This game was made by Shinji Mikami, the mastermind behind the entire Resident Evil franchise and an attempt to get back to the roots of good survival horror. Despite that, it comes across as fairly generic.
You are Detective Sebastian Castellanos. A walking cliche` for the scruffy, hard-drinking police detective that's lost everything but his work, and complete with the 100% stand-up, by-the-book partner. Responding to an all-points bulletin, you arrive at a mental hospital, where right away, things go crazy. You're greeted by a guy who blips in and out of sight like a scrambled TV channel, and then you're being chased by a big maniac with a chainsaw before driving out of the city which is crumbling around you like there's a 9.9 earthquake going on.
From there the game truly begins, bombarding you with drastically different levels, and zombies wrapped in barb-wire and adorned with piercings from Hell. Eventually, you meet up with massive monsters, some you run from, some you kill, until eventually you do battle with the twisted mind in control of this world you're trapped in.
Mannequins abound, for no reason that's ever explained.
Cinematically, the game is great. Almost every level is a different creepy, but cliche` in horror, environment. From the small village, to the ruined church, to catacombs and secret floors in an asylum. Transitions between them are incredible as well, as a fall into a black abyss becomes a roll across the floor until you smack into the wall. Or climbing into an elevator, which then opens a thousand feet in the air before splashing down into a lake made from a broken water-main.
The controls are standard for over-the-shoulder viewpoints, though the menu is pretty nice to set up your most used weapons.
You're not really going to be playing this for the story though, I'm rather sad to say. Throughout the game, you get bits and pieces of story about the main psychopath's reasons for doing what he does, as well as the backstory of Sebastian, and hints of more ominous things.
Nothing is ever actually explained to any level of satisfaction. The machine that makes the game possible is only mentioned as an experiment in shared consciousness. The reason for it's creation and the organization behind it are completely veiled in secrecy. The mystery of what happened to Sebastian's family, the mannequins that are everywhere, the agony crossbow, none of it makes any sense. Even the ending to the game leaves you with a "What the hell?!? That's IT?" feeling.
This remains a fun game to play though, with the variety and challenge keeping you coming back until the end of the game. At this point, where you can get it used in most places, it is well worth the price of admission.
One last thing, and one of the neatest little things to set this game apart, you're granted an End of Game screen that includes a tally of your deaths. I actually did a lot better than I thought I did.