[As Read on GIO.]
[Titled: 28 Days Later]
Aka “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Review Blog”
An Opening Note: Pardon my pun(nage) with the title, but I seriously just could not resist the temptation. Either way, I can assure you that today’s blog/review, much like the near-cult status movie, will be a pretty nice thrill ride and hit. Today’s blog is in fact actually a review, but is posted as the blog of the day because I will also hopefully be writing a second review for the day, and I did not want to break any hallowed “one blog, one review” rules. Namely, the fact that posting multiple reviews within such short proximity usually entices further glitches from the site, and I would rather avoid that if at all possible. Therefore, I have written this as so, for that reason. Also, I wanted to do a review, seeing as it’s been a while since I last posted one. And I didn’t honestly have many blog ideas of much merit for the day, as I am saving the last few “big ones” for a little special something later on… Despite only having two days left. Just bear with me, please. We shall make it eventually… Now, without further rambling, allow me to lead you back to the world of Amnesia, a little later on than our previous encounter…
Amnesia: The Dark Descent released to widespread critical acclaim late 2010, early 2011, nearly three years ago to the day. While maintaining many of the similar aspects of the Penumbra series and first Amnesia game developed by Frictional Games, A Machine for Pigs enters a new developer and a new setting. The Chinese Room is not necessarily a new developer, however they are relatively new to the genre, and to the Amnesia universe. The sequel is also a moody and atmospherically cerebral experience, as well as a prime example of the now popularized fight/flee first-person survival horror genre. Other such recently or near-recently released games of note include Penumbra: Black Plague and Outlast, to name a few similar titles. While it doesn’t seem as if you will spend quite as much time as The Dark Descent spent roaming through halls with only a dim light to keep you from stumbling into monstrosities and inhuman horrors, A Machine for Pigs adds in its own enigmatic enemies, its own new terrors in the night, and many new things that go bump, squish, and squawk.
The story is a little different this time around, but that’s not necessarily an inherently bad thing, as others would have you believe. It might not truly be a direct sequel so much as a spiritual successor, but the fact that it is most definitely still Amnesia remains unchanged. The natural and unnatural environments, the recordings and paperwork scattered throughout the world, and the pictures, machinery, and other odd trinkets all tell a fraction of the story- and you could very well miss some of it if you aren’t perceptive, or careful enough. This time around, instead of being relatively limited to the gloomy castle and catacomb setting of before, you find yourself in an expansive industrial setting within a great factory and the surrounding area. The story feels a bit more linear this time around, whereas before you had some true sense of amnesia and not always knowing exactly what was going on. It still impresses me, and is not entirely a one-shot linear path, but definitely not the non-linear and relatively unscripted sequence of events that The Dark Descent was… As you explore nooks and crannies of the factory and the areas nearby, you will see the story rapidly unfold along a somewhat unexpected path, although in some instances the major reveal can be anticipated well in advance- after all, this is a horror title.
Warning: Piglet may or may not have been harmed in the making of this game…
A Machine for Pigs is even more of a cerebral experience than its predecessor, mainly in that it builds upon the foundation many of us know to be there, and doesn’t have to utilize as many monsters as scares, but instead adds sounds and scuffles to ruffle our feathers. Noted, the previous game did not oversaturate things with as many monsters as possible, like it was a zombie apocalypse or something, but even still- A Machine for Pigs has markedly less encounters than its older brother, for better or for worse. There are still quite a few sequences in which you will be tasked with fleeing for your life and cowering in some dark corner or recess as that one particular ghoul stalks you through a meat processing assembly line. They are still there, and they are still terrifying, however, these open encounters occur far less often, which is a saving grace in some ways for our sanity at the least. As with the more linear storyline however, it seems as if many of these so-called “open” segments have been linearly incorporated into the story as well, instead of randomly generated within a set of parameters. I’m all for either path, however it is nice to see a little differentiation between playthroughs, as is my personal preference generally. The monsters and abominations still look and sound terrifying and formidable, however, they seem watered down because of their less remarkable antics and scheming…
On the topic of story, there seems to (intentionally or unintentionally) be a tremendous amount of metaphorical and metaphysical figurative language present throughout A Machine for Pigs’ gameplay. After all, the very setting itself shouts immediately “bloody murder” and “stick it to the man” in that it essentially demonizes the whole of the industrial revolution for the ill that it inflicted upon the world- however, constantly ignoring the good factors that became of it in turn. Whether it be sabotaging some immense machine or mechanical behemoth in order to “stop the madness” and “stick it to the man”, or the simple looks and layout of the factory and machinery respectably. I mean, surely you can’t tell em you thought this place was completely benign and perfectly acceptable? No factory I’ve ever seen looks like this one, no matter how bad conditions are or how many people have been injured there. The entire setting screams overbearingly of malpractice, malevolence, and malice, and does not do so so innocently as the haunting, brooding of the previous game’s design. There is nothing particularly innocent about this place, and I think that is the aim that The Chinese Room was going for- although I think they may have succeeded a bit more than they intended, and given rise to what should only be bait for environmentally friendly and savvy folks out there, whether they meant to or not.
Once more, your light source- a lantern again, is of great importance throughout your quest for escape from this hellish nightmare become reality, and will become your greatest and staunchest ally as the camera from Outlast will. Tension, terror, and safety all take turns in the spotlight- literally, in most cases, as you travel the darkened, bloodied hallways. Collecting oil, tinder, and searching for the needed and necessary materials to continue your quest were once tense and much-needed parts, as they were essential to your survival- however, the scare is not as real as before in that your lantern is more powerful and more reliable with the times, and contains an infinite supply of oil and kindling, unlike that of the faint and flimsy lantern from before. The lantern will now flicker unexpectedly in an enemy’s presence, however, this so-called scare tactic actually becomes a reliable and quite helpful radar-like mechanic as the game progresses, helping you to avoid your oncoming foes even in the darkest gloom. You will still be unexpectedly ambushed from time to time, scripted and unscripted encounters included, however, the majority of the true scare has been watered down this way, sadly enough.
Excuse me, have you seen the butcher lately? Oh my-
Much like The Chinese Room’s other semi-recent release, Dear Esther, A Machine for Pigs bleeds bloody atmosphere, and breathes captivating and dark environments. However, the story seems to be played a little too closely to the chest for the majority of its length, and is quite a lot more linear than the previous interpretation. If you played through the first game, then some of this one’s scares may e lost on you, however, I at times still found myself slightly nervous and anxious as to what would befall me and my character next… Beware, the sequel is still noticeably solid and scary, and not for the fainter of heart. It might not entirely live up to the level set by the original, but it does a good job continuing the sordid story and stellar atmosphere.
Concept: Tell another moody and atmospheric story about terror, tremors, and horrors of the factorial industrial period.
Graphics: When it gets dark, pull out your lantern, because otherwise there is nothing much to be seen. When the lantern comes out however, it gets beautifully dark as can be.
Sound: Between the rip roaring of machinery and the screaming and howling of monsters, you’ll have your hands full with disseminating and distinguishing between what can hurt you and what can’t. It’s all terrifying however, and quite unexpected.
Playability: Choosing between using a keyboard or a controller makes this experience easier on more players, but I would definitely prefer the classic layout of the original, and played through with that choice set-up.
Entertainment: A truly scary and thought-provoking experience, as the first was. Not necessarily a step up, but not a giant step down either.
Replay Value: Moderate.
Overall Score: 8.25