With spooky season upon us again, HCF have chosen a chilling collection of games to play this Halloween, and not only that, we’ve recommended a companion movie to go with the game. If slowly walking down dimly lit corridors with little in way of protection gets too much, perhaps a film might be a little easier on the nerves. At least those scares only tend to last around 90 minutes!
Dead Space 2 – Xbox 360/PS3
Following on from the first game, where protagonist Isaac Clarke had to deal with body snatching aliens that turned humans into disfigured zombies, the Necromorph, he wakes up in an infirmary on one of Saturn’s moons. A few years have passed since the incident and the government has been extracting information from a semi concious Isaac the entire time. He’s brought round by someone sent to rescue him, and unfortunately the entrails have hit the fan again. Yep, much like many a hero in sequels, the same shit has happened to the same guy twice.
Dead Space 2 is a more fast paced game than its predecessor but by no means is it any less terrifying. There are many scares in the game, be them the Lewton Bus or monsters jumping at you from a vent shaft, it’s fast, tense and exciting. The visuals are beautiful and gory, the sound design works wonders in scaring the crap out of you, with the odd blood curdling scream thrown in here and there, just in case you weren’t tense enough! The weapons and combat have some great design behind them. The weapons are designed to cut limbs off the monsters that attack you, which slows them down, allowing you to deliver that fatal blow. Given that it’s a survival horror, ammo is sparse so it’s best to immobilise the enemy before delivering that final blow with the bottom of your boot.
The sound design is fantastic and really screws around with your head. From the occasional child crying, to a metal object being knocked over in the distance, even with nothing there, it tweaks at those already shredded nerves and tries to engulf you in fear. Dead Space 2 is one of the most satisfying survival horror games of the last generation. It looks great, plays wonderfully, and manages to keep you hooked, despite not wanting to play on due to the fear! The ending is utterly frantic, fast paced and nerve shredding, which if you get through without getting torn to pieces in one of the most gratuitously satisfying game over screens then, bravo! It’s a difficult final section, but twisted and bloody satisfying!
Movie Companion – It’s tough to think of a companion piece that would slot comfortably in place. The obvious one is Aliens, Jim Cameron’s action packed sci-fi horror, but there’s elements of zombie movies in there and shades of John Carpenters The Thing. Tough to pigeon hole, but it’d probably be Aliens.
Zombi U – Wii U
ZombiU, a WiiU launch title is one of few horror games to maintain its level of tension throughout. Set in zombie infested London, you’re taken under the wing of someone you only hear over PA systems and communication devices. You don’t meet this person face to face, but you run errands in exchange for shelter and the chance of living for one more night. Setting up base in Shadwell tube station, you are one of potentially many characters playing as the body for your hosts eyes and ears, being sent to various locations in the capital, including Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, as well as various tube stations and other areas, collecting supplies and connecting to the city’s surveillance system. From the get go there’s the sense of impending doom. It’s a first person survival horror in the truest sense, Zombi U gives you minimal supplies of anything and once you die, you die. There’s no loading from a previous save point. However you do take over a new character, who will pick up from where you left off, which includes killing the previous character who is now shuffling around as the undead. This also allows you to take back any items that were lost.
It’s a genuinely nerve racking experience, fully realising the survival horror genre, making sure you manage your supplies correctly, using the environment to your advantage where possible and also making great use of the Wii U’s gamepad, incorporating it into the game by having the character you control use a similar device to look for any clues or items, as well as using it to hack devices like CCTV. It’s also used to manage your inventory, but you’re best not to get too distracted, as while you’re shuffling around your backpack on the gamepad, the game is still running, so you’re vulnerable to attack at any moment. It’s a game where you’re always on your guard, meaning you’re constantly on edge, and even the safe houses aren’t always 100% safe. It’s an experience that is quite unique compared to most survival horrors, with its gloomy look, and constant sense of doom, this is a game grounded in realism and probably one of the most tense horror games ever made. A massive surprise coming from Ubisoft, who really should have stuck with the genre as it’s one of the better games they’ve produced in recent years.
Movie Companion – 28 days later – gritty, grimy and very tense, and gives a chilling vision of our nations capital following the zombie apocalypse.
Resident Evil – PSX/PSN/Saturn/PC/DS
Resident Evil is probably the grandaddy of survival horror games. Released on several formats since the mid-nineties, it was most at home on Sony’s fantastic Playstation console. Capcom produced something terrifying, yet completely original, in gaming terms, back then which kicked off a series which is still going strong today with a fanbase of millions. It’s a game that managed to capture the feel of its influences, like Romero’s Living Dead movies. Questionable acting, silly dialogue and lots of gore are all present. You have to remember, much like Romero’s original zombie movies, Resident Evil was ground breaking for its time, with there being nothing of its kind up until that point. The journey through the zombie infested mansion was a tense affair, made as such by the fixed camera angles (meaning you don’t see the entirety of the room you’re in, regardless of what’s waiting for you) and the horrific monsters you come across, along with the task of conserving your ammo and health.
This was the first game I ever played that was actually tense and delivered a sense of fear, so from a gaming perspective, it was a completely new experience (along with a lot of other games from that era). There were other horror games released around that time, but this one really broke the mould. It’s dated considerably and looks a bit ropey these days but is still absolutely playable. Although there are scares, they do seem quite watered down compared to what we see in games today, and a lot of the horror is delivered through jump scares and several files that are picked up throughout the game, detailing events that have happened in the lead up to where the game takes place. These also drop hints at what you may run into next, which adds to the fear of what you’re about to face. The voice acting in the game is just awful, which is part the games charm nowadays, and Barry Burton is legendary, so if Resident Evil is something you haven’t played, this B-movie homage needs to be experienced.
Movie Companion – Zombie Flesh Eaters – terrible acting but effective visuals for its time
Alan Wake – Xbox 360
The titular writer, Alan Wake is on a working retreat in North American small town Bright Falls, which on first impression looks very much like Twin Peaks. Beautiful lakes and tree filled skylines, and that tranquil small town feel. Although there are obvious homages to the show, that’s where the similarities end. Alan is there to finish his latest book after suffering from writers block. A car accident leaves him stranded in the middle of nowhere one night, and suddenly, the shadows start coming to life, but seem to have it in for our hero. Armed with a torch, some Duracell and a gun, Alan has to get through each scenario, some extremely terrifying, be it on foot or in a vehicle, using light as an ally. Alan Wake is full of tense moments, with an unseen malevolent force doing everything it can to kill Alan, yet it seems he’s the only one who experiences it. As the story unfolds, it turns out it’s his own pages are coming to life, with parts of a manuscript apparently written by Alan, littered around the game, giving you a heads up as to what may be around the next corner. Much like one of the games underlying themes, the scares from the game are generated from the unknown, as a lot of the tension is in the sound design, making the experience as much a psychological horror as it is physical.
It’s a scary experience, which does wear thin a bit towards the end, but stick with it. Although the ending leaves as many questions as it answers it is satisfying when you get there. Hopefully we’ll be seeing Mr Wake again sometime. There was a couple of DLC packs, which don’t really bring much more to the table, but a separate episode was released via XBLA called Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, which was also a great game but still left the bigger story wide open.
Movie Companion – In The Mouth of Madness – reality becomes the pages of fiction, in a terrifying decent into insanity.
Deadly Premonition – Xbox 360/PS3/Steam
Deadly Premonition is an absolute oxymoron. On the surface it’s a terrible looking rip off of Twin Peaks with some survival horror elements thrown in for good measure. The plot, the score, the town and the weird characters all look like they were shamelessly lifted straight from David Lynch and Mark Frost’s epic television show/movie. FBI agent, Francis York Morgan is sent to Greenvale to investigate the murder of a young blonde woman, Anna Graham. What he finds is a very strange small town and a population of even stranger residents. However there is a supernatural presence, and every now and then, in the middle of looking for clues, you’re suddenly in an alternate universe being stalked by shadowy, joker-esque zombie type creatures, that literally bend over backwards to try and pull your insides out via your mouth.
The bizarre thing is, it’s brilliant! It’s chock full of the charm you get from the show it’s ripping off, and you can’t help but play on and see what bizarre characters crop up next, or where the investigation will lead. The voice acting is Resident Evil levels of exceptional, and the weird lounge/jazz music couldn’t be any further away from the tone of the gameplay. Also York has a strange conversations with Zack. Zack isn’t actually there, so Agent York is potentially crackers, but the conversations are interesting, including the discussion of DVD extras on terrible horror films. Deadly Premonition, while looking like a Dreamcast reject, oozes cult appeal and has a massive fan base. It’s bit of a slow ride at times, but it’s a bafflingly enjoyable game, that really shouldn’t work, but against all odds, is great fun to play.
Movie Companion – Twin Peaks – It’s a carbon copy!
Luigi’s Mansion – GameCube
Ok, so it’s not quite a horror game, but it is a spooky haunted house experience, and great for some spooky Halloween fun. A launch title on the GameCube, which still holds up today in terms of both gameplay and visuals, Nintendo really went against the grain with this one. Rather than having an adventure with Mario on their brand spanking new console, they’ve taken his lanky sibling, stuck a vacuum cleaner on his back and thrown him into a haunted house. He’s there because he won it in a competition he didn’t even enter, and he was supposed to meet his famous brother there. When he arrives, Mario is nowhere to be seen. It turns out he’s been kidnapped by Boo’s! Coincidentally, Luigi runs into a scientist who has invented the Poltergust 3000 (a vacuum cleaner, basically), which enables him to capture spooks in his mission to rescue his captive brother.
The mansion is a maze of locked doors, booby traps and an assortment of poltergeists and other spooks. The game play is simple but addictive. Each room is haunted, and once you’ve cleared that room, you progress on to other rooms in the mansion, meeting all manner of ghosts along the way. The similarities with Ghostbusters are there from the outset, with everything from Luigi’s trusty back mounted vacuum, to the design of the ghosts themselves. Luigi’s Mansion is inoffensive spooky fun, which might make a more relaxing alternative in contrast to the above games, but a superb one. One of the original and best GamCube titles.
Movie Companion – Ghostbusters – Fantastic fun the whole family can enjoy. While it isn’t scary, it is widely revered and still entertaining after countless revisits.