[REC] Shutter ReviewJoe Shaffer
You might've glanced at the score at the bottom, and now think that I'm an unfeeling monster about to unleash a fresh batch of hatred on a game with minimal production values. However, I don't feel so compelled to pump gallons of vitriol into a mindless rant. Rather, my only motive here is to give an honest criticism of the game. Besides, it's not as though I hate free indie horror games.
I'm not going to say that [REC] Shutter is without merit. It starts off like many effective horror stories do: with a terrible idea dreamt up by its central character. Enter the protagonist: a seemingly neurotic individual who's been shaken by a lucid nightmare. Beckoned by the events in his dreams, the protagonist decides to investigate an abandoned asylum, armed with only a camcorder.
In a way, Shutter is like a found-footage video game. You see the environment through the lens of a camera, and can even change filters and turn on night vision. Seriously, it's a neat concept, and it's a surprise--what with all the found-footage horror flicks around--that someone hadn't attempted this approach to survival horror before.
Delving into the asylum is quite an experience. To put it into perspective: the instant I started playing Shutter, I ran across the living room and turned the light off. With as dismal and gritty as the environment was, there was no way in hell I was going to play it in a well lit room and destroy the thick atmosphere the game created. If anything would inspire me to play further installments, even despite the low rating I'm giving this game, it would have to be the atmosphere.
Regardless of the fact that I found myself advancing reluctantly, because I was blissfully terrified to open any of the doors...
Regardless of Shutter's effective beginning...
Regardless of its unique found-footage concept...
...the game just isn't up to scratch in terms of survival horror standards.
For starters, most of the scares in stage one are of the "ooga-booga" variety. Mainly, they consist of visceral shocks and jump scares, but most of them don't stick with you psychologically. I'm not inherently against jump scares, but they're best when used sparingly or even avoided all together.
The most effective kind of scare is one that resonates with the audience, like those used in Silent Hill. Shutter does have a few such frights, but most of them are either overshadowed by simple scares or are so subtle as to be unnoticeable. For instance, near the beginning of the game is a replica of The Last Supper hanging on the wall. It may appear to be a typical painting until you examine it more closely. That's when you see that the table before the apostles is spattered with blood and gore, and a horned demon sits in place of Jesus. Stuff like that might cause you to rethink your investigation of the asylum... Unfortunately, the painting is easy to miss, and it's one of the freakiest things about the game.
Not long after the painting, you happen upon a vent removable cover. A message appears at the bottom of the screen when you attempt to open it:
I'll admit, I'm not the best at using proper punctuation and grammar, but forgetting to capitalize an 'I' or to place an apostrophe in 'I'm' is not an error you want to find in a video game. If it were a single mistake, I could let it slide. However, there are grammatical errors throughout the game's script. It's enough that it cheapens the game's overall effect and makes it feel amateurish. It would have been to the game's benefit to have someone proofread the script before publishing it.
The real kick in the groin doesn't come until you've completed the second stage. Around that time, the game's opening credits kick in, followed by "To Be Continued..."
Yeah, just as you're getting into [REC] Shutter, the rug gets tugged out from beneath you. Never mind that the game is free, the true commodity in life is time. When I play a game, I'm giving up time that I could be spending watching a movie, reading a book, hanging out with my family, or catching up on sleep. When a game pulls something like this, it's difficult not to feel like you've just flushed a chunk of your life down the toilet, even if it is a minuscule chunk.
I don't think I would've be so angered if the game hadn't piqued my interest. Despite its overwhelming flaws, I wanted to see the story play out. I wanted to know how the protagonist was connected to the Hunting Asylum. I had no idea that this was only episode one, as there's no indication that this is anything less than a full game. To have that snatched away is very irritating.
Some people may not understand the value of time. We only have a finite amount of it on this planet, and some of us don't have all of the time in the world. For instance, I work full time and have a toddler. The only time I get to play video games comes at the very end of a busy day, and that's if I have the energy to stay up. As you can probably tell, I'd like to use this time to experience something worthwhile, even if we're only talking twenty minutes. Bottom line: life's too short (and for some, free time is too precious) to play subpar games. [REC] Shutter's rating has nothing to do with the fact that it's an indie title. It has more to do with its quality, which renders it a huge waste of time even at a twenty minute length.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.