HomeReviewsGame ReviewsScorn Review: extreme and obscene horror

Scorn Review: extreme and obscene horror

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Ebb Software’s debut feature breaks away from traditional horror canons to create a surprising and deeply disturbing experience.

Review: Multi

In the preface to the French edition of his shocking novel Crash, from which director David Cronenberg drew the film of the same name, the writer JG Ballard wrote the book was “a warning, a warning about the brutal, erotic, blinding reign that invites us, ever more pervasive, from the margins of the technological horizon”. She retracted in an interview with reporter Will Self, stating that it was a statement “which I have always regretted … Crash is not a warning tale. It is a psychopathic anthem”.

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After a development process that lasted almost ten years, Scorn has finally landed on next generation PCs and consoles. And he did it without compromises, both from a technical and a content point of view. Because, just like the crudest works of Ballard and Cronenberg, Scorn is not a work for everyone: yet, it was impossible for us to resist the deadly song of its horror, so deep as to leave annihilated, speechless, at the mercy of seduction. of the terrible siren given birth by Ebb Software.

Not a word

The adventure opens with the awakening of the protagonist, a humanoid who will not speak for the entire duration of his journey. Likewise, enemies also never make intelligible sounds, and there is not a single word written in the entire game world. It is a radical choice – term that will come back several times in this review – but perfectly functional with respect to the intentions of the development team.


Why thesetting, true protagonist of Scorn (and we don’t say it just to say it), it tells a story that, although it is never clarified in its details, is fascinating, coherent and deeply disturbing. Scorn speaks of a post-humanity in which man is no longer separated from his context and the objects he uses: on the contrary, the environment “invades” the human being, bends it, modifies it, evolves it. And so here is that every interaction between the protagonist and the enigmas becomes the penetration of devices, all through knobs installed in blood in his flesh, and the parasites that are grafted on his thin body – but not fragile – change him, of course, but to in turn they become similar to him.

A game of mirrors and chases, therefore, in which the boundaries between us and the other become increasingly blurred: it is no coincidence that many of the enigmas present involve a change of point of view, moving the view to other points through the use of special devices. Ebb Software quickly makes us understand that our protagonist is not the vehicle of a player’s power fantasy, but rather must necessarily depend on tools of various kinds to continue, just like contemporary man, now inseparable from PC and smartphone. There are no explanations on their use and their functionality: it is up to the protagonist (and the player who controls him) to understand how tools with strange and disturbing shapes can help him solve puzzles, recharge the health bar and kill the mysterious creatures. that populate the game world.

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A map is completely missing, and the health and ammo indicators only appear during fights, when you are hit or when you use healing items. There first person view of Scorn is therefore spotlessand the player feels the same despair as the protagonist in navigating a hostile world, but not without reference points: it is necessary to pay attention to details, and only on a couple of occasions did we feel lost (however a careful exploration tour to solve the problem).

The inspiration for HR Giger

It is no mystery that the developers of Ebb Software referenced the art of HR Giger, “dad” of the Xenomorph of Alien (you can find our special on HR Giger and the world of video games here), in the creation of the world of Scorn. Ended the adventure – duration eight hours – we can say with satisfaction that the inspiration was more thematic than strictly aesthetic: in other words, although Giger’s chromatisms are perfectly recognizable in Scorn – the massive use of the gray scale is particularly indicative – we have seen above all philosophy in action Gigerian, that obsessive attention to the interactions (better: integrations) between man and machine, the use of the universal alphabet of sexuality, the indifference of the protagonists of his paintings towards violence against their own and others’ bodies.

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Only in some, limited, situations does the protagonist show rash reactions, and it is only in cases where the violation of his flesh is sudden and intolerable. At first, this creates an inevitable emotional disconnect for the player, who is immersed in often extreme horror situations. As the hours went by, however, Scorn managed to make us feel almost comfortable in completely taboo contexts for contemporary man“realigning” with the imperturbability of the mysterious humanoid.

There is no shortage of combat situations, in some cases even very frenetic, in which we must keep our nerves in order not to be overwhelmed by the horrendous creatures – whose shape is a clear reference to the human genital organs – that we will find on our path. We did not particularly appreciate the feeling of the first weapon, a pistol that emits a shaft of limited length and forces you to manage fights calmly, backing carefully during the long reload times. Yet being forced to approach disturbing abominations creates a feeling of discomfort and disgust that we have rarely experienced in a video game, and these are emotions probably sought after by Ebb Software.

We’ve never seen more curated weapon reload animations than Scorn’s: the care for the realism of the experience – even in its dystopian, sometimes surreal tones – is visible in every gesture of the protagonist in inserting the bullets, similar to small eggs, inside the special holes present on the various types of gun .

Ebb Software has been radical and uncompromising in this as well, honing every visual detail of Scorn in a world where the publication of mutile, incomplete video games, which are based on subsequent adjustments, is increasingly frequent.

Visceral beauty

The developer site states that Ebb Software’s goal with Scorn was to create “a different breed of videogame”. They have certainly succeeded, so much so that it is difficult to talk about Scorn approaching it linearly as a set of components – graphics, plot, gameplay, sound – because it is a ‘atypical survival horror experiencedevoid of the classic jumpscare and without traditional narrative developments.

It is strange to say this for a title that makes horror its strong point, but Scorn seems to be based on a single central intent: to inspire in the player the desire to contemplate the bewildering beauty of the world around him. The magnificent decay of the gigantic buildings recalls the works of the Polish artist Zdzislaw Beksinski (we talked about it in the special dedicated to the art of Zdzislaw Beksinski); the bowels become caves of flesh, just like in Videodrome’s David Cronenberg; we find ourselves morbidly fascinated by blood and our own wounds, in the same way as the protagonists of Crash’s JG Ballard; the search for the posthuman and for transformation is the same visible in the videos and texts of the Tool.

In this radical path of rejection of the everyday, it is visible that it was the themes chosen that led to the creation of the mechanics of Scorn, and not vice versa: it is a world structured in a certain way, in which the gameplay and the mechanics that make up come accordingly.Man, technology and parasites turn upside down and confuse one into the other, under the banner of contamination and mutation. The physical elimination of enemies, in a dimension in which there seems to be no good and evil, does not give any reward or satisfaction: the enjoyment becomes intense and even outrageous when the protagonist’s flesh is disturbed and violated, making us wonder up to how far its evolution can go.

The killing of the other is only an accidental fact of exploration, a necessity in a few and limited cases: it is the protagonist’s body that demands all our attention, up to afinal and shocking apotheosis in the last hour of the gamein which we are overwhelmed by sexual symbolism combined with an absolutely disconcerting religious mysticism.

The experience of “being in the world of Scorn” is enhanced by sounds, almost always diegetic, whose creeping and never intrusive nature is best enhanced in headphones. They are voices of troubled and disfigured flesh, crushed, moaning and suffering, sounds that could be emitted by the creatures of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, painted by Francis Bacon in 1944: the similarity between the three vaguely anthropomorphic beings represented by Bacon and the hostile entities of Scorn is truly striking. In the face of system requirements on PC not exactly lowScorn offers an amazing visual experience.

Although our test configuration was not optimal – particularly in terms of the CPU – and we were therefore unable to enjoy a high resolution, Ebb Software’s work showed itself in dazzling form, with a framerate locked at 60 FPS and an unmatched visual spectacle. Radical (like all the rest of the production), but perfectly honest with the public and shareable, the choice to bring Scorn only to next-generation Xbox consoles: the old platforms would never have been able to offer performance up to Ebb Software’s vision.

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