A few years ago, Resident Evil 7 successfully took the classic horror franchise in a new direction with its jump to a first-person perspective. RE7 was very good and very scary, and made me think about what a classic Resident Evil game would be like in first-person. Thankfully, Nightmare of Decay is here to provide just that: a retro shooter heavily inspired by Capcom’s original PlayStation smash.
Nightmare of Decay came out on Steam last week, developed by indie studio Checkmaty. And let’s not beat around the bush: This game is channeling the first Resident Evil as closely as it legally can. It essentially answers the question “What if Resident Evil was a scary and survival-focused FPS made in the ‘90s?” Both Resident Evil and Nightmare of Decay feature a big mansion, obtuse puzzles, an unlikely amount of keys, zombies and other creepy enemies, near-identical health meters, and similarly identical save systems. In fact, the first zombie you encounter in Nightmare does the same, iconic head turn seen in RE1 and its remake.
The thing is, if you’re going to take inspiration from a survival horror game, pulling from one of the most beloved classics of all time is a smart move. And to Nightmare of Decay’s credit its first-person shooter take on the material, plus its own weird quirks, do help make it more than just a Resident Evil fan tribute.
For one thing: Nightmare of Decay is genuinely scary. Some of this is down to jump scares and good sound design, like moaning zombies banging away at doors before they eventually find and attack you. But it also helps that Nightmare of Decay’s visuals are a perfect blend of high-resolution menus and low-fi retro textures. There is just something really creepy to me about low-res textures, chunky models, and pixelated shadows, and Nightmare of Decay is filled with that stuff. Walking around its sprawling, maze-like mansion, with limited ability to sprint, really is nerve-wracking.
Also working in Nightmare of Decay’s favour is how it uses its first-person perspective. While some screenshots might make it look like this is an FPS, don’t mistake it for a high-action combat fest. Instead, like in a good Resident Evil game, you spend a lot of time avoiding combat, saving your ammo, and using positioning and movement to stab enemies with a knife. Happily, using a first-person shooter format also helps smooth over a large barrier many players balk at when trying to revisit classic RE games: their fixed cameras and clumsy “tank” controls.
While some fans love those old-school conventions, I understand the aversion to those decades old, clunky-arse controls. Decay avoids that problem completely with its more modern first-person setup. But it doesn’t let you crouch-jump around like a monkey and 360 no-scope zombies. You still have to be careful of where you stand and fight. You’ll need to manage not only ammo, but also be mindful of maintaining distance from monsters that can kill you in seconds. And not being able to easily see behind you adds a new level of tension to entering a room that might be filled with flesh-eating ghouls.
Nightmare of Decay is a bit rough around the edges, with some wonky AI and occasional bugs. But I found these issues elevated the sense of dread I got while playing this unpolished but spooky FPS. It’s also only a few hours long, like the Resident Evil games that inspired it.
But for only five bucks, this is a damn good horror game that perfectly captures a lot of what made the original Resident Evil so scary and good back in 1996. And somehow, it’s also a perfect game for folks who prefer more modern-feeling video games in 2022.