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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A Serious Discussion About Comedy in Video Games

I was lucky enough to grow up a gamer during the NES era. I say lucky not just because, as a child, the NES was this mythical monolith of unlimited entertainment potential, but because I’ve been lucky to see video games evolve from the big bang moment that was Nintendo’s first console. In that time, what’s impressed me most evolution-wise isn’t the technological advancements the industry has enjoyed, but the artistic ones.

Writing quality would probably be the biggest improvement. Recently, I started playing “The Witcher 2,” and I’m finding it to be a watershed moment in video game storytelling. Sure, some of the dialog is groan-worthy, but the overall tale, and the brilliant way in which the game weaves it, is simply astounding. While it may be a beacon of writing quality in games, it’s far from the only port in the harbor. Games like “Braid,” “Bioshock,” and “Heavy Rain,” to name a few, have all gone far and beyond to prove that at their best, the stories of video games can bring out all of the same emotions as the stories in books, films and theater.

Except for humor.

Of course, I’ve laughed while playing games before, but it’s rarely been because of a specific joke made. Instead, by their general nature, video games are just light-hearted entertainment sources. Hell, the mascot of the entire industry might just be an underdeveloped Italian plumber with a hatred of reptiles, incredible jumping abilities, and a hard-on for elitist blondes. So for an artform that isn’t supposed to take itself too serious by its very nature, why is good, pure comedy so hard to come by?

Let me backtrack a little bit from that statement. I know that funny video games exist. I also know that comedy is perhaps the most subjective form of entertainment there is. What makes one person’s sides split causes another’s lips to droop. But still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t works of comedy in other mediums that are generally considered to be undisputed comedy classics. Like “Caddyshack” or “Ghostbusters” or “This is Spinal Tap.” What is gaming’s equivalent? Well, type “funniest video games of all time into Google” and the consensus answer would seem to be “Conker’s Bad Fur Day.” I’ve covered Conker before, but just as a refresher, “Conker’s Bad Fur Day” is simply the raunchiest, most parody-filled, brute force comedy video game ever made.

And it’s not that funny. Well, I mean it is, but at best it’s a decent episode of “South Park,” without any of the clever context. “Conker’s Bad Fur Day” was a machine gun of jokes that figured if it fired enough rounds, one of them would hit just about everyone that played it. Even worse, it aimed that gun square at the stereotype that gamers are only 14 year old virgins, and made its name from it. And yet, to this day when people reference it, they use the words “Adult Humor.”

The King of Video Game Comedy?

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What is “Infinite” Minus Two?

News is slowly pouring in today that two of the biggest developers on “Bioshock: Infinite“ are leaving Irrational Games.

Director of product development Tim Gerritsen and art director (and designer of the series’ iconic Big Daddies) Nate Wells have both updated their LinkedIn profiles to indicate that their employment with Irrational Games is now done. While no further official announcement has been made, Nate Wells also made a Twitter post earlier that read “New Job…Details to follow.” That tweet has since been removed. For those who don’t remember, “Bioshock: Infinite” was also delayed earlier this year until 2013, in order to give it “specific tweaks and improvements” that would make the game “into something even more extraordinary,” according to lead designer and Irrational founding member Ken Levine.

Now some sites are already panicking about this pretty hard. I’m not quite there yet myself. For one thing, it’s a sad but true fact that developers at all levels will often leave a studio before a project is completed. Moves of this nature traditionally have no bearing on the quality of the final product on any consistent level.

No the real news here is that there is no real news. Ever since the delay of “Bioshock: Infinite” was announced, updates on on the game have gone ice cold. This is okay if you’re a title like “Grand Theft Auto V” (another Take-Two production). It’s “GTA”, and everyone knows there’s going to be a lot of secrecy involved leading up to the release. But “Bioshock: Infinite” didn’t even bother to poke its head in at E3 this year. Plus, even though “Bioshock” was possibly the game of the decade, the fact that the only news on its true successor in the last year has been a delay and the departure of your manager of content creators (Gerritsen) and a 13-year veteran of your studio (Wells), makes even the most level headed gamer start to wonder what’s really going on at Irrational.

Ultimately, “Bioshock: Infinite” will still sell millions, and I don’t believe that its overall quality will have anything to do with these departures. However, I’m curious how Irrational addresses this news. Do they remain silent and let speculation rule, or do they make a move as bold and innovative as “Bioshock” itself and actually shed some light on this situation, beyond the typical PR release?

Simply put, if there’s no fire to report, then why fan the flames?

Get Bioshock free when you pre-order Bioshock 2 at Direct2Drive

Big Daddy comin at ya. I can’t imagine why this would ever be the case. I mean, the original Bioshock is like $15 most places, often less. Why you still wouldn’t have the game, or haven’t played through the game, is totally beyond me. I suppose it is possible, though, so this deal is still worth mentioning.

When you pre-order Bioshock 2 from Direct2Drive they’ll throw in a copy of the original for free. You can get the same deal on Steam if you prefer the Valve method. Hell, even if you have the first this is still a great deal. Install the original on a friend’s machine who just refused to buy it.

Bioshock 2 releases Tuesday, along with Dante’s Inferno.

Bioshock 2 Gets A Date

Bioshock 2 logo.It looks like Take Two is going to make good on the promise of delivering Bioshock 2 in the early months of 2010. The sequel to the developer’s smash hit got a global release date of February 9, 2010.

For those who have forgotten, Bioshock 2 puts you in the boots of Big Daddy some ten years after the first game ended. Now there’s a monster roaming the Atlantic coast snatching up little girls and dragging them down to Rapture. It’s your job to stop him.

Bioshock 2 will also feature a multiplayer system that works as a prequel. From the press release:

Multiplayer in BioShock 2 will provide a rich prequel experience that expands the origins of the BioShock fiction. Set during the fall of Rapture, players assume the role of a Plasmid test subject for Sinclair Solutions, a premier provider of Plasmids and Tonics in the underwater city of Rapture that was first explored in the original BioShock. Players will need to use all the elements of the BioShock toolset to survive, as the full depth of the BioShock experience is refined and transformed into a unique multiplayer experience that can only be found in Rapture.

I would have loved to see this game come out this year, but at least there’s a little something to look forward to in the wee months after the holidays.

The Best Big Daddy Cosplay

Harrison Krix in his Bioshock costume.I’m not into cosplay, but I love all the Flickr galleries dedicated to this kind of stuff. I found this one from the Reddit front page today and found myself overwhelmed with the outcome. The model, as you can see, is a near -perfect replica of Big Daddy from Bioshock, but there’s a living breathing human inside.

His name is Harrison Krix. His name is Harrison Krix. His name is…well yeah, it’s Harrsion Krix. Krix is a graphic designer from Atlanta who designs props for a living and also takes commission work. This project, though, was just for fun. You should give his blog a lengthy look-see. He fully details the method for making this monstrosity, and you can also see his other projects. The Portal gun is particularly cool. So is the weathered Kraken club. Harrison is the type of guy that makes me wish I was a whole lot more artistically inclined. Did I mention the drill arm (on Big Daddy) actually drills?

Bioshock 2 Gets Pushed to 2010

Bioshock 2 logo.It’s no big surprise to see major titles get pushed back by publishers. That’s what’s happening with the sequel to Take Two Interactive’s smash hit Bioshock, the appropriately named Bioshock 2. Originally scheduled for an early November release, the company now says we won’t get back into their super-creepy world until the first half of 2010.

Take Two says the game is being delayed to “provide additional development time for the title.” Again, not something so uncommon for a sequel, especially for something as big as Bioshock 2. I’m happy to let them take their sweet time on the game if it means it will hold a candle to its older sibling.

The truly disappointing news is for investors. In an apology for the delay, Take Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick had this to say: “We recognize that our revised outlook for the balance of fiscal year 2009, due to both internal and external factors, is a disappointment. That said, we concluded that moving the release of BioShock 2 into fiscal year 2010 was the right decision for the product.”

The delay means we’ll be seeing plenty of heavy-hitters from Take Two next year. Their 2010 lineup now includes Bioshock 2, Mafia II, Max Payne 3, and whatever other titles remain as yet unannounced. Even if we disregard those unnamed titles, 2010 is going to be a very big year for Take Two.

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