rotting from age, and the beautiful city view from the pier keep you immersed. There are a few nightmare sequences with disturbing visuals, but they don’t overpower the grasp that the world has on you. It is dreary but marvelous.
This doesn’t change what you’re in for, though. “Cry of Fear” is a survival horror game without question. Monsters are varied, ruthless, and potentially everywhere; thus, you should tread softly with your gun’s safety off.
There are tons of scares, and your biggest challenge is to conquer your fear and advance or die in cowardice. When you think something may pop out, it might not go as predicted. For example, a clever spin is put on the long, suspiciously quiet hallway cliche in horror games, except upon reaching the door, you’re forced to find another exit. However, you only have seconds before hands burst through the floor, tearing at your feet, and causing you to take damage the longer you stand around. Moments like these are brilliant for their ingenuity.
Small details add impact to the game’s bullet-sweating nature. Simon has no problem holding Glocks or M16s, but you need to ensure he hits his targets. Accuracy matters because every missed shot is a waste. Reloading matters too because reloading before the magazine is empty ditches the entire clip. Simon can even dual-wield objects like a flashlight and pistol, but to reload, you holster your other item by opening your inventory and pulling the pistol out individually. It’s all about making you feel endangered and weak. Other details do this, too, like how Simon can overdose if you heal too much with morphine, or how you discard burning flares to climb ladders.
While “Cry of Fear” brims with dread, the narrative takes a different approach. It carries themes of depression, anxiety, and destruction, and no better is this more accurately depicted in video games than here. For most players, the story can be initially predictable once it all connects, but toward the end, your eyes will be opened by what it means for something to be “worse.” Simon himself is a relatable protagonist. He’s not an action-hero in first-person shooters like “Duke Nukem,” he’s an ordinary man wanting to survive this nightmare.
After you’ve beaten the game, it’s worth replaying. You most likely won’t find everything on your first play-through, and there are also plenty of secrets and unlockables to uncover. Outside of the main story, there are special fan-made chapters that don’t disappoint, especially “The Hole” by Theevina.
This game does come with a four-player co-op campaign of its own. Even with friends at your side, it’s still brutal and scary. It’s unfortunate that joining a game is difficult, as no official servers exist, forcing people to create servers with something like Hamachi.
Nevertheless, “Cry of Fear” is an endless spook-fest that doesn’t run out of surprises. It is an amazing achievement from such a small team, and it has aged like a fine wine. With your goal surrounded by trouble and toil, you’re going to want to head on in, flashlight at the ready.