5. Resident Evil 4
I’ve played RE4 recently. The PS4 rerelease. I have this game on PS2, PC, Xbox360, and PS4. At one point in my life I considered this my favorite video game of all time. I said this without even completing the game. That’s how special Resident Evil 4 is–you can come to that conclusion, keep it, and not have beaten the game.
Someday I will go back and actually beat the game. Maybe it will be my quest for next year, since this year my Summer Quest was Wind Waker. The game isn’t difficult, but it does punish overuse of resources. In a game that is more action than horror, the real tension comes from the combat, and more specifically the way in which you employ your resources. Everything is finite in true survival horror fashion. If you go through the game missing shots, or carrying too many types of weapons, you will get to a point where you don’t have enough ammo. This happened to me. I got to a difficult boss late game and I had no ammo. This wasn’t Silent Hill Homecoming, where I defeated the final boss using just a knife because I didn’t retrieve every weapon in the game that was hidden in some fucking random hallway I FOUGHT THAT COCK WITH A KNIFE I AM A MAN. This is Resident Evil Difficult Tense Good Combat Fucking 4. Hear that, Black Mass? You fucking dare fucking talk to fucking me fuck?
Don’t watch Black Mass that movie sucks fucks.
Resident Evil 4 doesn’t suck. It’s one of the greatest video games of all time. It may be the point where one can pinpoint the fall of survival horror. But have you played those fucking games? There’s a reason they don’t exist.
This game is scary enough to keep me from playing the game.
It’s also the video game that triggered a phenomena. Amnesia is a horror game without real combat because the protagonist is defenseless. This means the monsters are MONSTERS, and they WILL KILL YOU unless you can hide or get away.
The cool thing about Amnesia is that the monsters don’t come out often unless you stay in the darkness for too long. There’s also this mechanic that makes the protagonist go crazy unless they light their lantern. Lighting the lantern, or torches on the wall for that matter, uses a finite resource, making use of such strategic, and forcing the player to encounter the monsters (and insanity effects) more often.
This kind of tension makes me stop playing video games. This is a good thing (well, this particular instance is a good thing). It means the HORROR video game is being effective.
Defenseless horror video games taking place in the first person have been running rampant for the last several years, especially in the PC space, and this is all due to Amnesia. For good reason, surely. It’s the Resident Evil of modern horror games; something so successful that games competing in the same genre have to rip it off not only to gain further financial success, but because everyone played it and became inspired.
The environment is beautiful. I love picking things up and throwing them around. I’m not exactly keen on playing a game as a defenseless person (because in real life I’m pretty defenseless as it is), but as a tool of horror, I cannot deny the effectiveness of this here video game. The insanity effects usually translate into the camera shaking against the player’s will which is a thing that makes me nauseous so unfortunately I can’t play the game for very long.
‘s still good
Bioshock was the first video game I played on my Xbox360. It was the one game I looked upon with great jealousy once it came out. It was the first thing I wanted to experience that generation. I’m glad Bioshock was my first “next gen” experience at that time. It was a good one. The wait was more than worth it.
Bioshock, like Resident Evil 4, is more action than it is horror. The combat is frantic fun switching between weapons and spell-like plasmids. Enemies are pretty smart–running away when they’re outmatched, or ambushing players with their backs turned. Fighting a Big Daddy is always an intense affair of throwing everything and anything toward the beast with the hopes that it dies before it charges at you again.
The atmosphere really makes this game, and atmosphere is the most important aspect of horror in video games. The game is based around exploration making the player take their time. But if you take your time more enemies spawn throughout the level including Big Daddies. I always loved how you could hear them as they roamed their crumbling home. From the psychotic mumblings of the splicers, to the stamping feet of the Big Daddies accompanied by the demon-like prattling of the Little Sisters. These touches grant legitimacy to the story the environment attempts to tell by creating a real sense of danger. Messages in blood cake the walls beside giant scratches and bullet holes, and how lame would these marks of combat graffiti be if the enemies weren’t posing a dangerous threat?
Toward the end of the game Bioshock removes a lot of its horror for me because the player becomes a powerful god. It’s still a fun game, but the tension completely dissipates, and the little atmospheric touches sort of melt into the background during what becomes a murderous rampage through this confused undersea world. I think this is fun–not all games need to be scary from beginning to end–and it’s likely the point that you become the threat in the end. This game’s got “things” to say after all! And while that progressions is fun, from weakling to god, I’d say the horror does take a backseat. Again this isn’t bad, and I’m a-flipping like a pancake so let’s move on from this terribleamazing paragraph.
2. System Shock 2
Not REALLY in the same series as Bioshock, but close enough.
System Shock is Bioshock in space.
Bioshock was System Shock underwater, but today Bioshock has more familiarity with people than System Shock despite Bioshock releasing later. Just know that a lot of developers and most of the main developers from System Shock 2 made Bioshock. Even though the game is significantly older, there are enough similarities to make the game familiar to those who played Bioshock. You have weapons and abilities called psionics that are like plasmids. This game has leveling and skill points, thus builds, but it’s handled similarly to Bioshock in that abilities and upgrades are purchased through vending machines. It plays more RPG than FPS, which is the reverse of Bioshock which I felt was more FPS than RPG.
The game also has an atmosphere that is absolutely crucial to setting up the horror in the game. You play in a space station infected by an alien virus that infected the crew. To make matters worse your own ally is the rogue A.I. from the last game who tried to enslave the entire human race. I always found this setting to be scarier than the one found in Bioshock because it’s a little less human. There isn’t pretty architecture to look at. Your enemies aren’t misguided humans obsessed with the potential of humans unshackled by law. You’re trying to survive in a place that wants nothing more than to kill you OR have you join an alien race as just another slave.
And as creepy as the splicers are they don’t hold a candle to the infected crew members. They communicate telepathically to the player as they’re exploring the environment. They groan, moan, and plead “join us.” Their voices are warped beyond humanity, and clearly they aren’t in control of their bodies. Some will chant “kill me” as you engage them in combat as though some portion of humanity in their diseased mind leaked through. And these are just the simple, most basic enemies. As you progress, shit gets even more fucked.
The game stands on its own, not to be completely thought as a predecessor to Bioshock, but the comparisons are necessary. If you have a PC, if you liked the first Bioshock, if like horror games, if you have the patience to look passed a few archaic systems and control set ups–you owe it to yourself to play this video game. It is a classic, and it is an exceedingly effective horror game.
1. Silent Hill 3
Silent Hill will always be a series that is important to me no matter how hard Konami attempts to kill it.
No, seriously. You think they killed Metal Gear Solid? Castlevania? Shit, at least they buried Contra! Silent Hill was on its last legs over a decade ago and instead of taking it out back they decided to put puppet strings and make it dance for almost another decade. Shitty movies. Terrible games created and abused by adopted illegible parents. What a fucking mess. The series composer Akira Yamaoka stayed on for so long out of love for the series and the knowledge that HE MADE THOSE FUCKING GAMES, and even HE knew he needed to quit before Silent Hill Shitpour I mean Downpour!
But that’s not the scary part of Silent Hill 3.
As good as Silent Hill 4 The Room was, Silent Hill 3 truly marks the end of what this series used to be about. Intensely psychological adventures through hellscapes littered with shambling pieces of meat and completely and irresponsibly obscure puzzles. What made everything great was how personal the nightmare was to the protagonist. It was as though Silent Hill had a mind of its own, and meant only to hold up a mirror to expose the forgotten sins of humanity. Monsters, environments, bosses, items, set pieces–everything seems set up for the protagonist. That town shifted and changed according to the protagonist.
I love everything from the grungy locals, to the rusted chain link fence coat of paint exposed by the game’s dark world and I even love the broken combat and the strange and eerie voice performances (that are probably just bad in actuality but acted with such earnest you almost have to believe them). Silent Hill 3 was my first exposure to this series, and it was my first exposure to psychological horror. The game wasn’t trying to give you jump scares, and the game wasn’t really about the very basic dangers of “oh nao dis woman mite die because SCARY GHOST or MAN with nife” like most horror movies around that time. The game was trying to crawl inside of your mind. It made you feel connected to the protagonist more than anything I had experienced prior.
Which is funny because the protagonist is girl. I am boy.
Also when I played that game I followed a guide directly because I was like thirteen or something. Shit scared me!
I will never forget the moment I truly fell in love with the series. I was walking around an abandoned and creepy apartment complex as you do, and I found this room with a mirror. I walked around the room and could find nothing–as in no real reason to have entered the room. Great, I thought, another one of these. So then I tried to leave. But I couldn’t. Then I noticed the mirror. My reflection was slowly oozing blood from her pores. I at once knew exactly what was going to happen. So I turned off my Playstation 2 and stopped playing for the night.
That’s the kind of thing that gets me. Not exactly jump scares, or people out there trying to kill me. It’s the constant dread. You dread a potential jump scare. You dread the people out there trying to kill you. And when the game works that dread by providing a suitable atmosphere hey–that’s horror! It also helps if there is some narrative–some reason why you should be experiencing the dread, or even perhaps MORE dread.
The only dominatingly strong aspect of Silent Hill 3 is that it’s fucking weird. You walk into a sewage plant and there’s this room where a fairy pops up and asks you to toss in a gold pipe and a silver pipe then the fairy gives you a special pipe that does more damage. You walk through hallways that are moving as though you were walking through the throat of something alive and breathing. ALSO THIS ENEMY KIND OF HAS DICKS FOR HANDS.