It shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that it's time once again for another Dread X Collection. The famous anthology series from the titular publisher has been a great success the past few times that we've looked at it, so another title wasn't a surprise. Well, the latest installment, Dread X Collection: The Hunt is a bit of a departure for the series. Firstly it is co-directed by David Szymanski of Dusk fame and Squirrel Stapler infamy, and secondly, rather than a central theme, all the games in the collection share a genre instead.
So let's dive into the latest pick-and-mix selection from Dread XP.
The first game in the collection is Axis Mundi, a first-person shooter where the typical gun is replaced with a camera. Put into the shoes of a second-generation ghost hunter, it's your job to use your (maybe) magic camera and film to dispel ghosts that are hanging around our plane of existence a little too long. You have a camera at your disposal, and that's really about it. You spend most of the levels solving minor puzzles to progress while using your camera's flash to dispel hostile ghosts that come chasing you down. The drawback is that your camera flash takes a long time to refresh, so you need to run from the ghosts while it comes back.
Axis Mundi's gameplay is nothing to write home about. It's basic point-and-shoot gameplay with a little added wait time, broken up by puzzles which are usually solved by turning around and picking up an item you need. The really interesting draw here is the storylines. As you clear ghosts out of some modern-day shopping mall in 2021, you interact with ghosts from the 1950s, 1600s, and 1300s. Each time you take a picture of one, you're transported to the day they died and have to figure out what happened to them to appease their restless spirits (presumably). Most of the fun to be extracted here comes from learning about what happened to each ghost and listening to the main character narrate in-between.
This one made me feel uncomfortable from the start, but since this is a horror anthology, that's probably for the best. Uktena 64 puts you in the shoes of a hunter, hired to take down some infected animals before they can cause too much harm. After you take out each animal, you need to take a picture of the corpse to prove that it's been dealt with. While your initial information suggests that the CDC or FBI might be involved, it soon becomes clear that whoever put you up to this probably didn't have good intentions.
As the name might suggest, Uktena 64 is very heavily themed around the Nintendo 64 in both its graphics and presentation. There's an almost whimsical atmosphere at times, with the bright colors and happy sound effects in menus. Not to mention the "hilarious" quotes from the main character who really loves his truck (it's his best friend) and doesn't like critters. The bright, cartoony style, tone, and visuals are quickly at odds with the things that are happening in the game, and that immediately gives it a very off-putting vibe, but in a good way.
When you perform the turkey call and a hoard of 3-in-1 turkeys come screaming at you, that's probably your first clue, swiftly followed by the undead wolves that chase you down not much later. Gameplay-wise there's not much to talk about. You have three guns by the final level, but other than the rate of fire, none of them feel all that different, and the shooting is as basic as they come. There are not even proper iron sights; right-click just zooms the screen in slightly. There also seemed to be some sort of story about some group and a giant snake monster, but even by the end, I couldn't really tell what was going on. At least the jarring juxtaposition makes it worth a play.
Rose of Meat
While I found the last entry unsettling, I found Rose of Meat genuinely mind-bending. If you've never done psychedelics before and want to know what it feels like, this game is a pretty close approximation. You start out on a boat in the middle of the ocean, but before long you find yourself in a very strange, red-tinted landscape filled with floating heads, meat people, and a giant snake man who dispenses mostly useless advice. The main crux of the gameplay is to go around talking to the inhabitants of the strange land, completing their requests, and avoiding death at the hands of the strange monsters that roam all over the place.
The visual style of Rose of Meat is certainly very striking. Depending on which part of the game you're in and where you're looking, the color and lighting of the entire world seem to change, and everything is mostly rendered in shades of red and black. There's also a strange pop-art-esque filter over everything, and while it certainly sets the tone for an otherworldly abstract adventure, it also brings a fair few problems. Finding your way in Rose of Meat is nigh-on impossible in a lot of situations, but it's most notable towards the end when you're tasked with hunting down wood.
When you're in the woods, looking for wood, it's almost impossible to tell what direction you need to go in, especially as the scenery changes itself and sprouts new elements from the ground as you're trying to walk through it. You also need to worry about the enemies that drop the wood, which requires you to keep using the magical leg (don't ask) to generate new people to give you health and ammo, as well as to spawn eyeball-sporting red barrels. As you can probably tell, this feels like a game that's trying very hard to be weird, no matter how it affects the gameplay. Complaints aside, I think that it's still worth playing if only to see what happens when someone completely loses it.
There's a title you'll need to check you've spelled correctly a few times. Seraphixial is a narrative FPS from the same developer behind Arcadletra from Dread X Collection II and you can tell. There's almost a distinct style to the gameplay and design of the game that marks it as the same developer. You play as a father receiving a letter from his estranged daughter. She ran off to join some sort of commune and sends you a letter telling you that it's not what she thought it was and that she's trapped. Like any good family member in a horror game, you immediately drop everything and go to the location she gives you.
The most interesting part of Seraphixial is probably the visual design—both of the characters and of the weapons that you use. All of the enemies are strange, warped creatures, in a similar style to the weird creature from Arcadletra, but with the added benefit that these creatures aren't trying to be coy or scary. They do manage to pull off being pretty threatening, which is good in a more action-based horror experience. The gun designs are also a little out there, seeming more like something taken from a wild imagination rather than any real-world gun cabinet.
Seraphixial also managed to pull off some creepy moments amongst all the shooting. In later stages, you're plagued by something akin to a vision, and each time you think it's stopped, it keeps popping back up again. If I had to make a tiny nitpick on a technical level, I'd say that the game isn't amazingly well optimized. Some of the effects in earlier stages caused the framerate to completely tank, and with no real graphical settings to speak of, you're 100% stuck with any performance issues that you find.
It's quite an interesting title: The Fruit. It's halfway between shockingly mundane and sounding like something a pretentious poet might use. Luckily, there's not anything pretentious about The Fruit as a game, and it actually has one of the more interesting stories in the collection. You play as Thomas and are called to a rural, heavily religious area in oldy-worldy times (what do you want? I'm not a historian) to look for your missing lover William. When you arrive, you find the town plagued by a mysterious hysteria and filled with strange notes and magical runes.
The main gameplay in The Fruit is a bit more thoughtful and slow than your typical run-and-gun shooting game. Ammo is pretty scarce, at least when compared to the number of threats you face, and your old-school AF gun is a one-shot reload sort of deal. One of the most interesting parts of the gun is that you have to go through a semi-intricate procedure to reload it after each shot, so if you've got more than one cultist coming towards you, you'll need to think very carefully about who you plan on shooting.
Another interesting element is the game's puzzle-solving. As you journey around the town, you not only discover notes that fill in the backstory and direct you forward, but you also discover strange glowing runes left behind by the inhabitants. You can copy these shapes down and use them to open certain doors, but the interesting thing is that various doors require you to combine different runes together to get the right shape, which requires at least a little spatial awareness. The great gameplay and story make this a standout game in the collection, just watch out for performance drops if you have an older graphics card as The Fruit also seems to be missing any graphical settings.
The House Of Unrest
Exorcist characters can come in a lot of forms. Usually, those forms don't include a cross between Father Damien Karras and John Wick... wait, is that just the Keanu Reaves Constantine? Either way, The House of Unrest sees you control a priest whose idea of vestments clearly includes a bulletproof jacket as he rocks up to an exorcism with a pistol, cross, and two AK-47s. Called to a remote parochial house that appears to be under a demonic curse, you're tasked with cleaning this evil influence with nothing but hot lead and a literal divine super laser.
If all priests could weaponize their belief in the way that the main character of The House of Unrest does, then the world would probably be an even scarier place. For most of the game, you only use your pistol and cross—one to shoot demons, and the other to fire lasers you can use to light your path or to burn away demonic corruption. You wander around the house, killing monsters, solving mostly linear puzzles, and trying to stop a literal demon from bursting forth into the world of the living.
The puzzles are mostly pretty simple, as is the gameplay, but there's something compelling about playing an actual badass priest with a gun, something not seen much outside of issues of Preacher. There's also a really great section towards the game's later stages, and the ending is really satisfying in a corny action movie sort of way.
Without a doubt, Black Relic is one of the most interesting games in Dread X Collection: The Hunt. You are in control of Brother Silence, a monk living in a monastery on the eve of some sort of traditional ceremony. You're called on by your leader to perform some sort of sacred duty, but when you do, everything goes horribly wrong, and the entire world around you becoming a bloody, flaming mess filled with red- and purple-eyed cultists who are out for your blood. With your monastery in tatters, you branch out to fix the problem.
While there is some light puzzle-solving, Black Relic is more about combat. Your only weapon, other than a frankly pathetic shove, is a crossbow. Because it works like a real crossbow, it takes quite a while to reload, and so you have to take your time with encounters and make sure you have optimal positioning to ensure that you don't become a pincushion of knives and arrows. The visual style is also very interesting, but nowhere near as hard to look at as with Rose of Meat, though I did occasionally find it difficult to pick out my way.
The story in Black Relic is incredibly well told. You start out and it's immediately clear what is going on. More than that, playing as a monk, in a monastery is actually a pretty unique concept for a horror title. There are also a few twists and turns, which I won't spoil, but they really do make the game interesting. By the end, I was actually left a little shocked by what had happened. With some extra layers to the mechanics, this could easily be made into a full title and would make for quite an interesting adventure.
Dread X Collection: The Hunt
The last thing to talk about is Dread X Collection: The Hunt itself, the extra game that ties it all together. This time, you've been called to an arctic research base to help out a team trying to stop whatever major catastrophe is going on in the Dread X Collection universe. When you arrive you find the base abandoned and blood everywhere, and you must play through the seven "samples" to try and figure out what's happened, as well as to collect the world-saving device the base was being used to construct.
As far as gameplay goes, it's nothing super special to write home about, but it's solid. You have a gun that you're rarely called on to use, but mostly you're going around solving item puzzles such as "use key on door." Despite this, the atmosphere of an isolated arctic base is used to great effect, and more than once I found myself getting creeped out playing the game. I'm also convinced that the developer put some surreal effects depending on how you look at certain objects or through certain windows to make humanoid shapes appear and disappear. Either that or this game actually drove me nuts.
I'd say that of all the games in the series so far, Dread X Collection: The Hunt was the one that got me the most interested in the ongoing story. Before now, it's mainly been a passing fancy while I enjoyed my horror anthology, but now I actually wouldn't mind a full game just exploring this storyline, especially with the links back to previous collections. Maybe it's something to do with there being fewer games this time, allowing the tie-in location to shine a bit more. Either way, if you're a horror fan, once again Dread X Collection: The Hunt will not disappoint you.
TechRaptor covered Dread X Collection: The Hunt on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.
Disclaimer: Our reviews editor, Samuel Guglielmo, works with the publisher of Dread X Collection: The Hunt. He was not involved with this article.