By Ashley Ring / September 28th, 2016
|Title||Claire: Extended Cut|
|Developer||Hailstorm Games Inc|
|Publisher||Hailstorm Games Inc|
|Release Date||August 30, 2016|
|Platform||Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Xbox One|
Claire is kind of a special game to me. My wife bought it for me as a gift because she knows how much I love survival horror. It was also the exact kind of survival horror that I was looking for, the kind that puts emphasis on exploration and atmosphere. After playing and reviewing the original PC release, it inspired me to start writing about video games again, and quickly landed me here at Operation Rainfall as my debut review. When I heard Claire was getting an enhanced port, I was really excited to jump right back into it, only two months later, and see what was done with it. Does Claire: Extended Cut improve on the original, and make it an even more enjoyable experience?
Claire is a side-scrolling survival horror game about a young girl named Claire visiting her mother in the hospital. After walking around the hospital looking for some coffee to help her stay awake, her world is quickly turned upside down as she is transported to a hellish version of the hospital she was once in. Throughout her journey, Claire must survive as she is chased by monsters and battles with her own inner struggles and fears. The journey itself is an emotional and intriguing one that is told through cutscenes, notes to read, and even the environments themselves.
In my playthrough of the PC version of Claire I really enjoyed the story, and in the extended cut, I found myself appreciating it even more. This is the kind of story that benefits from multiple playthroughs as not everything will likely be clear the first time through. You may have missed a note, a subtle detail, or just have a better understanding a second time, using the knowledge you gained on the first time through.
In Claire, most of your game time will be spent exploring the beautiful but hellish atmosphere. The environments themselves are exactly what I’ve wanted from a horror game for almost a decade. They’re very dark, claustrophobic and filled with little details that help add to the overall story at hand. Any fan of the older Silent Hill games will feel right at home here. The developers have done some new stuff with the atmosphere in Claire: Extended Cut as well. All of the lighting has been redone using a new engine and looks fantastic, making the atmosphere look even better than it already did originally. The school area in particular stands out as the strongest to me, as the story that the environment had to tell, was particularly interesting, as well as introducing a great new monster type. The excellent sound design also adds a lot to the atmosphere. There are plenty of chilling and eerie ambient tracks that fit the environments, with the ambiance changing into something even more unsettling as monsters begin chasing you as well. During cutscenes, the music is more melancholy, and even somewhat peaceful. A particular favorite track of mine from the games soundtrack is “You’re Safe Now I” which plays during the screen that displays your results once you’ve finished the game.
During your exploration, you’ll run into plenty of monsters that lurk in the hallways, and there are no weapons to protect yourself. You have a dog companion that will growl when a monster is in the same room as you, but your only means of defense are to run away. Occasionally there are hiding spaces that you can take refuge in, which will throw off the monster’s pursuit, and quickly heal Claire’s mental state. The extended cut even features a new monster type that caught me off guard and even confused me at first. It’s a very subtle enemy design as it blends in well with the atmosphere, which kept me more alert to my surroundings.
You’ll need to not only watch Claire’s physical health, but also her mental health. Taking care of her physical health is straightforward. When an enemy attacks you, you lose health, and to restore it you simply use a health item. Claire’s mental health is a bit more complicated. Certain rooms, events, and even monsters will cause mental health to decrease. Some monsters are even non-hostile, but just being around them makes Claire feel uneasy and can have an effect on her mental state. Depending on what difficulty you’re playing on, Claire’s mental health will be directly tied to her physical health. If you let her mental health drop too low, it can get you a game over relatively quickly. To restore mental health, you can either hide in a hiding spot, stand next to a save point, use an item that restores mental health, or stop in a room and let Claire calm down. I really like this system as it adds a lot more to the tension of trying to survive, instead of just running away from enemies for the whole game.
My biggest gripe with the original release revolved around some aspects of the exploration. I didn’t like that bringing up the inventory and map screen would not pause the game, and leave you vulnerable to enemy attacks. Now, in Claire: Extended Cut, when you bring up your inventory or map, the game pauses, leaving you free to use items, or read the map. This change goes a long way, because the levels in Claire are huge, so it’s very easy to get lost when running from enemies. Previously, I would just make a mad dash a few rooms away until no monsters were chasing me, and this often threw off my sense of direction. Now that the map screen pauses the game, I can take a look as to where I’m going. This made exploring Claire: Extended Cut’s beautiful environments much more exciting.
Another gripe I had in the original release was that I felt it was not always clear which way you’re facing on the map. In the original release of Claire, your position on the map was displayed by a white dot on the map. When walking around the environments, you are on a 2D plane, but when viewing the game’s map screen, it’s displayed in a 3D overhead view, and it wasn’t always consistent with what direction pressing left or right would take you in certain rooms on the map. In Claire: Extended Cut, an indicator was added to your current position on the map, displaying what direction you’re facing. This tweak, combined with the pausing while looking through the map, just make for a much more satisfying, exploration based experience.
Just about everything is far improved in Claire: Extended Cut. The only thing I felt that wasn’t really improved was the puzzles. They aren’t difficult, I just don’t find most of them particularly interesting. This hardly hurts the game, as there aren’t that many puzzles in the game, nor is it the focus. There are two puzzles near the end that stand out from the rest, though, and tie well into the game’s overall narrative that I really liked.
Claire: Extended Cut is a much-improved version of an already enjoyable horror game. It’s a short game clocking in at about 3 to 4 hours, but the game has multiple endings and 3 difficulty levels. It’s the kind of game that benefits from multiple playthroughs that make you appreciate all its finer details even more. At a low price of $14.99, it’s hard to go wrong with Claire: Extended Cut. It’s an excellent horror game that filled an old school survival horror void for me. Purchasing the game on Playstation will get you both the Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita version of the game. Fans of the genre, especially fans of Silent Hill should absolutely give Claire: Extended Cut their time.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
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