Atmosphere is a difficult thing to maintain in a videogame. When you’ve got the player, this wilful little nuisance figure doing and going wherever they want, the pace, rhythm, and consistency of whatever you’re trying to create inevitably become unpredictable. A new Steam horror game, created by a single developer, manages to build a rich, dystopian world, and a dark, oppressive mood in just a few minutes. Combining the sci-fi bleakness of Cyberpunk 2077, the classic, fixed-camera style of Resident Evil, and the haunted environments of Silent Hill, this is one of the best demos available at Steam Next Fest, and one you’ll want to play right now.
This is Hollowbody, the work of a solitary developer under the label Headware Games. Set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic United Kingdom, you take the role of Mica, a black market ‘shipper’ whose typical routine involves ferrying illegal goods between the former nation’s isolated boroughs. Something terrible has happened. Cities are protected by enormous concrete walls. A totalitarian government keeps everyone in check. Everything outside the populated areas is considered no man’s land, a barely spoken about exclusion zone overrun by… something. A horror game in the vein of ‘90s and early ‘00s classics, including RE, Silent Hill, Fear Effect, and Parasite Eve, it all goes wrong when Mica crashes into the exclusion zone, while looking for her missing partner.
Chunky plastic computers, malfunctioning CRT screens, and a creepy verisimilitude to late ‘80s Britain make Hollowbody look and feel a bit like Alien Isolation. The game uses tank controls, a pause-screen inventory, and fixed cameras, and takes place – at least in its opening stages – inside an abandoned apartment block. Squint and you might think you’re playing the early part of Silent Hill 2.
But Hollowbody, even in the space of its first demo, quickly carves a style and mood all of its own. There’s a fantastic, stomach-churning dissonance between the everyday terraced houses that you find in British suburbs, and the bizarre, inexplicable oddities that seem to be growing out of them. A “tech-noir survival horror short story, set in the urban decay of a long abandoned British city,” if you want to try Hollowbody, the demo is available right here.