Visage throws players into a brutal cold open with a murder-suicide from the perspective of the shooter. For some, this introduction will rub them the wrong way. Of course, it could be because of how horrific and triggering the scene may be. If players are like me, they might feel like the introduction is priming them for an edgy horror game. Fortunately, Visage isn’t at all edgy, it’s absolutely terrifying.
After the opening scene, players are thrown into a house, free to explore it at their own pace. SadSquare Studio does a fantastic job of building the tension. The game is played from a first-person perspective. There isn’t much to do in the early game besides walk around and interact with doors and other objects. Before long though, players will have access to consumables that will help them survive.
As players explore the house, they will get to know what has happened to the previous inhabitants. The game is divided into multiple chapters that each focus on individual characters. The chapters will take players outside of the house occasionally. This gives the game a satisfying sense of progression while also mixing it up. While some other characters can be somewhat explored, the majority of the game takes place in the house.
Like older Resident Evil horror games, players will do tons of backtracking through the house. What’s so impressive about Visage is how it’s always tense, no matter how many times you walk through a hallway or room. Visage uses a sanity mechanism that acts as a pseudo health gauge. Supernatural events will occur throughout the house, and witnessing them will negatively affect the character’s sanity. As their sanity declines, players will witness increasingly horrific events. If things get too bad, they will be killed by super spooky apparitions. It’s a neat way to build horror while also keeping everything believable from a lore perspective. Few horror games tie the gameplay and story so well, but Visage nails it.
Visage looks fantastic. The game is clearly inspired by the fantastic PT demo, and it successfully pays tribute tastefully. The graphical style shares the same realism that Kojima’s former project boasted. The house is full of detail, and players can often put stories together just by looking at the state of the rooms and the furniture that fill them. PT slowly builds its horror, and Visage does the same thing on a much larger scale. Lights will flicker, clocks will go off, and the house will constantly creak. The random sounds and visual cues are used effectively, and will constantly make players jump.
The constant feeling of dread throughout the game is marred by an awful inventory system. The management is fine enough but will frustrate those who aren’t familiar with classic horror games like Resident Evil. Players can only hold five consumable items at once, leading to constant decision making that breaks up the tension. Making use of the items is even worse. If a player wants to use, store, or discard items, they might find it difficult to do. The controls get wonky if there is an object that can be interacted with in front of the player. It’s all messy and can lead to unintended, sometimes frustrating consequences.
Despite the few inconveniences, Visage is stellar. It’s genuinely one of the scariest games to come out of this generation, and it does so through tension and effective storytelling. Visage isn’t for the faint of heart. Still, it’s perfect for those like myself who have been constantly looking for a truly terrifying horror game for years.
Visage is one of the scariest games of the generation. It's a fantastic way to conclude 2020, but only if you are brave enough to explore these halls.