The 31 Horror Games of October: Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

As Halloween draws near, here are the final 10 greatest horror games of all time, any of which would be more than worthy for a Halloween night marathon.

10. Alien vs Predator 2 – A couple funny things about this game being on this list. One, its actually more of a sci-fi shooter than a full on horror game. Two, there are three main stories to play through and two of them (that have you playing as the alien and the predator) are entertaining, but far from scary. What gets it on the list is the 5-8 hour colonial marine campaign. If the best aspect of horror games is how they make you feel like you’re not ready for what’s next, then this may be the best example of it.

Around every corner waits a new threat, and the tension of awaiting it is only outmatched by the fright itself. It may be a sci-fi game but it’s also one of the best examples of the “haunted house” effect I can think of. You would think that the heavy arsenal at your disposal would help, but it only leads you into a false sense of security. The “Alien vs Predator” movies may have been abominations, but if you never played this game, I can’t begin to adequately describe the terror you are denying yourself.

9. Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth – An almost impossibly underrated title, where as most horror games take elements of the works of H.P. Lovecraft for their scares, this is a direct adaptation of several of those titles. What I love about the game is how much it feels like a love letter to the genre, as so many elements present in the game are horror conventions that are effectively implemented so that they sure to give any fright fan an impossible to shake ear to ear grin. Well, until it’s replaced with a look of cold fear that is. As much as “Call of Cthulu” is a fun experience, it is an even greater trip through pure terror. The monsters design is superb, the ammo is appropriately sparse, the sound is a highlight reel of bumps in the night, and the game features some of the best set piece moments you’ll see in the genre.

Particular mention here must go to the escape scene in the town of Innsmouth, where your early investigations lead you to conclude that everyone in the town is incredibly indifferent, and even hostile. That instinct would turn out to be dead on as the entire populace starts chasing you with the intention to kill. It’s a flawless escape sequence that puts you into the game like few other titles can even hope to do, and is a perfect example of the brilliance of this title.

8. Dead Space – Picking up “Dead Space” originally for a quick play through, I didn’t understand the hype. After all, at the time it was being heralded as the savior of the survival horror genre and one of the most terrifying games ever made to boot. My mistake was only playing the game for a short burst though.

“Dead Space” is a game that begs you, even dares you, to immerse yourself in it. Turn off the lights, shut down the phone, crank up the volume, and see how far you can make it before the sheer terror overwhelms you. The brilliance of “Dead Space” is in the collection of all the little things it does well, like removing a lot of the traditional HUD elements on the screen and subtly putting them on your characters back, or how almost all of your weapons are mining tools re-purposed for your current slaughter needs. There’s also the bolder elements like the horrific creature design, and the emptiness of the space station setting making you feel like you are truly fighting your way out of hell and into the unknown. I was gravely mistaken for thinking “Dead Space” was anything less than one of the greatest horror games of all time, and I now recognize it as perhaps the prime example of effective atmosphere in gaming.

7. Left 4 Dead 2 – The greatest zombie game ever made? Well…not quite but it is certainly the most entertaining. Valve struck horror gold when they devised the idea of allowing 4 players to fight their way through the zombie apocalypse in the original “Left 4 Dead.” With the sequel, they perfected the experience by incorporating more enemies, more characters, better levels, and more modes.

The entire game works because of its intense level design which is open enough to make you feel like you’re not boxed in, but still linear enough to make the choke point moments work. Even better is the community aspect, as “Left 4 Dead” perfectly allows you to live out those conversations you have with your friends about what you all would do in a zombie apocalypse. That’s not to say the game is entirely about fun, as the scares are plentiful and often come in the form of the sheer overwhelming numbers you face, and the special zombies that complicate your survival intentions with their unique abilities (especially the Witches, which are essentially the nuclear weapons of the zombie horde). “Left 4 Dead 2″ is a simple idea executed to absolute perfection.

6. System Shock 2 – Remember earlier when I mentioned that “Dead Space” is perhaps the prime example of atmosphere in gaming? Well, that’s because there are a couple of other contenders on this list, with “System Shock 2″ being chief among them. The theme of the game is isolation, as you are sent to investigate the sudden stoppage of the world’s most advanced ship. One it becomes clear that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong on board, your only companion is a surviving analyst who guides you to her location, and your only goal is to survive and hope that by reaching her you can regain a sense of perspective about what is going on around you. In your path is a host of mechanical and organic enemies as well as a very real sense of hopelessness that threatens your progress more than any in-game element.

“System Shock” is the spiritual pre-cursor to “Bioshock” and many of its elements were highly influential on the “Deus Ex” series. While that gives you an idea of how revolutionary it was at the time, I’m happy to say I can do no real justice to the game’s atmosphere. You are truly alone in this world. While it’s a world filled with incredible amounts of backstory and political intrigue if you go looking for it, that doesn’t make it feel any less unwelcoming. Capped off by one of the greatest plot twists in video game history, “System Shock 2″ is one of the few great entrants of the horror genre in the games are art debate.

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Love Halloween? Apparently so Does Valve

 

Valve has started their Halloween celebrations early, as they announced that today begins their annual “Team Fortress 2″ Halloween content.

Called Scream Fortress, the event (which runs through November 8th) once again includes the evil wizard Meramasus who is back to rule the world of TF2, only this time in the form of a ghost. At his disposal is the wheel of fate which affects a new king of the hill map where players must defeat Meramasus. The wheel produces a variety of random effects that an aid or harm the player. Also, it would appear the wizard of questionable competence Meramasus has left some of his random spells strewn about, and finding them gives player’s items new, holiday specific effects such as new paint on items, or fire and ghost summoning abilities.

Even better, Valve gets to bring in the recent co-op Mann vs Machine mode to the party, as the machines have been turned into (surprise, surprise) a horde of zombies in the newly dubbed “Wave 666” mode. Speaking of Valve and zombies, they’re also taking the opportunity to offer “Left 4 Dead 2” for free this weekend, and are also marking it down to the brain gnawingly low price of $4.99 until Monday.

I used to love when TV shows had special Halloween episodes, and I really love it when online games do the same. If you for some reason have been waiting to get into “Left 4 Dead” or “Team Fortress 2” now would be the time, as these are some great deals and additions that Valve has once again cooked up for the occasion.

Assassin’s Creed III Is Set for Big Sales Numbers

It’s weird to remember the time when “Assassin’s Creed” wasn’t relevant, but when the first title in the series was released, few found themselves enamored with the  young series. That would change, of course, with “Assassin’s Creed II” which is widely considered to be one of the greatest games of its generation, and would propel the franchise into the stratosphere where it finally settled in the pantheon of true Triple-A caliber videogame series.

It’s a real money in the bank title to be sure, and the upcoming “Assassin’s Creed III” is looking to continue that trend in a big way. As reported by joystiq.com, Assassin’s Creed III is officially the most pre-ordered game in the company’s history.  The exact figure wasn’t made available at this time, but it is more than double the pre-orders of the previous installment in the series, “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.” Tony Bartel, President of Gamestop, is already touting that Assassin’s Creed III is on track to become the best selling game of this year.

Even with the series more recent expansions (“Brotherhood” and “Revelations“) “Assassin’s Creed” is a series that doesn’t rest on its laurels and is constantly coming up with new ways to reinvent itself, and refresh the experience. With its new gameplay additions (like naval battles), the entirely unique American Revolution setting, a new protagonist, some fantastic ad campaigns, and enough E3 Awards and gushing hands on previews to make lesser games weep, the true next installment in the series looks to continue that tradition of excellence.

It also may be the only game left in the calendar year that has a shot of dethroning “Dishonored” for unanimous game of the year consideration (although, right now “XCOM“, “Journey“, or “Kingdoms of Amalur” has my personal vote), and I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one that can’t wait to find out if it will when it is released on October 30th.

The Next Project From the Developers of “The Witcher 2″ Looks More than Promising

Maybe it was watching “Blade Runner” over and over in high school, or maybe it was beating “Deus Ex” about 20 times, but somewhere along the way I acquired a taste for cyberpunk worlds. Often cited as being full of “high tech and low lifes,” there is something immensely appealing about a world where technology has made anything possible, and yet, in many instances, all hope is lost.

I couldn’t be more thrilled then to hear that CD Projekt Red (developers of the brilliant “Witcher 2”) have officially announced their much hyped new title will be called “Cyberpunk 2077.” Unless the game is just going for complete misdirection, it looks to be an RPG set in my beloved world of gears and fears.

Outside of that, the only thing we really know about the game is that it has an official website, a facebook page, and looks to be set in the fictional town of Night City (on the west coast, in between LA and San Francisco) which means it will essentially be the video game adaptation of the tabletop classic “Cyberpunk 2020,” which, according to the press release, is going to be a major source of inspiration for this title, right down to gameplay concepts.

Oh, and there may or may not be a half naked, half robot girl with scythe implants if you are to believe the promotional image. I’m going to bet may on that one, however.

Is it too early to get excited for a game we know virtually nothing about? Well, considering that you’ve got an immensely talented developer working off of a deep and well aged source material in a universe that is still relatively fresh in video games, I’m going to say the odds are long that this isn’t going to at least be an intriguing title. Even with games like “GTA V,” “Bioshock Infinite,” “The Last of Us,” “Watch Dogs,” and so many more on the horizon, I’ve still got this one pretty high on my most wanted list.

The 31 Horror Games of October: Part 2

Carrying on from the first part of this series, comes the greatest horror offerings in video game history. If you can squeeze a session with any one of these gems in-between your “Friday the 13th” marathon, or your fifth viewing of “The Thing” this Halloween, you owe it to yourself.

 

19. Clive Barkers Undying - It’s incredible what some great audio design can do for a game. “Clive Barker’s Undying” has a lot going for it (including a great story and a generally unsettling atmosphere), but special props have to be given to the audio which sets the mood so well, it actually generates a bulk of the game’s scares by itself. It takes a hell of an effort for a semi-fast pace  first person shooter to cause the wide variety of scares you get with “Undying,” which is why we’re all lucky that it is a hell of an effort that we got. One of the few games that I wouldn’t mind seeing getting the HD remake treatment, “Undying” seemingly takes glee in how much it scares you.

18. Sweet Home – Until the invention of the internet  ”Sweet Home” managed to go unheard of for many in the US, as it was only released for the Famicon in Japan. However, looking back at it now, it’s hard to not admire how ahead of its time the game was. Based off of a movie of the same title being filmed roughly around the same time of the game’s development, “Sweet Home” is a traditional RPG style game that has you investigating a haunted house with a team of five characters (each with their own abilities, naturally). Made by Capcom, it’s pretty easy to see the “Resident Evil” aspects inspired by this one, right down to the slow door openings. What really makes the game memorable is how disturbing it is for an 8-bit title. There is a pretty clear reason this game wasn’t released for the NES at the time, and playing the game now (via available fan translation) is odd because you’re not expecting a game of this era to go out of its way to be so terrifying.

17. Penumbra Series – A huge cult favorite, and a bit of a cheat as this is actually three games, the “Penumbra” series is a good example of ambition exceeding limitations. Initially designed by a team of four people, the “Penumbra” series follows the journey of a man who receives a letter from his supposedly dead father that takes him to the barren, fiercely cold area of northern Greenland. What makes the games so incredible is the use of physics in just about every aspect of the game. As your main survival method is stealth, you have to be aware of your environment at all times to survive. The use of physics based puzzles and combat situations are varied and exceedingly clever, and have rarely been topped since. “Penumbra” falters in parts where combat is forced, and taken as a whole the series is up and down (the third chapter is particularly weak), but you’ll rarely find a more clever game of its type.

16. Dead Rising- The zombie genre is basically its own animal in the world of video games, but one of the highlights of the undead revolution in games is Capcom’s “Dead Rising.” Anyone who grew up watching “Dawn of the Dead” always wanted to see how they would fare against a mall full of zombies, and Capcom obliged them with this title in 2006. The highlight of the game is the variety of weapons available, as if it isn’t bolted down, it’s probably a weapon. Obviously trips to the hardware store or gun shop are a given, but it’s the more absurd items like giant gumball machines and bowling balls that highlight this playground of destruction. I’m also a fan of the game’s photography system which rewards you for well timed zombie shots, and the game’s creative achievements which are some of the best on the 360. If it weren’t for a truly bad save system and some control issues, I’d have “Dead Rising” far higher.

15. The 7th Guest – The game that moved more than 2 million copies and helped to popularize the CD-ROM as a gaming device, the “The 7th Guest” is a classic haunted house horror story that is as important as it is entertaining. A truly bizarre tale involving an eccentric toy maker with haunting visions of dolls, and a mansion where 6 guests are invited under uncertain circumstances, the “The 7th Guest” is a an adventure title in the style of “Myst”. Much like that game, the “The 7th Guest” is filled with mind bending (but rewarding) puzzles that help drive one of the stronger horror narratives in gaming. The somewhat corny acting and graphics are more charming than annoying as you can really appreciate it in a nostalgic type way, and, more importantly, the sense of achievement is still very much alive. If there was a gaming history school, like a film history school, the “7th Guest” would definitely be on the curriculum.

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The First GTA:V Details Are On The Way

I’m sure Game Informer editor in chief Andy McNamara is a good guy. Hard working, clean nosed, beloved by friends and small animals, etc.

But today he’s also a real bastard.

According to McNamara’s Twitter account, he is in New York today ready to sit down with a playable version of GTA:V at the invitation of Rockstar. Also according to the feed, this is in preparation for Game Informer’s upcoming December issue where they will most likely blow the lid off of the game with the first real details including, fingers crossed, a possible release date.

GTA is one of those series that has the rare “Beatles” effect where it enjoys the luxury of being both one of the most artistically impressive entrants in its field, as well as one of the most popular. It’s not hard to make the case that it is the definitive game of this generation, and every morsel we’ve gotten about the newest entrant into the series (including those incredible screenshots) has been more tantalizing than the ones that came before it.  To think that we will soon know hard information on the game is really giving me that kid at Christmas feeling.

When Too Many Great Games is a Bad Thing

Fun Fact: There are only three months out of the year.

If you’re saying duh right now, then you must be a major video game developer.

This week brings us the highly anticipated releases of both “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” and “Dishonored.” While two Triple-A incredible games in one week is usually a cause for celebration, it does highlight one of the problems the industry has where the majority of the best games come out sometime between October and December. Like clockwork, it seems that every year the 4th quarter takes our last dollar.

In a way it’s kind of fun as every single week seems to bring us one great game after another, until the holidays roll around and you hope to suddenly get caught up with the gaming blitzkrieg. In another way, though, it’s a principle that really works best for either people in the industry or kids who still make Christmas lists. For the rest of us, it kind of forces you to suddenly have a lot of free time, and a lot of money just to keep up.

It also hurts games like “XCOM”. “Dishonored” and “XCOM” are both amazing titles, but there’s little doubt that between the two “Dishonored” is the much more appealing title for the mass gaming public. A game like “XCOM” that’s a resurrection of a semi-obscure PC franchise, and features a fairly strict learning curve and about a third of the advertising budget of “Dishonored,” has a much harder road to sales success than is necessary for such a stellar game. When you factor in the upcoming releases of sequels to established franchises like “Halo IV” and “Assassin’s Creed III,” you’re looking at snowball’s chance in hell type prospects.

Maybe a game like “XCOM” coming out in July doesn’t guarantee its financial future, but it would be nice to not have to have to choose between two incredible full price games in the same week, only to have to keep doing so throughout the rest of the year.

So would you rather see big releases spread evenly during the year, or are you a fan of the holiday rush?

The 31 Horror Games of October: Part 1

Horror may be gaming’s most effective genre.

While you can put a book down, or tell yourself its just a movie, there is an element of participation involved in games that makes the scary ones that much worse. Even if it is in the virtual sense, you are the one in the game, and the horrors are happening to you.It may have taken a while for developers to truly catch on to the potential of the genre, but ever since there has been a tidal wave of terror that has left many a gamer fumbling their controllers in a cold sweat.

As October rolls around then, and Halloween dawns on us, it is time to celebrate the greatest horror games of all time. I’ve got a list of 31 total, starting here, one for each day of the month. They are loosely ranked, with the main factor being the overall experience.

Although, being absolutely terrifying also doesn’t hurt its standings.

31. Deadly Premonition – Awful graphics, controls, gameplay ideas, acting, and just about every other technical malady you can think of plague this game. But, just like horror movies, not everything has to be perfect for a title to be memorable. There is just something so compelling in the way that “Deadly Premonition” handles itself, as it clumsily (but oddly beautifully) blends horror and black comedy in an open world environment. The game’s story is completely out there, and sucks you in just to see what’s next. It’s almost like the developers intended to make a bad game, but accidentally ended up with something greater than the sum of its parts (much like many a great B-Movie). You’ll either love this game or despise it, but it is impossible to forget, and makes for something every gamer must try even if you hate yourself for doing so.

30. Nocturne – In what will be something of a reoccurring theme on this list, “Nocturne” is brimming with flaws. Sporting one of the worst  cameras ever in a video game, and some equally bad controls to match, “Nocturne” is slightly unplayable these days. But if you gut your way through it you will find some of the best horror environments of all time. Carried by the games great story, “Nocturne” comes off like a mix of the “X-Files” and the old Hammer horror films of the 50s. A technical disaster that did so much else right, this is one game that is begging to be revisited.

29. Dino Crisis 2 – The first “Dino Crisis” looked and felt a lot like “Resident Evil” with dinosaurs. It was fun, and had moments of genuine creativity, but the series peaked with “Dino Crisis 2.” The survival concept of the first game went almost completely out of the window, and in its place came pure action bliss, as “Dino Crisis 2″ became one of the few, and greatest, arcade style horror games of all time. The variety of weapons, enemies, and levels turns the game into one new fist pumping moment after another throughout the, all too brief, runtime. It may not be scary enough to go higher on my list, but it’s fun enough to still warrant playing through to this day, which is not something you can say for a lot of similar games from that era

28. Siren- The Japanese have a good mind for horror, and “Siren” is definitely a pure Japanese horror game. While the game more than liberally borrows from “Silent Hill” in many aspects (especially the story) the look and feel of the game carry an appropriate level of dread. Bonus points are applied for the great “Sightjack” feature that allows you to take over the view of an enemy in order to best avoid them, which is necessary as they can’t be killed in the strict sense. At the end of the day, “Siren” is undeniably a clone of many superior works, but the things it copies are so rarely copied in video games that it still feels fresh.

27. Alone in the Dark – In general, video games do not share the same luxury of fine wines, and tend to age horribly. Long cited as the first survival horror game in the pure sense, “Alone in the Dark” isn’t necessarily unplayable, but its dated gameplay and graphics take much of the original impact away. More than just a textbook video game entry however, there is still a lot of great design decisions to be found in “Alone in the Dark’s” carefully constructed house of scares. Much like an old black and white horror flick, what this game has lost in fright, it makes up for with an odd charm and timeless sense of style. It’s impossible to call yourself a horror fan and not give the original “Alone in the Dark” a go.

26.  Rule of Rose – If famed horror director Dario Argento made a horror game, it may look like ‘Rule of Rose.” One of gaming’s few entrants in the psychological horror genre, “Rule of Rose” is a disturbing romp through an abandoned orphanage that features an almost incomprehensible plot that actually makes the entire experience better for the dreamy effect it creates. I’ve rarely played a game that felt so unnerving, and makes you feel as unwelcome. Unfortunately this is another case of bad design ruining the overall game, as “Rule of Rose” puts its full effort into story and style and leaves players to suffer through a general gameplay hell that will make all but the most patient give up in disgust. It still remains too unique to be anything less than noteworthy, though.

25. Slender: The Eight Pages – I almost feel bad putting such a new and simple title above something like “Alone  in the Dark.” However, “Slender” truly is horror design at its most pure. Featuring one enemy, and no combat system, the only thing you can really do in “Slender” is walk and collect the eight pages that are scattered about. But every turn could make you face to face with the Slender Man himself, which could spell your doom, and ensures you will be jumping constantly while playing. Uncompromisingly terrifying, this is minimalist game design at its very best, and with any luck will start a new trend of horror games not trying to rely entirely on action gameplay as a backbone.

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Bring Atlanta’s Magic City Home, With Their New Playstation Theme

Scan the list of available PS3 themes and you will find they come in a surprising number of categories. There’s the generic game promotion, the clever game promotion, the horrific third party design (WARNING: Link leads to Jersey Shore related material), the unique, the awesome, the creepy, the minimalist, and of course, the three wolves howling at a winter moon bro shirt just to name a very few.

However, one of the most prolific is the babes category. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a large market out there for gamers who want to boot up their Playstations and view a static image of a scantily clad woman who may or may not be an Anime character.

Now, famed purveyor of semi-naked lady themes Konsole Kingz are throwing a new entrant into the dark and dingy ring of babe themes. It provides 8 images of the ladies of the famed Magic City gentlemen’s club in Atlanta, a hot spot for some of the major national and local hip-hop talent. According to Konsole Kingz CEO CJ Peters, the goal of the theme is to:

“…push the envelope in reflecting the modern lifestyle of our consumer but remaining tasteful with the images we choose to produce; and this Magic City PS3 wallpaper is no exception.  The club and their dancers are known all over the world and we’re excited to share a small part of their storied legacy.”

The theme does provide a cheap thrill, makes you feel a little dirty, and has you questioning how you spend your evening, so it does re-create the gentleman’s club experience to an extent. However, since you don’t have to pay an outrageous door fee, get mean mugged by bouncers, feel obligated by a suspicious buffet, or question the integrity of a watered down drink that is priced oddly similarly to a human lap dance, it’s actually a little better than the real deal too.

You can find the Magic City theme in the Playsation Store by searching “Themes and Avatars” and finding it under the “Babes” section. You can also browse Konsole Kingz other theme selections through their website.

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