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Scorn Review (PS5) – Vividly Heinous Yet Compelling Exploration Of Body Horror

Scorn PS5 Review – Over the last few years, several games have come out that give me the same type of creative energy that came from many of the classic PS2 games. This rings true for the horror genre especially. Several games – like Madison, Tartarus Key, and the Chant – unapologetically present their styles of horror and make sure that the gameplay experience reflects the mythos.

Scorn is one such game. In some ways, it’s a cut above the rest in that it portrays intense body horror like few games before it. With that in mind, it’s not intended for everyone by any means. Some of the game’s creative choices hobble the immersive, vivid, grotesque experience. However, Scorn delivers a kind of horror not familiar to the video game medium.

I’d likely to quickly warn the reader about the descriptions I use and the images included in this review. This coverage would be terribly short if I didn’t, so please take this warning to heart if gruesome horror imagery bothers you.


Scorn PS5 Review – Vividly Heinous Yet Compelling Exploration of Body Horror

Scorn asks you to free yourself from bondage to the machine and escape wherever the hell you are. Absolutely nothing in Scorn is explained or detailed, and neither is anything spoken. You wake up affixed to something, break yourself free, and seek freedom.

Instead, the game gives you vivid hints in the environment, making you think about the heinous whats and whys you face. Still, everything remains unclear. Even the ending leaves nothing but theory-crafting in its wake. That’s one of the selling points of Scorn, which makes it a very niche title.

You end up destroying organic matter in many forms just to keep going. Sometimes you know it’s alive and able to feel pain, and sometimes it’s not so obvious.

Misery Even In Escape

What you get when experiencing the game for yourself is the sensations from the actions you take. In some form or fashion, much of your surroundings is living matter, and you end up tearing and crashing through a great deal of it just so you can escape.

In that same vein, Scorn is so gruesome in what it presents to you that it can become overwhelming. You may see it from gameplay footage, but you don’t feel it. It’s different when you have to enact that action.

One powerful and important takeaway from this, especially in today’s climate, is a hyperbolic but very real loss of body autonomy, being shaped and used by something that completely disregards your existence.

Inflicting Harm to Progress

For example, one scene that stayed with me is when you need a second person to open a door – well, another person’s hand anyway. In this environment, you know that it likely won’t end well for the other person.

You bring down a container, the side of its egg shape wide open, with a humanoid stuffed in and affixed to the container, limbs dangling out. The entire time, you hear fearful, pained fusses pleading from behind its mouthless head. When I say “affixed to,” I mean that actual skin and organic material have grown between the humanoid and the container.

This is the grotesque way that the remaining humanoids are handled. While most of the environs are mechanical, they all have hues of old blood and skin. For sci-fi references, think H. R. Giger meets I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.

The game limits your heads-up display, only showing your health bar, healing bulbs, and your weapon’s charge meter. To boot, these only appear during combat or after taking damage. Everything about Scorn caters to keeping you as connected with your surroundings as possible.

Simplistic Immersion

In broad terms, gameplay follows many first-person games before it: run around, hit a few things, and solve puzzles. Essentially, Scorn keeps information out of your face and allows the world do all the work. It also looks a bit like a walking simulator if you watch the wrong trailer. The gameplay experience is responsive and plays well, with just enough weight to your movement to feel slightly limited but not enough to make the experience bogged down.

Your weapon serves more as a sort of close-quarters puncher that builds up pressure and snaps a rod out the end to hit enemies up close before going back down the gun’s chamber. Two bursts can be used in quick succession before the gun needs time to recharge itself. If you miss an opponent, you’ll know.

On that note, enemy variety, while wholly grotesque and almost akin to Silent Hill at times, comes up slightly lacking. Each enemy looks vividly different from the rest, but there’s simply not that many foes to encounter in the game. Arguably, the environment itself is a constant enemy, but you can only tolerate that.

The focal point of the gameplay loop is solving puzzles in order to escape. These puzzles range from concentrated grid manipulation to running around a small map to find levers and doors. Most of the time, these puzzles either open doors or they move an object you need to reach the next area.

These puzzles are the ones that bog down the experience from time to time. In some sections, you progress from beat to beat without hesitation. During these cumbersome puzzles, you end up running around in different zones in search of the next unlock mechanism.

Progression Hang-ups

On a personal note, I ended up memorising several areas out of necessity, since the game offers no map. This point makes perfect sense from a believability point of view, but it does affect the gameplay experience.

These points are frustrating and indeed a drag on the game, but it justifies itself by keeping the world’s steady entrapment in your mind. Still, one major consequence to this is that the immersion thins in these sections, and the oppressive nature of the experience shows that it is indeed a game. Once past these points, the game wastes no time gripping you back into that immersion, which could be seen as a bit of a reprieve.

As gruesome and gut twisting Scorn is, I wanted that intensity to carry through the entire five-hour experience. Personally, while I normally have no patience for cumbersome puzzles in other games, Scorn kept me motivated despite the frustration simply because of the terrible and defeated way the game made me feel. It’s nothing short of palpable.

The environment almost seems to respond to your actions just because what you destroy isn’t just random chunks of metal or inanimate substances. These are chunks of living matter. That means some part of a living thing potentially takes pain from your actions. Considering there’s no guarantee that death results from your actions, it feels even worse.

Despite all of this, the game does lack a universality. Not everyone will want to play this, and not everyone will enjoy their experience with the game. That negative is an inevitable consequence to creating something like this. One of those is that there really isn’t an intricate, gripping gameplay experience to be had here.

Scorn Is A Glorious Display of Defeatist Body Horror

To excellent effect, Scorn uses blood and gore to convey exactly what it wants to say. As opposed to many other attempts before it, the gore isn’t just a means of getting a reaction out of you. A circumstance and consequence hitches to your every action. That’s what makes Scorn a special game.

However, despite its fantastically horrific and detailed graphical presentation as well as its vague yet compelling worldbuilding, Scorn obviously isn’t a game for everyone. Outside of the heavy gore, the actual gameplay itself lacks much excitement. In addition, significant sections of the game get slowed down by a combination of complicated puzzles and a chaotic map.

Nonetheless, despite its potentially narrow audience, Scorn is a special game. It excels at delivering body horror where other forms of media can only attempt. Included in that is a sense of urgency and circumstance that instills intention in everything you do and everything the game does to you. If horror is your bailiwick, then Scorn is a must for you.

Review code kindly provided by publisher

Score

7.5

The Final Word

While a heavily niche game, Scorn executes on a type of horror that most can only superficially attempt. Pacing is an issue with several puzzles, and the gameplay on its own isn't gripping. Nonetheless, the world itself makes up for all of that, telling vague stories that both compel and repel you. Scorn is an absolute must for horror fans.