Now available on PC, and coming to consoles June 13, The Greyhill Incident takes place in a small town that resembles the cornfields and all around atmosphere of the town in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs. In fact, there are many comparisons between the two in the most awesome and frightening of ways.
You play as Ryan Baker and are in walkie talkie communication with others around the town who know something strange is afoot at the Circle K (Disclaimer: This is a Bill and Ted quote. There are unfortunately no Circle K convenience stores in the game). You’re all in agreement that the Government is lying and not to be trusted. Which is why you’ve all started this kind of nighttime neighborhood watch together. Things take a dark turn, of course, when the aliens show up and brazenly start abducting folks out of their homes. Including your own son.
You’ll experience the ground zero of an alien takeover of a small rural town in the middle of the night before embarking on tasks such as collecting tin foil to stop the aliens from reading your mind and finding nails to board up windows. Ultimately, you’re trying to find a way to rescue your son from the UFO that abducted him. All the while, attempting to stay hidden from the standard but still all too creepy thin, grey aliens. Which, in the darkness of the night, is not as easy as it may seem. The aliens are hard to spot. But when they spot you? They are just a little bit faster and very hard to shake. You can hide Friday the 13th: The Game style in various cabinets or trash cans but these aliens do not give up easily.
If you haven’t truly shaken them when you hide? Consider yourself abducted.
It’s not all pure horror with The Greyhill Incident, however. There’s a lot of tongue in cheek alien humor in the game as well. Such as finding alien probes all over town and characters looking and sounding like True Detective era Matthew McConaughey on a three day acid bender.
The game is all too aware of alien culture in all the right ways, but it’s also spot on about what’s so scary about it all…
Screaming. Actual screaming. I scared my wife who was peacefully reading on the other side of the living room with my squawks of grown man terror. This is not hyperbole. Full Disclosure: If you haven’t gathered by now, I am un-naturally scared of aliens. So, you may not have the same experience as I did. But I fucking yelped, guys. Sure, the screams were all from jump scares but I was honestly shaken for the first couple of hours I played the game.
The Greyhill Incident, while extremely simple, does an amazing job of tapping directly into my fear of aliens. It’s so dark and foggy and menacingly peaceful in the rural countryside. Then, one of those little bastards spots you. The music disrespectfully kicks on like a knife fight in your brain. You jump. You turn around to run. ALIEN IN YOUR FACE. Walking that damn creepy walk with their arms always flat down on their sides and with the determination of Tom Cruise. Their big, judgy eyes. You turn away. ANOTHER ONE. Like DJ Khaled serving nightmares instead of hits. You try to run but you can’t even see where you are going and have the endurance of a ninety year old who’s been hanging with Snoop Dogg all day. And the aliens are just a smidge faster than you.
They inevitably catch up and I’m not even sure what they do to you (when they get a hold of you, after a moment it just says “You’ve been abducted”) but they‘re all up in your face making the most skin crawling sound I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s so freaky, it’s actually annoying. I screamed SHUT UP like Arnold in Kindergarten Cop while simultaneously ripping out my headphones in fear-based frustration. It’s like a hyped up version of the clicky-clack sound you hear coming from the walkie talkies in Signs.
The good news? You settle into it as it becomes more repetitive (I get caught by the aliens a lot). I stopped screaming like a seven year old at a Taylor Swift concert after the first hour. But there are peripheral scares as well. If you’re like me and haunted by the mere imagery surrounding alien stories then you will appreciate the freaky way a body contorts chest first towards a UFO beaming it from the safety of its home at night. Or the way an abandoned tractor’s lights flash onto a field of skinned cows.
The sharp visual imagery of the cutscenes pairs perfectly with the accurately captured feeling of being alone on a farm at night surrounded by vast darkness. The two dance with glee in the pit of my stomach before….suddenly…..ALIEN IN YOUR FACE.
I’m not much of a gamer in comparison to most. So, in that spirit, this article is more about the fear The Greyhill Incident provides. I’ll leave the critique of the gameplay mechanic nuances to the more qualified. The Greyhill Incident as a whole is very simple and stripped down but that is not to say it’s easy. I had a very hard time with certain aspects that require a lot of trial and error.
The AI of the aliens is extremely smart and there are no loopholes. Very often after you’re “abducted” and sent back to your checkpoint, the aliens will be in completely different places than before, making them very hard to predict. They’ll spot you from quite far away and not give up their chase easily. Others hear the noises from afar and join in. These were some of the smartest villains I’ve ever faced in a video game and it’s infuriating but also challenging and realistic. Admittedly, I do wish there were a few more dynamics thrown in the mix. Once you’ve successfully hidden from the aliens and scooted through a level, it’s kind of a punch in the stomach to realize you have to do it again right away. You have a bat (another Signs tip of the hat) but it is not very effective and must be timed perfectly. You acquire a gun but it’s extremely rare you ever have any ammo. As scary as the aliens popping up was, I do wish the character had more to do throughout.
Ultimately, The Greyhill Incident knows exactly how to frighten the living shit out of those of us afflicted with the fear of aliens. There’s tons of insider jokes for those who aren’t scared but merely interested. Or even those who have just seen a few key alien flicks. It plays a little bit like a Dead by Daylight or Friday the 13th if they were strictly narrative games rather than multiplayer. There’s a fun spirit to the entire production and I’d love to see a more expanded version someday.
If my heart can take it, that is.