Jump Scare City: Cry Of Fear

By Adam Smith on April 30th, 2013 at 7:00 pm.

Maybe there’s more to Half Life 1 mod Cry of Fear than screaming, gibbering faces and jump scares – the trailers have shooting, conversations and chainsaws – but my nerves, frayed rather than reinforced by years of vacationing in Silent Hill, failed to survive the opening scenes when I played last night. There’s something about the look and feel of the dated engine that unnerves me far more than something draped in bells and whistles ever would, although I’ve just conjured the image of a jester at a rave and that’s as petrifying as it is ridiculous. The Half Life engine has taken on the quality of a museum or funhouse packed with animatronics, and it’s perhaps that aspect that is most troubling. Well, that and the jump scares. Here’s how I got on.

I’d already decided, by the time I’d watched the trailer and sat through the short introduction, that Cry of Fear is about alienation. Of course, loneliness and social malaise are probably going to manifest as people without skin who want to eat my skin, so, as the game begins, I’m glad to see that I’ve got a gun…

Except I haven’t. I’m holding something, seen from a first-person perspective, but it’s a sodding camera instead of a gun. What is this, a Cartier-Bresson simulator?Project Zero? Do I have to take photographs of ghosts now? That’s one of my least favourite things to do to ghosts, right after ‘intentionally desecrating their memory and/or remains’ and ‘popping a glitterball over their grave and charging people five quid to do a silly dance on it’. Expecting to be assaulted by murderous transparencies at any moment, I crept out of the derelict room I’d awoken in, my memory no doubt missing, and peered down the corridor, camera at the ready.

To reassure myself, I pull the camera’s trigger, still pretending its a gun. The flash goes off, casting a brief sphere of light around me and momentarily penetrating the darkness ahead. That’s what it’s for then. It’s essentially an extremely shitty torch, flickering on for a second and taking several more to recharge. It’s probably going to reveal horrible things, illuminating them for a couple of seconds so I can see how horribly jumbled up their facial features are and how cross they are that I exist, and then leaving me in the dark again while I wait for them to start nibbling at my eyelids.

It’s at this point that I scribble down ‘SAW’ on a notepad, remembering the scene where a pig-masked bastard stalks a photographer in his flat. I wrote ‘Rear Window?’ underneath and circled it, presumably hoping that a more cultured reference might make me look like a better person in the eyes of the world. The opening scene is definitely more GRIM YOUR FACE splatter horror than suburban murder thriller though, so Saw it is.

Before I encounter anything that justifies the dread that is prickling up and down my spine, I photograph a series of white x’s to progress. Sometimes they’re painted on doors, which open when I snap them, and sometimes they’re just hanging in the middle of a room, which tends to mean they’ll turn into a scene of brief terror. I don’t like those ones but I don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. I either have to keep taking pictures and receiving the mental jolts that follow, or quit. And, as my persistent smoking habit confirms, I’m no quitter.

This first section of the game ends with a long walk through a dark place, at the end of which another of those ‘x’ targets is hovering. Before I can reach it – SPOILER ALERT – a screaming face appears right in front of me, the neck probably broken, the eyes rolling around madly in their sockets.

At that precise moment, I’m convinced that screamy-face is the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life and I consider uninstalling the game, throwing my computer out of the window and watching Adventure Time for the rest of the night. Surely I’ll reach those other bits of the game soon though, the ones in the trailer with the other people and the guns? I carry on, a martyr to the cause.

My character wakes up, again, with no memory, again, and this time he’s in an alleyway. The city streets look remarkably good considering the age of the engine and I’ve got another light source – this time it’s a mobile phone, with a text message from my mum telling me to come home. Dutifully, I begin the trek, even though I don’t know which direction I’m supposed to be going in, and soon I have a knife, which should reassure me but actually just makes me realise there are going to be things that I need to stab. Imagine yourself walking home late at night and now imagine that you know the streets are crawling with ‘orrible things that you need to stab. That’s the opposite of reassuring. It creates anxiety.

Fidgeting slightly, I head into a series of alleys, occasionally hallucinating to break up the monotony, and find a padlocked door. A puzzle! It’s very unlikely that a puzzle will frighten me to death, so I’m quite pleased to see it. I consider marrying the puzzle. I need to find the code for the padlock, which means going deeper into the city, where I discover a square with a little restaurant at one corner, and cars blocking the streets leading out. Inside the restaurant, at the back, there is a computer and discovering the correct username and password, by exploring the rest of the square, allows me to log on and discover the padlock code. Because that’s how computer games work.

Finding the code also triggers a creaking door sound effect. Something has followed me into the restaurant. I stare at the computer screen, the one currently displayed on my computer screen, for a good five minutes, inspecting it in case there are further clues. There’s fuck all. I’m stalling. I don’t want to see whatever it is that’s following me. I’m a child with my head under the duvet. I read something about this Steam version having updated enemy AI and that doesn’t seem like a cool addition anymore, it seems like a criminal act. As I turn around, a vaguely human shape shuffles past the window and that’s nearly the end of me, but eventually I go outside.

The square is silent and still. That just means it’s watching me, of course, whatever it is.

Back to the padlock – PROGRESS WOO! – and I step through into an even more unpleasant series of corridors. Then a text message arrives. Probably my mum telling me that my tea is getting cold.

Oh no.

The message isn’t from my mum, or at least I don’t think it is. It just says ‘look to your right’. I don’t want to because screamy-face will be there.

I hate screamy-face.

I wish I was at home, even if my Turkey Twizzlers and lumpy mash have gone cold.

I quit.

The standalone version of Half Life mod Cry to Fear is available now. Maybe you’re not quite as cowardly as me and can tell me if the pay-off is worth the cheap shocks?

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44 Comments »

  1. Professor Paul1290 says:

    Cry of Fear is in many ways a throwback to old-school survival horror games, which can either be really awesome or really frustrating depending on whether you can tolerate those kinds of games.

    By that I mean expect lots of jump scares, limited health and ammo, find [item] to combine with [item] to use with [door] or [obstacle], obscure puzzles, and block inventory where you you have to shuffle things around and drop stuff a lot because can only carry a certain number of items regardless of size.

    If you liked Resident Evil 1, 2, and 3 or similar games from that era then there’s a good chance you’ll like Cry of Fear.
    If you thought those games were annoying then you’ll probably find Cry of Fear just as, if not more, annoying.

    • faelnor says:

      The jump scares in RE are awesome and effective because they stem from objects or monsters that are already in the level, either corpses that you didn’t expect to come back to life or something that crashes through the walls/windows.

      The problem with the first jump scare in CoF is that it doesn’t belong to the current environment or even the game world at this point, it’s an almost-external random flash of a scary face just to scare you. Hella cheap.

      • MultiVaC says:

        That first jump scare was so dumb I considered not even bothering with Cry of Fear anymore. Luckily I haven’t encountered anything else quite so cheap and stupid as that in the game so far. It’s been pretty entertaining, although not all that scary in my opinion.

        • Professor Paul1290 says:

          Yea Mr. Screamy Face is cheap as hell and a poor way to start the game, and there are a few other moments in the game that are similarly annoying.

          Thankfully there aren’t that many and for the most part they occur in spots where it’s already pretty clear you’re dipping into “dream world” for a bit (bleeding walls, flickering lights, twisting hallways, and other such “symptoms”).

          After finishing the game once, I think the game does enough well that it would be silly to miss the rest of the game just because of those spots.

        • noclip says:

          I’m baffled as to why the camera section at the beginning is even there. The problem isn’t so much that they front-load the worst part of the game, it’s that they front-load the worst part of a wholly different game. The remaining 95% of the game has an altogether different tone (dare I say actual survival horror?) that a lot of people who’d probably enjoy it will miss, thinking it’s just another first person startler.

          • faelnor says:

            Thanks for pointing this out, it motivates me at least a bit more to play the mod to its end.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      Mercifully, unlike with classic RE, the control system and camera wouldn’t be fighting you the entire way through the game.

      That alone would do wonders for me.

  2. Discopanda says:

    The only cure to Cry of Fear scariness is Criken and pals playing it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaRqDtFpuBM

  3. faelnor says:

    I went a little bit further than you, but I more or less had the same reaction. Jump scares aren’t the kind of fear I enjoy. Amnesia, which I love, does things with a lot more subtlety, giving the player an atmospheric playground puzzler where psychological fears: of the big unknown, of a machine that is bigger than us and that we don’t understand, of being chased by something terrible, of being hurt by something we don’t see, get the time to settle in and diffuse through our spongy brains.

    Jump scares, on the other hand, play on pure biological base reflexes triggered by loud noises and unsettling imagery flashing for just a moment: a lightning bolt of pure contrast sending waves of frenetic firing through our synapses. They are efficient at generating fear, but are dangerous as game tools because once you use them once — at least in my case — the fourth wall is broken: from that point on I’m going to expect a new jump scare at every corner. I’m going to wonder, by the looks of the level design and the time that has elapsed since the last event, whether it is likely that the developer put another one at the end of this or that hall or after climbing this or that ladder.

    Dear developer, of course I’m afraid while playing, but don’t claim “mission accomplished” too soon, because what I’m afraid of is not your game, but a biological reaction I can’t control, and which I don’t want to happen again. Yet it will, at some point and I won’t be able to avoid it. It feels awful and cheap to be terrified, not by the game contents, but by the prospect of a new uncontrolled discharge at a random time.

    • Henke says:

      This. I don’t think I’ve ever read a comment on RPS I’ve agreed more with. After that first jump scare the enemies of the game was not the monsters of the gameworld, but rather the developers, and the gameplay from that point consisted mostly of trying to anticipate the next jump scare so I could steel myself before meeting it.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      I don’t mind jump scares in games as much as in movies. Sometimes I don’t want to play a game as much as experience something, even if it’s cheap and shallow. It just needs to be well executed.

      The real drawback with jump scares is replayability.

    • Remer says:

      Couldn’t agree more. This is why I despise games like Slender. They are moving intelligent game design in the wrong direction.

    • OfficerMeatbeef says:

      I don’t disagree with your general point on this (overuse on “jump scares” is lazy and boring) but I don’t think I’d agree Cry of Fear is a very appropriate target for this criticism. From playing a good ways into it a fair bit ago, only stopping because I’ve kinda had trouble getting my nerve up for such things the last little while, it does indeed use some occasional jump scares but only as one small part of the varied toolbox of elements that any quality horror construct employs. The screaming face is the only… well, “in your face” variety of such I can think of, and as I’ll discuss below I think its use as the climax of the surreal cold open here is totally acceptable.

      It’s interesting to note that although this writeup makes such heavy mention of the supposed prevalence of jump scares in this, there’s really only one such event in the entire text (“screamy-face”) that would really be classified as such; everything else is either initiated directly and immediately by the player in a way that allows them to prepare themselves for the possibly shocking result (ie. pressing fire to take the picture) or atmospheric elements (the creaking door, the figure walking past the window).

      I’ll further defend the “cold open” as an absolutely appropriate and effectively-executed beginning as any in horror media. It’s clear pretty much immediately that the player is in some kind of surreal/abstract dream or mindscape, so anything could appear, and the big “jump scare” is not executed arbitrarily or out of the blue, but instead as the climax of a carefully-constructed series of increasingly alarming events. It’s the jolt at the end of your nightmare that makes you wake up gasping and shaking; a compressed build-up of unease, terror, and release that I feel is a well-designed and perfectly valid way to open your horror game/movie/book with a bang and set the tone for what’s to follow.

      My memories of what I’ve played are honestly devoid of any such jump scares beyond the opening “scream face”; instead, things that immediately come back to me are scenes like cautiously making my way through a pitch-black, labyrinthine block of decrepit rooms, possibly illuminated only by the faint glow of my cellphone’s backlight, when suddenly the relative silence is pierced by the sound of a chainsaw being revved up and oh god it’s getting louder run run RUN where do I go this is a dead end it’s still getting louder oh fuck have I been this way yet A BIG METAL DOOR LIGHT IT’S STILL DARK OUT BUT AT LEAST THERE’S SOME LIGHT AND THAT DOOR IS CLOSED OK ok I think I’ve lost it…. for now.

      (I actually have no idea if it’s even possible to really be caught by whatever’s making that sound, or if it even physically exists at the time. Honestly, I don’t want to know. It won’t be the last time…)

      • Professor Paul1290 says:

        Having finished the game once I more or less agree with this.

        The game has a lot of jump scares but that’s it’s not the only thing it does and I think the starting area and trailers exaggerate that part of the game somewhat.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Aladin676:

      Well said. Well said indeed.

      This comment should be printed out and displayed generously all over the walls of any studio currently working on, or planning to work on, a horror game. If your game does not take this into consideration, scrap it, and start over.

      Well said.

      • IgneousPapyrusBlunderbuss says:

        Is this referring to faelnor (name change?). It is a good write-up of the really bad jump scare games that offer nothing else I suppose but it’s not so relevant to this game. OfficerMeatBeef is far more correct when it comes this game.

  4. Lacessit says:

    I nominate Adam for best subtitle pun ever.

  5. Muzman says:

    Just when you thought Pewdiepie might run out of stuff to scream like an idiot at… (oh please lord!)

    This reminds me of Cabin in the Woods. It’s like every scary movie villain and location in one game! You even get to visit Meat World. Hooray!

    I must admit though, as shonky as a lot of these things are (Slender, SCP et al. Don’t know about this. might be good) I do kinda love that this genre, if you can call it that, exists. It is exactly what I want free and indie games to be (that and way-out experimental stuff). Love them or hate them, it’s like film in the 70s and 80s. Every genre classic or great filmmaker came up out of a huge culture that produced mostly base, forgetable exploitation trash. It’s an ecosystem that can grow great things.

  6. Faxanadu says:

    Oh, awesome, a new horror game!

    Can’t wait for Pewds to play it! YOLO!

    …am I doin’ it right?

    • OfficerMeatbeef says:

      Your mistake (hahah ‘singular”) is that that awful, awful person probably already did it months ago when the mod came out. Actually I think he probably showed up in the first (rather terrible sadly, though it looks like they thought better later thankfully) promo vid they put up for the Greenlight submission that was just incredibly loud and irritating people screaming at the game.

  7. felisc says:

    so … what happens when you look to your right ? There’s no way i’m playing this again (i vigorously erased the game right after screamy-head) but I’m curious now. someone ?

    • Professor Paul1290 says:

      If I’m remembering the correct part, not much. There’s just a door there.

      The “look right” text appears after someone/something closes a door in front of you from the other side and blocks it off so you can’t get it open. To your right is a door that is actually usable and is the way forward.

      I don’t remember exactly what happens immediately past that door though.

      • OfficerMeatbeef says:

        Darn the lack of spoiler tags here, but yes, it’s after the slightly-open door ahead of you slams shut before you can reach it, then as you try to open it you get the message and the previously-closed door to the right of you quietly creaks open.

        Funny enough, I actually looked this one up on an LP because I couldn’t remember exactly what went on (beyond it not being anything jump-scary) and despite how it’s presented here in the article, this segment happens as a cutscene; unless they’ve changed it for the Steam release, there’s literally no way to not look right.

    • aladin676 says:

      As with any well-timed scare, it’s not what you see at the door, but what’s beyond it.

  8. DrScuttles says:

    This seems interesting, though I’ve only played about an hour of it so far. There’s something wonderful about playing a relatively new Gold Source mod. I’m reminded slightly of the old Half-Life mod They Hunger; that was great. Well, it started great anyway.

    • soldant says:

      They Hunger only had a handful of jump scares though, the majority of the time was spent making a creepy atmosphere similar to Night of the Living Dead.

      • OfficerMeatbeef says:

        This only has a similar handful of jump scares also though. Again, despite how this article leans so hard into it as “Jump Scare City”, only a SINGLE jump scare even occurs in the text.

  9. NothingFunny says:

    It was really bad a year ago and I don’t feel like giving it another chance, as it seems all the cheap sudden deaths BS moments are still there.

  10. malkav11 says:

    I think it was the enemies that gouge out their own eyes as they die that most got to me. (I can’t remember if that’s Cry of Fear or their previous mod Afraid of Monsters, though.)

  11. ripper_hugme says:

    I had some fun with the coop. Despite me losing the setup lottery and crashing every 4th loading screen (and there are a lot of them) we had a good 2 and half hours run through.

    Alas Dead Space 3 was right, survival horror coop isn’t really that scary. Damn fun though.

  12. aladin676 says:

    A huge part of the experience for me wasn’t so much the horror aspects. Yes, screamy-face caught me off-guard even though I had an idea of what was going to happen (and incidentally forced me to change trousers). Actually I found a large challenge in soldiering through the synaptic short-circuits and cornerphobia.

    A sort of morbid curiosity drew me to the game, and it was justly rewarded with exactly what I had expected: cheap scares, bloody bosses, and a myriad of endings that changed depending on how pissed I was at the world. Along the journey I discovered a hidden strength I never knew I had in me. Here’s where I wrote down “The Descent” and “Tomb Raider” on my little mental reference pad.

    I suppose I did get a little angry at the developers for some low shots. I even rage quit a couple of times. In the end though, I think I learned more about myself than I ever had from any other game I’ve played.

    Sure, the experience isn’t for everyone. There are some particularly mature and uncomfortable moments that really made me question my motives. It’s a somewhat dangerous game that I really wouldn’t recommend for an “unstable” friend. I also wouldn’t want my mother to see me playing it. Mr. Screamy-face is sort of a tolerance gate that tells the mind, “O.K, this is what the game is about. You can back down now and save yourself the trauma if you aren’t ready. Otherwise, go ahead.”

    I’d only recommend this for those who really want to discover what their tolerance of fear is. Otherwise you’ll be just fine with more subtle games like Slender and amnesia.

  13. eclipse mattaru says:

    You should consider keeping the Monaco background ad forever. I don’t even know what the game is about, but the resulting color scheme really works for RPS.

  14. Shooop says:

    It’s basically a prolonged “screamer” game. You know, those things where you try to navigate a maze and then when you’re supposed to be concentrating the most a face pops up and extremely loud sound plays? Just apply that to a FPS with a severely limited inventory which forces you to backtrack constantly.

    The few good elements it has are feel like they were plagiarized from Silent Hill 2, which would be OK for a mod if only it were paying homage to that game. But instead the majority of the time it just falls back on the cliche “YOUWANTTOSEEMYNEWCHAINSAWANDHOCKEYMASK?!” moment. Literally even. It’s nothing but annoying YouTube video maker fodder.

    And the guy who made it is also an obnoxious attention whore.

    I’m experiencing much more fear playing System Shock 2. It’s been so effective I even jumped when a harmless explosion occurred outside a window not 10 minutes into the game. The sheer tension and dread is almost unbearable, and all the lights aren’t even out. It’s wonderful.

    • IgneousPapyrusBlunderbuss says:

      This is such a vapid assessment of the game it’s almost a joke. I don’t care if you don’t like it but calling it just a “screamer” game is unbelievably disingenuous. REAL screamer games are crap like those games based on Jeff the Killer, the endless Slenderman games out there or any other number of innumerable terrible games people throw together on the Unity engine or FPS Maker. This game actually has a story, involved mechanics, puzzles, and level design, unlike every “screamer” game out there. If you want to say those are bad, go ahead, but at least recognize they are there and the game tries to do more than any “screamer” game ever could. Did you even play it in the first place or just based your assessment on this article and its screenshots? And what’s this about the creator being an “obnoxious attention whore”? What the hell is this all about now? To me this reads less like a criticism of the game and more like a thinly veiled personal grudge with Mr. Andreas Ronnberg. Does he owe you money? Was your girlfriend cheating on you with him? Did he replace the gallon of milk you use for your Corn Flakes with a gallon of his own urine that you accidentally used and ingested?

  15. dufake says:

    I don’t want to criticize Cry of Fear, because they are not getting paid for this.
    However, I agree that there’re suffering and torture to play this game.
    It’s not for everyone. I got the stomach, but I hate the taste.

    Don’t even mention the train and bus!
    Crouch jump should be a reward for old players but a necessary mean to pass the level.
    I’m not happy after I get out of it. Reminds me a level in Mistake-1 and the challenge levels in Grey.

  16. AngelTear says:

    I hope you realize how very Freudian that joke about “”marrying the puzzle (with the padlock)” is.
    It may be just slightly more disturbing than the game itself.

  17. XCrusherX says:

    I have to say: This “review” doesn’t do the game justice and probably prevents people from installing it that would actually enjoy it very much.

    I agree, the intro sequence isn’t the best and the you-know-what probably the cheapest, most random scare I’ve ever seen in my life. From that moment onward, however, the game is growing. It’s actually closer to Silent Hill than to any Resident Evil. Heck, it’s even more like Silent Hill than the last titles released with that name.
    Apart from the intro sequence I can’t remember much cheap scare jumps, but I do remember an interesting story development (although the conclusion wasn’t as surprising as in titles like Silent Hill 2), many well-designed areas and in general a creepy mood that let’s you expect things everywhere. Most of all it manages to give the horror meaning, something I’ve seen rarely in any horror game or movie. And when that happens you know you played something great.

    It sure has its shortcomings, especially the backtracking can be annoying, but it’s a game made with heart that deserves to be given a chance.

  18. SuicideKing says:

    Cry Fear This 2.

  19. Kein says:

    It was really, really mediocre. Perhaps I was expecting too much from it. In the other hand – I didn’t really like Condemned as a horror either.

  20. Siamese Almeida says:

    Alright, since when is GoldSrc capable of pixel shaders? Look at that water. GoldSrc wasn’t even capable of rudimentary real time reflections, let alone pixel shaded reflections.

  21. IgneousPapyrusBlunderbuss says:

    Is the article’s creator serious in that they didn’t even bother to slightly flick the mouse to the right when prompted to assuming it was a jump scare? Was RPS really that short on finding someone who actually could be bothered to, y’know, play the game and write an assessment on it of some substance whatsoever instead of this overly drawn-out description of the game’s first ten minutes of gameplay?