Greyhill Incident is a survival horror game featuring little green (or grey) men that – on paper – should go down an absolute treat.
It’s a genre that all too often leans into the popular zombie apocalypse, leaving many other horror creatures sitting on the bench. Taking those visitors from another planet, giving us a small town America setting and a 90’s time period should be the makings for an absolute banger of a title.
I am terrified of Greys. These are the typical looking aliens most people will draw when asked to do so; grey slender bodies and shiny big black eyes. Sure, in the likes of South Park, the Greys are harmless looking enough, and yes, the Xenomorph in the Alien franchise looks like sheer death, but these little grey aliens are the ones I can guarantee in reality I would freeze up against.
You may ask yourself why this is dear reader. As a kid I had a recurring dream, I’d say recurring nightmare actually. Alone in the house I grew up in, I would get out of my bed and just sense the Grey aliens were all around. Heading down the stairs seeing that the front door was wide open, I would head outside knowing I was being slowly pursued. I would wake up covered in sweat, attempting to scream, and somehow I still couldn’t make any sound. This happened over and over again as a child in the exact same sequence of events; terrifying to even recall just now.
So, it may be through sheer bravery or stupidity that I decided to take on Greyhill Incident, what with the main threat in the game being those little space invaders from my nightmares.
Greyhill Incident begins with a series of phone calls discussing suspicious and unexplained activity around town. Most agree with the fact that the cops and government can’t be told about the goings on at Greyhill in case they get locked up. You then begin as Ryan Baker in his home, when suddenly some strange things start to go on outside the house.
Playing via a first person perspective has become more than viable in the survival horror genre, mostly since the wonderful Resident Evil 7: biohazard brought us scares aplenty. Greyhill Incident chooses this viewpoint which should bring about the scares through a more up close and personal angle. The only thing is, Resident Evil 7 looks amazing to this day, making the horror in that game even more terrifying. Greyhill Incident, while being a smaller title than Capcom’s AAA behemoth, does not raise or even meet the bar of looks and polish.
Now, you might just be reading this thinking wondering if you can actually compare Greyhill Incident to Resident Evil, the blockbuster juggernaut of survival horror. And you would be mostly correct. It is unfair to compare the two due to the pedigree, but Resi 7 has been around for years already so it feels absolutely valid to look upon it as a comparison piece. Sadly, Greyhill Incident doesn’t even come close to that game.
Greyhill Incident is not a lengthy title, running at approximately three hours or so in length, maybe less if you want to get through the story. That feels extremely short for a game that has so much promise in a relatively untapped horror trope. I could have finished the game quicker had things been a bit clearer when trying to progress. For instance, heading back to Ryan Baker in his house, and not one on-screen prompt or marker will tell you what to do.
It is true that in survival horror it is the fear of the unknown that can be used effectively in ramping up the tension. In Greyhill Incident it leads more to frustration. More than once, with no sense of how to progress, I resorted to trial and error; randomly heading in every direction until I stumbled across the next area I was supposed to be in. What makes this minimalistic approach work normally is superb level design and subtle environmental hints, but Greyhill Incident fails here.
Tension is definitely present as Ryan’s default walking speed is painfully slow while the pursuing aliens are quite nimble. As you would expect, this leads to one or two game over screens. Stealth mechanics are a mixed bag, either working too well when ducking hides you from an alien two feet away or – on the flip – aliens sighting you halfway across a field. It’s very frustrating and unbalanced, combining with a lack of direction besides the pause screen’s brief instruction and the occasional lamp to point the right way.
Darkness can also be used effectively in horror titles to raise tension further. But in Greyhill Incident, it is simply too dark. Raising the gamma to its fullest is usually done to make these types of games less scary, but here it is required just to be able to see a bit better. Even with the setting raised to the max, it is difficult to make out things the majority of the time. This becomes most frustrating when exploring in town, trying to see how to get into buildings or where to go next. Even finding a caravan early on is more difficult than it should be.
And then we get to the audio. “I know how to shoot because of the Vietnam War, and you can handle a baseball bat” is one of the stiffest lines of dialogue throughout the game. Voice acting is also a low point and the delivery and timing of the lines are really not great. Cheesiness is all fine and well, but this is another unintentional sloppy part of the experience. In fact, the sound design as a whole is bad, with deafening footsteps and voice lines being cut off when not looking directly at the character who is speaking to Ryan.
Talking of the baseball bat and shooting, you can indeed take on the space invaders using both of these. The gun is far more effective but ammo is limited, while the baseball bat can also take down an alien now and then if used quickly and efficiently. Some tweaking to the weapons could have made for a better time all round, as running away doesn’t work as much as it should due to the almost instantly decreasing stamina bar.
Greyhill Incident feels like an unfortunate swing and a miss at a hugely underused slice of horror. Using Greys as a threat should make for a rather tense and scary alien abduction experience, but whilst Greyhill Incident is indeed horrific, sadly it is done so in all the wrong ways.