We’ve all seen them, the creepy ageing amusement parks that make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end just looking at the entrance. Locals have stories to tell about those parks. Strange noises in the middle of the night are usually just the beginning. That is where The Park begins. On a sleepy island off the coast of Maine lies the Atlantic Island Park, somewhere fans of The Secret World are already intimately familiar with. Haven’t played The Secret World? That’s alright, The Park will be just as heart stoppingly terrifying without the previous knowledge and experience. If you’re a fan of jump scares, enjoy psychological horror including Silent Hill or Amnesia: The Dark Descent then The Park is your kind of game.
You play as Lorraine, a mother searching Atlantic Island Park for her son Callum after hours. Lorraine isn’t Mom of the Year material, but she worries for her young son who is somewhere in the park, just out of reach. As you explore deeper and deeper into the park you discover that there is something very wrong with the park itself. Something sinister is going on here.
Calling out to Callum gives you insight into Lorraine’s state of mind, though there are also physical clues as well. You can hear the panic in her voice as tension begins to rise. As she gets more and more scared you can hear her breathing. As you walk through the park you can interact with items. Everything from pieces of paper sitting on a bench to stray items just lying in your path. Not everything will be important to your hunt for Callum, but knowing Funcom there may be details hidden in every item you find. They also give more insight into the park itself.
Finding Callum may be Lorraine’s objective but there is certainly room for story and exploration as well. Which brings me to perhaps the most terrifying part of The Park. All of the rides in The Park are ready for you to take a ride on. Think you’re safe from the terror in a ride out in the open? Think again. The house of horrors plays off your expectations, making you think you’re safe then immediately tossing in a scare.
My guide through The Park was game director Joel Bylos, one member of the very small team responsible for the horror game. The Park had quite humble beginnings, meant to test the Unreal 4 engine to see what it could do. The team picked Atlantic Island Park from The Secret World because it was the right size for a test, not too big as to be complicated but not too small either. It also offered them a bit of a challenge as they worked to make every ride something you could experience. Additionally, though the horror theme park is somewhat of a classic trope it isn’t one that has been explored very much in games. Certainly not with the park being the main focus like it is in The Park rather than just a small part like it has in The Secret World. It also had a lot of back story already, which meant that it was pretty easy for them to come up with an idea for what direction they wanted to take the game and the set up was much easier.
For anyone who is familiar with the park in The Secret World you’ll find that things are familiar but not quite the same. All the rides you know and love are there. New to The Park is the house of horrors and all that you expect inside. The layout isn’t exactly the same. Things have been moved around to make the environment flow a little better. It’s set before The Secret World takes place so don’t expect to find any busy bees running around ready to save the day. You’re on your own out there.
The Park is also something of a test. Not only testing the technology to find out if it’s something that Funcom can use, but also a test of the concept. Can Funcom take a slice out of one of their MMOs and turn it into a full game? If The Park does well we might see other areas of games featured in future games including Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, and yes, even more from The Secret World. Of course, Joel was quick to point out that they don’t have to be horror games and they could be altered to fit the setting they belong in. It would seem that Funcom are indeed impressed by what Unreal 4 can do.
Funcom has fantastic timing as well, The Park is set to launch on October 27th, just in time for Halloween. You can already pre-order it on Steam. If you do and you play The Secret World you will get exclusive items that are only available through purchasing The Park. This includes the killer Chipmunk outfit, which if you’re familiar with The Secret World you know that the park was eventually forced to shut down when a crazed employee wearing a Chipmunk costume stabbed two teenagers to death. Now you can dress up as him for Halloween! So, lock all your doors, turn off the lights, turn up your sound and get ready for an intense two hours as you help Lorraine get her son back. Keep an eye out for The Park on some of your favorite youtube channels, this is sure to be a popular one with the lets play crowds. Check back at MMOGames after the launch for our review and thoughts on the game.
Many thanks to Joel Bylos for taking me on the tour of The Park and answering questions about the game.Related: Developer, Funcom, Horror, The Park, The Secret World