Hands-On With Slender: The Arrival, A Glorious Return For The King
I’m sure that most gamers know about Mark Hadley’s famous Slender game, and the incredible impact it has had on the gaming industry and horror genre. Now, after all the Slender-inspired titles have had their say, Mark Hadley’s Parsec Productions together with Blue Isle Studios have finally unleashed the beta for the highly anticipated return of the king, Slender: The Arrival, which will be a full game based on the Slender Man legends. Just yesterday the game was made available for pre-order on the official website where you’ll get a 50% discount, instant access to the beta and the right to receive the full game when it releases next month in March. Yep, R45 is all it takes, which is a steal.
Naturally, I placed my pre-order for the game yesterday and true to word I immediately got my download link. This is one of my most anticipated titles for the entire year, and I was really excited to play it. I knew that the beta would be a remake of the classic Slender game, which is actually a part of the full campaign, as it has story significance. However, I was totally blown away when I discovered that Alex Tintor, a game designer at Blue Isle Studios, seriously meant it when he said that the original game’s experience had been “entirely redone” in The Arrival. And it’s bigger and better than ever before.
The first thing to talk about would naturally be the graphics, and I’m happy to say that The Arrival looks absolutely incredible. It comes packed with an impressive range of graphical tweaks, including more advanced options like reflections, depth of field, bloom, SSAO, anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing. The forest has been entirely recreated and re-imagined with new landmarks and a new layout. The developers deserve enormous credit for recreating The Eight Pages in a way that feels completely fresh, and the attention to detail is just stunning. I actually died the first time I played, after collecting just one or two pages, because I was too busy admiring the scenery, visual effects and atmosphere. Speaking of, the atmosphere is simply amazing, and wonderfully immerses you into the experience. Trees rustle in the wind, footsteps echo around you, the sound is oppressive, the soft glow and illumination from your flashlight is really great to see in action, and the old repetitive static has been replaced with awesome visual distortions and crazy effects that work infinitely better to frighten you.
The only little nitpick I have is that the classic thumping sound after collecting one page is way too soft, and it doesn’t feel as overbearing and nerve-wrecking as before. Fortunately, all the new scares, the wonderful atmosphere and of course Slender Man himself more than make up for it, but I really think it needs to be louder. Secondly, there’s a crosshair in the game and it would be nice to have the option to turn it off, because for me it can hurt the immersion a bit. I guess you can justify it as being part of the really cool video camera interface the game has, but I’d prefer not having it. That said, I think the video camera interface has been done extremely well, and I can’t recall any other games that have made it this great an asset for creating atmosphere. It’s not intrusive, it enhances the visual experience when the screen distortions occur, and it’s a nice touch to see your character’s shadow holding the video camera and flash light. All in all, the beta has definitely convinced me that Slender: The Arrival will be a fantastic audio and visual experience and it really has been incredibly well crafted.
Slender Man’s mechanics have been reworked, and it’s definitely been for the better. He now has more of an active presence, and the only way I can describe it is that he truly torments you. While he still stands tall and menacing when you look at him, a mere flick of your mouse or him getting blocked by a tree can cause him to disappear in a second. In the original Slender game, sometimes I went on to collect four pages before I even caught a bit of static, but here in the multiple playthroughs I made, by two I was already getting paid frequent visits. Of course each playthrough will be different for each player, but it was great to see him more often than not. Visually, his model is fantastically well-detailed, and he’s creepy as hell, more so than he’s ever been in any Slender game I’ve played. He is freakishly tall and overbearing, and unlike before, he really does make you feel small and pathetic, which is great for the horror experience. The artists and sound designers have just nailed his appearances, and the only thing needed for me to get it even better would be an increase in volume. I’ve never really been a fan of the Slender death screen personally as I always felt it lacked punctuation or a reason to be terrified that you’re caught, and sadly it’s still the same here. But, I did find it really awesome that Slender Man sprouts tentacles when you’re close to getting caught, and it looks genuinely intimidating.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about the gameplay because the beta is still the classic Slender experience at heart, so most would be familiar with it. However, I’m happy to see that one of the main issues I had with the original has been completely addressed, and that’s the sprint mechanic. I’ve always felt that running out of sprint too easily does far more to frustrate than create tension, because it’s scarier to run from something and think you’ve gotten away rather than get increasingly irritated over the fact that your character won’t run and getting around becomes tedious as a result. In The Arrival, your sprint is far less limited, and you can really cover ground without hassle. True to what I believed, I had an exciting and phenomenal time running from Slender Man like my pants was on fire only to turn around and find him right in my face. It’s exhilarating stuff, especially when he appears multiple times around you, and being able to actually run makes it much better. Getting around has also been much improved, because the landmarks stick out more as things are more differentiated and unique, there are active maps to give you an idea of the layout and barely anything looks the same, which is excellent. It’s easy to see the talent the designers and artists have from just playing the beta, so I really can’t wait to see what kind of scenarios and gameplay the complete experience will bring.
Slender: The Arrival is definitely meeting its expectations so far if the beta is anything to go on, and it’s really looking like it will be the stellar addition to the horror genre and Slender Man legend that fans are hoping for. Only the full game will be able to confirm that, but right now I’m very excited for it after what I’ve played. Purely as an audio and visual experience, The Arrival is nothing short of incredible, and if this level of quality is present throughout the full game, horror nuts like myself are surely in for a spectacular treat. If you liked the original Slender, or any games like it for that matter, or if you’re simply a horror fan, then this comes with the highest recommendation, especially considering that it’s going at a 50% discount. It may just be the beta, but it feels like the king is back, and it’s a glorious return.