SCP: Containment Breach

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Escape a shadowy facility teeming with dangerous monsters
 
Release: Beta Version (development ongoing)
 
By Ian Coppock, Originally Published on April 15, 2013
 
SCP: Containment Breach has given me an excuse to jump back into the guilty pleasure zone that is indie horror gaming. Quite frankly, the ingenuity that indie developers have put into creating something scary has proven more effective than big-budget horror fests like Dead Space 3, though that one had its moments. This week, I decided to put on the shoes of a reluctant test subject and go play with some less than sociable creatures and objects. SCP: Containment Breach is still in development, though this beta version was certainly unsettling enough.
The Story
 
SCP (secure, contain, protect): Containment Breach is a game based on the SCP Foundation mythos, a shadowy organization that studies creatures and objects with mysterious powers. You are D-9341, a death row inmate who was spared the electric chair in exchange for a month of work for the Foundation. Though your character was quick to trade certain death for a chance at freedom, he or she knows almost nothing about the SCP Foundation or its… inmates.
The SCP Foundation is full of wondrous and disturbing creatures, most of which have strange powers.
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D-9341 is introduced to the Foundation by a parade of masked, tight-lipped guards and scientists. He or she inhabits a small, murky dormitory and must follow any and all orders without question. I began realizing that this place was not much better than prison, and D-9341’s fellow test subjects were similarly morose.Shortly after arriving, D-9341 and two workmates are assigned to conduct tests on SCP-173, a statue that is quite motionless when looked at but instantly strangulates people the second they look away. When a power outage drowns 173’s chamber in darkness, D-9341 has just enough time to escape the cell as a larger containment breach shuts down the entire facility, releasing its terrifying contents.
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SCP-173 will kill you the second you look away. The statue is one of many monsters D-9341 must elude.

Though SCP-173 can only kill you if you don’t look at it, Containment Breach features a blinking mechanic. A surprisingly obvious facet of daily life not often featured in games, D-9341’s blinking forces him or her to be more creative than just staring indefinitely at the statue. The game’s other major antagonist is SCP-106, a creature that looks like Rupert Murdoch got caught in an oil spill. Unlike 173, 106 can run after the player and phase through solid walls, leading to several highly intense chase sequences throughout the facility.

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If SCP-106 grabs you, he hauls you to a “mini-dimension” where you die a slow, horrifying death.

As if D-9341’s life wasn’t in enough danger, the former inmate must also face several enemies in one-on-one encounters, including a monster that freaks out at you if you look at its face, a sentient coffin that screams at you through facility TV sets, a pair of books that emit deadly bacteria, and a massive reptilian monster immune to all forms of damage. After spending several hours evading monsters and accessing restricted exit areas, 9341 is contacted by SCP-079, an artificial intelligence. 079 offers to let 9341 escape if it can have control over the facility. This and several other choices determine the course of the game and unlock one of three possible endings.

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SCP: Containment Breach is terrifying. Between the statue and oily Murdoch, I was having a tough time keeping a consistent pulse. The game is paced in such a way that the danger reappears right as you think it’s gone, and the level design is tight and claustrophobic. Most areas are also very dark; 9341 has tools at his or her disposal for navigating the environment, but the atmosphere is blatantly unfriendly. The shadows are thick and the sound is slightly muffled, which made me feel like I was walking underwater. There are a few jump scares but the game really concentrates its horror in the sheer creativity of its creatures, especially the coffin that drives you insane or the books of disease. The sick bastards who made this game state that they plan to add more monsters once the game is completely finished. 9341 is a silent protagonist, so there’s not much in the way of character development, but hints are given as to the Foundation’s unknown roots and their ultimate goal in harvesting and studying these life-forms.
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The Artwork
Yup. You’re expected to gallivant into that totally friendly hallway.
Because it’s still in development, SCP: Containment Breach’s environments are bare and unrefined. The graphics are second-rate and the animations are extremely cut and dry; I mistook my testing partners for crash-test dummies because their animations were so stiff and uncomfortable. But, the graphics’ poorness actually added an element of horror to the game for me; with the environment being so bare and foreboding, the facility felt scarier than some of the ridiculously-detailed places I’ve seen in big-budget games.
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Some of the environments reminded me of Portal… at least until the lights went out.
Most of this game’s environments consist of tight corridors and wide rooms swathed in thick shadows. Monsters can be lurking in any of these environments, so caution and moving quietly are highly recommended. Some of the environments have shock-white textures, such as the testing chamber up top, but the rest are swathed in murky shadows.
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The game is not without its Easter eggs and moments of humor. At one point, I was hiding in a bathroom and, ironically enough, nearly wet myself when the toilet behind me began talking. It was some sort of self-proclaimed butt-eating monster, though it didn’t move or attack me. The entire episode was so ridiculous that I had to clear the bathroom and keep moving. Peace out, butt-munching toilet.
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What I really like about this game is the creativity that went into the monsters. This is a universe where anything is possible; a monster could be a sentient, self-aware book or a scary grabber. They didn’t settle for any sort of archetype when making the monsters, going instead with self-aware objects and creatures that had bizarre powers, such as moving when looking away. This was something that I found quite refreshing; too often horror games get trapped in a quagmire of running away from unbeatable enemies. That was certainly the case here, but fleeing didn’t just consist of running. It consisted of being extremely careful. I feel like that reflects survival more realistically, but I am a critic, not a drill sergeant.
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Should I get it?

Right now, SCP: Containment Breach is a little rough-hewn and not quite finished. If you’re up for a visually raw and still scary video game, then I recommend it, but there’s no shame in waiting for the finished version to come out… if it ever does. Indie developers are notorious for delays, but the effort put into this project makes me confident that it’s in good hands.
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