Receiver Gives You a Gun, but Terror is Using It Wrong
Instead of creating tension with awful controls, Receiver creates it with realistic ones. The first time you botch an essential, last-second reload and a drone tazes you to death, you’re likely to jump and scream in panic. Your permanent death was all your fumbling fault, which creates a sense of fear games don’t always manage to induce: the fear of whether you’ll actually be able to perform under pressure.
This wouldn’t be especially scary if the game was set in a linear environment, as you could simply memorize the enemy positions. Instead, Receiver asks you to move through procedurally-generated landscapes — which, of course, repeat themselves a lot — that have randomly-placed enemies. Thus, every encounter is a fresh one, and every time you load up the game, it takes on a maze-like quality. You might expect turrets in a house, only to find none. You might round the corner to find five drones floating in front of you. Listening for the telltale sounds of machinery is key to your survival, as is creeping carefully into each unknown area.
While random enemy spawns are only so effective on its own, they take on new life when combined with limited resources and gun handling. Every enemy is a challenge, every shot missed is a bullet you can’t afford to lose, and your goal is to knock enemies out with as efficiently and safely as possible. When you don’t know where they are, and must rely solely on your eyes and ears to avoid your death, the difficulty is ramped up considerably.
Despite the utilitarian graphics (read: no textures) and awkward environments, this feeling of forging through an unknown place that can (and regularly does) kill you permanently is one that very few games manage to capture.
Receiver is one of the first games that makes me truly afraid of the unknown, and for that it is one of the best horror games I’ve ever played. Find it on Steam for $4.99.