Hi all, Dann here for another guest post.
Sarah asked me to, being that I run a video games website, write a nice, short piece on some horror games—about five, she said— for Halloween. I’m not that organised though, spooling off a list of about 25 games and starting to write out long segments for each rather than throwaway paragraphs. The deadline looms though, so here is the first few of the games from the alphabetical list.
It’s something I’ll gladly continue to compile if there’s a want for it,so if you (dis)agree with the list or simply enjoyed reading it then please let Sarah know and I’ll finish off the rest for ya’ll reading pleasure.
Remedy are probably best known for the Max Payne series, or even their recently released Quantum Break. Regardless of how people know them however, anybody who has played any of their games knows that they always bring a cinematic brilliance to their games: from Max Payne’s Graphic Novel story and TV/Radio asides in game, to Quantum Break’s live action sequences and amazing visual finesse when deploying the protagonist’s time abilities.
Alan Wake, to me, is superior to both of those series. It merged the story of the ‘author-trapped-in-their-own-creation’ with a dark sense of humour, a game full of characters and moments far too ridiculous to be exist in reality, yet done in a way where you laugh and continue pushing back against the darkness.
My personal highlights in the title come in the form of the faux Twilight-Zone style segments which play out on the TV, the unrelenting FBI agent who continually slings insults at the titular protagonist while pretending not to know their name, and the foreshadowing delivered through the torn pages littered around the game world. Above all of those, however, is the fact that you almost always meet the villain of the ‘episode’ in the story, and when you face their possessed, shadowy form they often cite mundane and boring information in a haunting, jarred manner; the first haunts you along a path, all while talking about how healthy going for a brisk ramble can be.
While the game was definitely more of an action title than a ‘survival-horror’ there were times where ammo management was key, and if you hadn’t scavenged then you’d end up very short-handed. Strangely this became rarer the further you got along in the game, and not through learned resource management… You see, the game is split up into chapters stylised as TV episodes, and your equipment is completely reset between them. It’s a very cool gimmick, but underlines the odd distribution of ammo in the earliest levels.
The best way to get ahold of Alan Wake these days is through the Xbox store as a download, as far as I know. There were some music licensing issues which saw the PC versions removed from select storefronts, but I’m unsure if this impacted all platforms.
Back in the PS2 era Resident Evil had a co-operative, multiplayer mini-series called ‘Resident Evil: Outbreak’. It had players make their way through various locations, working as a team and using their character’s unique abilities to solve problems within the levels. It was a truly amazing offering, and completely unprecedented — nothing like it had happened before.
As a big fan of the earlier Resident Evil games (Outbreak was pre Resident Evil 4, and so had the cool fixed-camera, tank controls of the earlier games) there was NOTHING that was going to stop me from playing this super-cool, co-operative Resi~ game with my friends from school.
Well, actually, there was. The PS2 Network Adapter was not properly supported in the UK. The interface was reportedly a clunky mess, the technology didn’t play well with our networks, and so—over here— it bombed hard.
Oooh, tag yourself! I’m budget-Brad-Pitt!
ANYWAY. We’re not here to talk about Resident Evil: Outbreak, but it segues perfectly into what makes Contagion brilliant. Contagion is—at its core—co-operative, first-person, Resident Evil 2.
Slow moving zombies are the absolute business, and the game’s launch campaign took place in an overrun, locked-down police station. Enough to make fans of RE2 raise an eyebrow. Better yet, players had to make their way through the PD, scavenging bullets, not getting surrounded, and carefully moving from objective to objective, solving basic fetch-and-retreat puzzles.
It’s now four years from launch and the game has accrued a decent following. It’s gained a lot more modes and maps, including a few hold-the-fort/horde levels. Interestingly there’s also Steam Workshop support as well, although the vast majority of items there are new textures for weapons, player phones, and characters.
While I’m a little bit disappointed with the lack of Workshop supplied maps, it’s definitely worth mentioning that the pathway through the game’s maps do vary; locked doors, blocked corridors, and other objects have their locations assigned as the map loads, meaning that you can never be truly confident that you know the way through the level.
£6.99 on Steam at time of writing, Contagion is an absolute steal.
Tag yourself! I’m guy in blue shirt with a headache!
Contagion is only available on PC for the moment, and as far as I know only on Steam.
Deadly Premonition is easily one of the most divisive titles I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying throughout my many years of playing games. It captures the ridiculous quirks we awkwardly chuckled at during old movies, and the strange, ‘secret-world’ moments of most of David Lynch’s works. As a matter of fact, if you enjoyed even a smidgen of Twin Peaks then you’re likely of the mindset where Deadly Premonition will, simply, click with you.
Players control an FBI agent sent to investigate a brutal, disturbing murder in a quirky, Pacific Northwest town. It’s not just the town that is quirky, everything is. The FBI agent talks to an invisible friend, and reads messages from coffee; even the most mundane, trope citizens have quirks and secrets, and there are hidden messages everywhere.
The game is especially feature rich as well, besides from the main story there’re a lot of extra jobs and side-missions which can be completed around the game’s open-world. Not only this, but each of the characters have a routine, giving the game a feeling more reminiscent of slice-of-life games or titles like Shenmue and Yakuza over the likes of GTA & Saints Row.
The biggest negative of the game then, is the combat. Combat is a mandatory section of the game, with clunky aiming and strange warping monsters bookending most of the game’s story missions. While the game has a PS2-era aesthetic, the combination of warping monsters and early Resident Evil style tank-controls is abrupt; it’s like if Resident Evil 4’s running zombies were to be faced off with Resident Evil II’s slow-turning and rough three-height aiming. It’s no surprise that it was added in late, and it’s a shame it was.
Despite this, Deadly Premonition is definitely worth experiencing for it’s strange setting and characters.
Deadly Premonition launched on PS3, Xbox 360, and —later— PC. I believe it remains available on each of those as we speak.
The first Dead Rising (previously Xbox 360 exclusive) was an unforgiving game which both encouraged player death and questioned almost every zombie, horror game trope. At the start of your journey the game feels unfair, and it does a pretty poor job of teaching you how to get better—feeling over-engineered at best, and unfair at worst—until it all suddenly clicks.
Where previous games had equipped you with blades and guns, Dead Rising allowed you to use hundreds of items from around the mall. Where previous games had funnelled you down a set route with no timer, Dead Rising offered an open world but with timed missions mandatory for a main-story finish. Where previous games had put two-or-three zombies into a room to force you into a little combat before you navigate onwards, Dead Rising dropped hundreds-of-thousands into an open mall and taught you that even in dozens they were really just environmental hazards.
In fact, I might go as far to say that the first Dead Rising was very much the Night of the Living Dead to the games horror scene: If you were getting killed by zombies it was because you didn’t know the rules, or you were just really unlucky. That said, you will die. You’ll die to start again with your unlocks, or you’ll die against the game’s real villains, the psychopaths: people mad or driven mad by the situation on hand.