Here They Lie Review – A Terrible Lie
Look at it this way… it’s a great game if you’ve swallowed poison and need a makeshift stomach pump.
Developer: Tangentlemen Publisher: Sony Format: PlayStation VR Released: October 13, 2016 Copy provided by publisher
When playing Here They Lie, I do not refer to the PlayStation VR by its official title.
Instead I name it The Sickbox, a torture device worthy of Jigsaw himself. When placed upon the victim’s head, they become progressively more unwell, possessed by an unshakeable biliousness that only worsens with continued, ghastly exposure.
What would ordinarily be a mundane insignificance of a horror game is a true exercise in excruciation thanks to virtual reality. Each chapter closes by ordering players to take a break and the reason will become clear long before the first warning appears – less than ten minutes of Here They Lie is enough to make one queasy for at least an hour afterwards.
Mileage may vary, of course.
Some people possess stronger stomachs, some may not feel the effects of motion sickness at all. Speaking only from personal experience, I can safely say I’ll never attempt to play this game again – I managed as much as I could before things became unbearable, and there’s nothing that could convince me to return.
Fortunately, there’s not a lot to miss with this game, indistinguishable as it is from the scores of similar products found littering Steam and other purveyors of cheap horror fare.
While it’s not quite a walking simulator, Here They Lie nonetheless consists mostly of wandering corridors and watching things happen rather than taking any direct part in events.
Interactivity is limited. Doors may be opened, a flashlight – complete with an obligatory short battery life – may be switched on, and the occasional document may be read. Anything more involved is heavily scripted and will occur automatically at the press of a button.
Monsters sometimes appear in the murky alleys and tunnels of wherever the hell this game’s set, and they’re avoided using the most rudimentary “stealth” gameplay I’ve ever witnessed. Bereft even of a crouch command, you literally just need to make sure the monsters aren’t looking at you as you walk on by.
Enemies… if we can even call them that… are beyond stupid, twitching and moaning merrily to themselves as you breeze right past them or even shine flashlights directly at their idiotic heads. If you do happen to get spotted, you can just sprint for a little while and they’ll soon get bored.
To its credit, Here They Lie does contain some fascinatingly disturbing imagery here and there.
After an overwhelmingly boring opening chapter, players soon find themselves in a dark and grimy city populated by unhinged humanoids who wear animal heads over their own. Their bizarre behavior – often violent, sometimes grimly sexual – is intriguing and unsettling. There are certainly some encounters that will stick with you.
I think it’s safe to say this is the only game in which you can see a man wearing a hyena’s head have sex with a CRT television, at the very least.
Remarkable though these visuals may be, they’re undermined by how ugly the game is. There’s hardly any color, everything appearing grey and washed out. While this is clearly a stylistic choice, the lack of definition between characters, objects, and environmental details means everything bleeds into each other to create a pallid visual soup.
Restricting the color palette of a game can make a strong artistic statement, but only if it’s bold enough. By simply splooging an ashen paste over everything, Here They Lie makes no such statement. It just looks like garbage.
If there’s any anti-aliasing in Here They Lie, it’s not bloody evident. Characters and items appear jaggy to the point of indistinguishable from even moderate distances, to the point where I’d almost swear I’m looking at a badly upscaled 3DS game.
Textures pop in and out with almost mocking obviousness. I’m yet to see a character’s feet connect with the floor instead of hovering at least a few inches above it. The developers seem to be ignorant of how jarring it is when doors, arms, and items are shoved right up against a virtual reality camera – it happens a lot, and the player’s eyes pay the nasty price every time.
From horrible collision detection to screwball physics, Here They Lie is an aesthetic dumpster fire.
Sound design doesn’t help matters either. Monsters and NPCs sound silly rather than scary, while semi-regular instances of voice acting is amateur to the point of cringe-inducing. For the most part, the game lacks ambient noise – it sounds as dull and lifeless as it is to play.
A DualShock 4 is required to navigate the world, and while it can be played with traditional first-person navigation, the default setting is a bizarre “drive mode” that requires head motions to awkwardly steer.
Rather than turning the player smoothly, the right stick is used to “blink” from one position to the next, turning the player automatically in fractions after a brief fade to black.
This may be a futile attempt to reduce sickness, but the only effect it has is making the whole thing feel like a cheap mobile adventure game. It’s weird and offputting, not to mention inconvenient when trying to turn corners in a hurry. The simple act of wheeling 180 degrees requires several pushes of the right stick with brief wait periods in between.
There are moments when Here They Lie can be spooky, but this is only because it’s a horror game in virtual reality. Even really bad horror games can manage to be scary in VR, but that’s a testament to the technology rather than the game itself. This mediocre effort coasts off the immersion factor to produce some cheap thrills from its otherwise banal gimmicks.
Here They Lie is, to be quite diplomatic, a completely rubbish horror game – a slow paced, miserable, hollow little trudge through a world that makes very little effort to engage its player.
And this before factoring in my inability to play it for more than a few minutes at a time.
While it’s not uncommon for virtual reality games to induce motion sickness when requiring a traditional controller, this is by far the worst experience I’ve had to date. It also stands in stark contrast to RIGS – a game with a similar DualShock 4 reliance that I was able to play without feeling like I needed to vomit.
Here They Lie smacks of cynicism – a game designed with the knowledge that horror works really well in VR, without anybody involved knowing how VR games should operate. It’s distinctly unpleasant to play, and I fear it’ll be only one of many horror games that pull the same stunt as virtual reality continues to hold sway.
I was looking forward to this game. Its announcement trailer was enthralling and I’d been hoping to feel terrified with some up-close, personal monstrosities.
Instead I just felt really, really bad, and the fact I’ll never play it again makes me indescribably happy.