I love survival horror but one thing that movies continue to scare me with that games have yet to really capture is that vulnerability, that sense of loss and confusion as much as fear of being murdered. This is the feeling when you notice that your child is missing. The discomfort you feel when you realize that your friend has changed and may not be himself ever again. It's an emotional connection to the characters that video games so barely touch on.
Some have come close but they are rarely what I would describe as "survival horror". The Walking Dead is probably the closest but it still doesn't give me that feeling of weakness as a person and ultimately not everything is controlled by you. The ending is set in stone, the locations you visit are set as well and while your choices do matter it's a linear plot with a single ending. It's a point and click adventure game with horror elements but no real combat system and your input on the character is more a series of mini-games combined with a point and click adventure rather than the direct effect and control you have on a character in a game like Resident Evil or Deadly Premonition.
A game that plays like Silent Hill or Resident Evil combined with the emotional impact and decision making of a “visual novel” game like The Walking Dead or Heavy Rain would be able to influence the way you play it. Where in the Walking Dead you click on the zombies parts at the right time to attack this game would force you to be active just like in traditional survival horror games but your hands on experience would directly affect those around you. I’ve heard that Fatal Frame 2 gets close to this experience and I’m looking forward to trying it out. That said, even if it is what I am looking for, we need more!
With proper AI these two systems could work together perfectly. Since I hate escort missions in most game and have nightmares of escorting Ashley around in RE4 I’m strongly against the idea of having to lead another character around. That is why I think having gameplay like Deadly Premonition would be so perfect for this kind of game. That game combines hands on experience with you directly controlling the character moving him around while interacting with characters around the town and having to do realistic things like sleep, eat and even get gas.
Take that experience and add in real characters that fall in love with you, who help you, who have families and who matter. Maybe make some that hate you, some that are rude, some that aren't likable and yet they have to be utilized in some way and you might have to make a choice to save them over someone else for the greater good. Make these decisions count! Make sure to take the time to establish them even if it means the first couple hours that’s all that happens as you run around the town beginning your quest. With these characters being so real and having meaning to the player now the horror bits will be so much more impactful.
Gamers typically want instant gratification but since survival horror has become such a niche genre today it is a great time to see experimental mechanics out there such as those in Lone Survivor and Deadly Premonition. The birth of the virtual novel games such as Walking Dead are born from these classic horror games and point and click adventures but they tend to swing towards the point and click side of the tracks. I think it’s time we have a game swing the other way and make a game primarily survival horror that takes the time to make the characters real and mean something and cause the horrors that happen to you and them to be that much more intense and impactful.