You are never alone in the irradiated woods of Chernobyl. The Huntress, a vile and twisted killer who devours little girls, stalks our every step as we creep through the decaying forest, over corpses of dead animals and through long-forgotten huts. We’re no match for this killer. To open the gates and escape, we need to fix generators dotted around the woods, and we’ve managed to repair just one, barely escaping with our lives. Huddled up in the ruins of an old sodden stone house and with nothing to show for our efforts, we take a vote. The decision is made: I will be the human meat shield.
The group split up, and I’m left to face The Huntress. The plan is simple, my friends will fix the generators as the killer tries to pick them off. I’ll draw her away, distract her. If she is chasing me, she can’t be killing anyone else. So when I see The Huntress gearing up for an attack, I do the only thing I can and throw myself in front of her. With no weapons or defenses, I’m not making it out of the woods.
She makes gruesomely short work of me, and the person I sacrifice myself for ends up dying anyway. But two people make it out of the red forest, so I’m claiming that as a win for Dead By Daylight’s meat shield strategy.
Dead by Daylight is one of a new wave of asymmetric horror games that see a group of survivors face off against one super-powered player. This power imbalance creates tense, unscripted set-pieces, but, you can also find strange moments of calm. While I’m being cut to ribbons by the Huntress, every other player on my team knows they’re safe. After all, there’s only one murderer in the woods, and she’s occupied.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space does away with that murderous sanctuary: it’s not got one killer, but three. Sadly, it seems that my expertise as a meat shield will no longer be needed.
Killer Klowns is set in the quaint town of Cresent Cove. Well, it was quaint before a bunch of grotesque alien klowns came down to Earth from the depths of space to wreak havoc. It’s a hide-and-seek horror game, with seven surviving townsfolk fighting their way through the abandoned streets of their hometown pursued by three murderous aliens.
There are a couple of ways to beat the klowns. Either you go for gold and attack right at the heart of the extraterrestrial jesters’ lair, their big top spaceship, or you abandon the town to its fate and try and make an escape.
On paper, this set-up is similar to Dead By Daylight, Friday The 13th, and other asymmetric horror games. But the tension in Killer Klowns has been cranked up by adding two more killers to the mix. “You are never safe,” creative director Luis Daniel Zambrano tells us. “Even when you should feel safe because you see the killer down the road cocooning one of your peers, you can always be surprised by another clever Klown right behind you”.
To make matters worse, the klowns can teleport anywhere on the map they’ve visited before. Walking through the abandoned houses of Cresent Cove may seem safe when all three killers have been spotted in the woods on the other side of the map, right up until you look out the window into the street, only to see a murderous smile and red nose pressed up against the glass.
These superpowers strip away the survivors’ ability to have “control of what happens,” Zambrano says. “Tension management” is up to the aliens now. It forces the survivors to adapt and play a horror game that is truly being orchestrated by their enemy.
It’s not all doom and gloom, there are ways for the survivors to fight back. For a start, klowns are encouraged to “savour the kill,” Zambrano says, by wrapping a survivor in a cocoon and dragging them back to the spaceship to be harvested. But this is a chance for brave survivors to disrupt the process and free their friends. Instead of a meat shield, you can be a meat saviour.
The seven survivors play with a collective pool of 25 lives, so when one character bites the dust, you can respawn as another townsperson to prolong the pain. This won’t only affect the difficulty of Killer Klowns but will hopefully alleviate some of the stress at the beginning of the game. An early death doesn’t mean you’re out for good.
The trade-off for a stress-free start will be an ending more tightly-packed with suspense than a clown car. Your lives will be running out; the klowns will have explored more of the map, growing their teleport reach; your sabotage of their spaceship may be achingly close to success – or a hair from failure.
With all of this up for offer, I can live without my status as the team's meat shield. I’d rather be faced with a game that is going to make me jump out of my seat in excitement and anticipation than constantly using my body as a less effective forcefield. Maybe it’s even time for a career change and a fresh start. I always thought I was funny enough to be a klown.
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Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.