Driving is a scary business, right? If it's not hidden speed cameras spooking you, people switching lanes without indicating will send a shiver down your spine, but being in the driving seat gets to a new level of scary when you're in the dead of night driving through the woods and mysterious cars are tailing you, as we've seen in the demo for horror game Beware from developer Ondrej Svadlena.
The demo pretty much throws you straight into the pretty sizeable level Svadlena has created for the demo, and with no objective it's all about fumbling your way through, using the arrow keys to drive and your mouse to look around. It's not exactly a leisurely cruise though, because there's a heavy mist upon the area - Silent Hill style - and most of the areas look the same, so it's all about keeping your bearings as you struggle to see where you're going.
Things go from unsettling to straight up scary real quick when you get to a point that initiates a chase, and by that we mean the aforementioned cars that relentlessly chase you. What Svadlena has done brilliantly here is position your rearview mirror at the top right of your screen when you're facing forwards, giving you chills as you see the aggressive headlights behind you coming out of nowhere. It's like everyone's worst nightmare.
It's less scary when your assailants actually catch you though because if they go all action film car chase and ram you off the road, a bunch of big bloated dudes just come and gather around your car before the word "death" appears on the screen. It's got a bit of a Benny Hill vibe about it, but if you're wondering if that's the only way to die, have no fear, as you can always die the old-fashioned way: ploughing your car into a wall at high speed.
It won't be easy to escape pursuers though, as not only do the relentless pests find it hard to quit, you also increase your risk of error with high speeds. Beware is definitely not the Forza of horror games, and to keep your grip on the wet and muddy roads you'll need to take corners slowly and have a bit of care, since speeding and swerving is a good way to get you stuck in the mud, rolled over, or generally just in a spot of bother.
While obviously being harassed by midnight marauders is a big part of the experience, there's also an enigmatic narrative that's hard to unravel. In fact, there's a whole Reddit community dedicated to the contents of the demo (although beware of spoilers of course) since you encounter mysterious locations and characters who enrich the experience and create plenty of intrigue. It leads you to balance your desire to explore and discover with your fear of encountering new dangers ahead.
The Silent Hill comparison doesn't just apply to the fog either, as Beware shares a lot of the same traits, including a reliance on atmosphere rather than jumpscares. Seeing the headlights in the mirror is accompanied by a very deliberate and ominous piano track, for example, and it's the little details like that which put you on edge as you drive through the dark woods, not knowing whether you dare to look around you as you rely on your dim headlights to keep going.
Visually the game is impressive too, and a lot has to be said for the lighting. We've talked about how dark the night is, but the light is used sparingly and to great effect, including your own headlights and those of the other vehicles. Light should be a symbol of hope and safety, but one can't help but feel here that any well-lit building could be cause for concern. Perhaps there's safety in the darkness after all?
We walked away from Beware feeling more curious than anything, and that's because it's hard to know how much you've seen and whether you've discovered all the sinister secrets of the world. The narrative is deliberately ambiguous here, but the driving is tense as you're constantly afraid of your surroundings, and it'll be interesting to see where Beware goes from here and whether it can sustain its suffocating atmosphere moving forward.