Just recently, a demo was released for the new Indie Horror game Beware. Looking at some of the information about it, I was initially excited to play this game, and for good reason. The promise of a survival driving game that captures the feeling of isolation of a lonely drive, mixed with the terror of fleeing unimaginable terrifying entities, was something that I found myself excited to engage in. However, the demo for this game leaves a lot to be desired, even for an early demo.
In Beware, you spend all of your time behind the wheel of a car, driving along and attempting to survive. Surviving is a tried and true objective that the majority of horror games choose as their centerpiece, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. In the case of this game however, it left a bitter taste in my mouth that leaves me less-than optimistic at what the future holds for this title.
The first glaring issue with this title is arguably the scariest part of it: aggressive motion blur that you cannot disable. I wish to spare our readers some eye strain, so I am not going to post a video of me struggling to keep my cornea in one piece while steering this. Instead, have an image from the download page of the game and use your wonderful imagination to guess what this mess of brown looks like with terrible motion blur:
As you can see, it certainly does not conjure images of terror so much as it conjures images of trying to drive home after a few too many drinks. You could be forgiven for assuming that this game takes place during some kind of intense dust storm based on the dark brown overlay that seems to coat everything in a visually unappealing dirt color. Sure, it is ugly, and sure, a lot of horror games use the concept of ugliness to great effect. The issue is that in the case of Beware, the ugliness is not used in a scary way, rather it is used in a way that makes the game difficult to play for any prolonged period without a strong desire to turn it off. Visual design is hard, but there is no excuse to copy the brown = realism trend that Hollywood tried so hard to push on the world.
Now to move onto the positive: the game does decently capture the loneliness of driving alone and the paranoia that builds in such a scenario. You can tell the developers are trying and somewhat succeeding in building a specific type of atmosphere in the world of Beware, but it falls flat with the janky camera and uninspired visual design. Understandably, Indie games are always small budget, so the fact many of the textures in the game are lackluster is no surprise. However, the bigger issue is that the team behind Beware is not making effective use of the textures at their disposal. A personal theory of mine is the color correction is some attempt by them to hide the low-res textures in the game, but all it does is highlight the glaring inadequacies that the game has compared to its other Indie peers.
I am not saying that Beware lacks the potential to be great, on the contrary it has a interesting premise and it was the uniqueness of the idea that led me to want to check this game out in the first place. The developers just need to be aware of what does and does not enhance the gaming experience. They seem too caught up in making the game cinematic without considering how it will actually look and feel while playing.
Driving in Beware is headache inducing, and for that reason I highly expect that many people with sensitive eyes may find trouble even playing it long enough to get to any scares. This is a major issue that needs reworking if the developers wish to have any hope of delivering an experience that gamers will enjoy.
The demo is still early and the team has the potential to slam on the brakes, throw things in reverse and pick a better path. I hope they can manage to do that, otherwise Beware is sure to spin out and end up in the metaphorical roadside ditch occupied by so many other Indie games with wasted potential.
If you wish to play the demo for yourself, it can be found here.