Published on October 31st, 2020 | by Felix Nicholls
The Dark Pictures: Little Hope PS4 Review
Summary: Little Hope is a chilling experience with enough nail-biting tension, horrible monsters and lovable characters to mark it as one of the better horror experiences this year.
In Little Hope, not all is as it seems. Behind the town’s abandoned walls lies a history ripe with blood, death and deceit. When four students and their college professor get trapped within the town by an impervious fog, they are forced to contend with the horrors of Little Hope’s past in order to secure their future.
Much like the fictional town’s deceptive history, Supermassive’s newest entry in their Dark Pictures Anthology is a ‘crucible’ brimming with the unexpected. With each new story beat, Supermassive flexes a mastery of tension and suspense to deliver a horror tale perfect for Halloween night with friends or, if you’re daring, alone.
Like Man of Medan (the previous entry in the Anthology), you control a set of five distinct characters, each with their own traits and relationships that define their personalities. As the narrative progresses, these traits and relationships are heavily affected by the choices you make. Do you follow the overbearing professor, or do you stick with the irritable young couple? Choices like these don’t only define how the narrative progresses, but also how the characters react to events. I never felt a choice was meaningless, and as I began to see the ramifications of previous decisions, it was easy for me to tumble into a spiral of regret, trying to figure out how I could make things right.
To assist you in making the ‘right’ choices – or rather the ones that might save your characters from certain death – you can find pictures scattered throughout the world. These pictures show premonitions that indicate a scene you should aim to see, or one you should try to avoid. This unique mechanic adds some welcome skill to your choice making in deciphering the message, and figuring out where in the story it might come to fruition. Because of this, choices feel neither blind nor obvious, instead employing suspense and uncertainty in equal measure.
Visually, Little Hope is a treat. Empty, midnight roads stretch into darkness beneath the haze of street lights, and the crumbling houses lend an uncertain aura to the experience. What enhances the environments to such an impressive standard is the lighting, scarce enough for you to jump at every shadow, but present enough to avoid being frustrating. To complement this, Little Hope relies heavily on specific camera placements within its environments. Like Man of Medan, these camera angles change depending on your place in the room or area, and are often used to rack up the tension. For example, when I was walking down a road, the camera changed to be observing me from behind, where I saw a twisted figure stalking my group from the bushes. These angles are used more effectively than in Man of Medan, relying less on jump scares and more on unsettling noises and movements to evoke a more visceral fear response.
To praise Little Hope without discussing its excellent sound design would be a mistake. From the subtle twitching of tree branches to the sharp cracking of broken bones, even the smallest of sounds kept me on edge throughout both my playthroughs. Especially vibrant are the horrible groans and croaks of the creatures that prowl the streets of Little Hope,
As well as wonderful sound design, the voicework brought to the experience by actors like Will Poulter and Ellen David is extraordinary. Without spoiling too much, each member of the cast provides at least two entirely different voices for different characters present in the narrative. The skill required to perform multiple roles – sometimes in the same scene – should not go without praise. In addition to this, they bring to each character a distinct, human personality that helped me connect with the story and understand the relationships that were at play.
While Little Hope does well to maintain a complex and multi-layered mystery, I found it too difficult to uncover some of the deeper secrets within its story. Even after multiple playthroughs with wildly different choices, aside from saving more people, some of the biggest questions were left unanswered. This leaning toward a ‘up for interpretation’ story proved to be the downfall of the narrative as a whole. Like Man of Medan, the ending was a let-down, boiling much of the supernatural events down to an unoriginal twist that, I felt, was a disrespect to the quality of the storytelling that had come before.
Setting themselves aside from other horror developers, Supermassive has delivered a nail-biting romp through a ghost town brought to terrifying life through excellent environment design and lighting. While it suffers from a poor conclusion, the rest of the Little Hope experience is one to be savoured over several playthroughs, or all done in a single night with friends. Either way, this is not an experience to be missed, especially with spooky season just around the corner.