Forget Dino Crisis, Haunting Ground Is The Remake Capcom Needs To Do Next
Resident Evil remakes are a dime a dozen these days. After the massive success of Leon and Claire’s debut adventure with the revival of RE2, Capcom saw the potential of the golden vein it was diligently picking away at. Resident Evil 3 has also been done, and a rumoured remake of the fourth instalment is said to be in the works. That’s a lot of remakes in not a lot of time.
Capcom is showing no signs of cutting the brakes on when it comes to remakes, so I thought it would be fun to consider the properties that deserve more love in the modern gaming landscape. That’s why it’s time to talk about Haunting Ground. It was doing the whole ‘can you pet the dog thing’ years before it became a meme marketing tactic, and for that we stan.
Haunting Ground was released for the PS2 in April 2005, a time period that many would consider the twilight years for Sony’s console. PS3 was right around the corner and the Xbox 360 was preparing to dominate, so more experimental games like this unfortunately got left by the wayside. It’s a crying shame, since Haunting Ground is a beautifully unique take on survival horror that makes you feel truly vulnerable in a genre that was starting to gear towards action.
You play as Fiona Bell, a young woman who awakens inside a filthy medieval dungeon after being knocked unconscious in a car accident. The college student is now forced to face the unknown, stepping out of the awful basement to face the horrifying manor that awaits her. She also needs to find some clothes, because in typical fashion, she awakens with little more than a towel to maintain her modesty.
The sexualisation in Haunting Ground is a little on the gross side, and critics pointed out as much in reviews at the time, so I hope things are more tasteful if a remake ever comes to pass. Fiona is a carrier of Azoth, a precious alchemic element that the owners of this spooky castle are eager to procure. Its method of extraction is more than a little gruesome, so Fiona must desperately avoid a series of horrific villains before her body is zapped of its resources and thrown aside. The more controversial aspects of Haunting Ground could be ironed out in a remake, making it more palatable to a modern audience in the process.
But why do I want a remake? Well, right now it’s impossible to play Haunting Ground unless you’re naughty and install an emulator or purchase a boxed copy for a silly amount of money online. Beyond this, new players will struggle to experience one of Capcom’s most original survival horror outings. Intended as a spiritual successor to the Clock Tower franchise, Haunting Ground has a similar atmosphere of helplessness.
Fiona has no weapons, no armour and sprints away from murderous monsters in a manner I would describe as a leisurely jog. They’re going to kill us,please get a move on! But it’s this lack of defending yourself that made Haunting Ground excel, taking the puzzles and exploration of Clock Tower and combining it with an everlasting sense of dread. The act of exploration is quiet and eerie, with each new room drenched in morbid history and abundant secrets to uncover.
Our heroine simply wants to escape, but the circumstances behind her capture become too alluring, drawing her deeper into a conspiracy when the logical course of action would be to break a window and run for the hills. It has all the tropes of a slasher film with the subtle tone of Robert Eggers’ The Witch. You just know that something isn’t quite right in the opening moments, waiting for the penny to drop and unveil exactly what’s going on.
Then there’s Fiona’s dog – Hewie. Fun fact, he was added into the game because Capcom wasn’t convinced a female protagonist in a horror game would appeal to a mass audience. Hewie is capable of attacking enemies and distracting them so Fiona can flee and hide, dynamically reacting to each encounter in a way that felt ahead of its time in 2005. This mechanic could be expanded massively in a remake, acting as a core foundation for much of the game’s horror.
Despite being able to attack foes, Hewie will be overpowered, acting as nothing more than a temporary respite from the horrors that stalk the halls. Even if Haunting Ground’s oversexualised lead feels dated, the game still possesses so many qualities that would shine in a remake. Survival horror as a genre is beginning to embrace slower, more introspective scares with titles such as Devotion and Amnesia Rebirth, so it would serve Capcom well to highlight a forgotten gem which is about far more than murdering zombies and cheesy dialogue.
I’m still trepidatious about the continued revival of Resident Evil titles which remain exceptional in their original form, and it feels like Capcom is now just ticking off the boxes so all of its main entries are remodeled for a new audience. Haunting Ground would be something different, something that would explore the horror genre in a way that simply isn’t done like this anymore. Silent Hills got cancelled, so perhaps this could be the next best thing.
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Jade King is one of the Features Editors for TheGamer. Previously head of gaming content over at Trusted Reviews, she can be found talking about games, anime and retweeting Catradora fanart @KonaYMA6.
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