10 October 2011

Fetch your adult diapers! [Scary PC game moments]

I play very few "horror" games because frankly most of them aren't as scary as they want you to think they are. Instead I have found that many regular games that incorporate a scary level do a much better job at creating a great "poop your pants" atmosphere.

This is a list of games new and old, that first and foremost are good games but also include "scary parts" if you like to call it that. The list is in no particular order.

Maniac Mansion
I owned this game on my NES, it is really not a scary game and not a horror game at all as it is one of those adventure game gems from when LucasArts were known for their point and click adventure games rather than Star Wars spinoffs.

The story is that a UFO had crashed near a mansion where a mad scientist and his weirdo family lives. The character you play had his girlfriend kidnapped and you have to pick among a bunch of friendly characters to form a "crew" in order to save her and stop the mad scientist and his tentacle minions. The thing is that you have to break into this mansion and avoid its inhabitants, especially "Nurse Edna", the crazy wife of the main villain. She frequently wanders about the mansion and seem to appear where you least expect it - naturally chasing you whenever you get caught in the same room. If caught you would be thrown in the jail located in the cellar and had to use at least 2 characters to break out one at a time.

I remember the panic when playing this game as a kid, there would be a brief cut scene where the inhabitants of the mansion would talk about going for a "snack" which meant that they would appear in the kitchen soon and the instant rush to get the hell out of there to avoid being chased by that choppy animation of Nurse Edna. This game was also released for the PC with better graphics.

Alien vs Predator (1999)
This game had 3 campaigns. One as the Predator and one as the Alien, but it was the colonial space marine campaign that made you shit bricks. While the two other campaigns were interesting in their own right, they also provided a sense of being the hunter rather than the prey. Playing as the colonial space marine you wake up alone and abandoned in a base and have to find your way out of there, while being jumped by aliens in dark hallways with limited amount of ammunition with death never being further away than one jump from the wall. This campaign created the perfect panic atmosphere, just like in the movies "Alien" and "Aliens". You walk around in pitch black, with a motion sensor indicating multiple things closing in on you and you have no idea really where they will pop up as this game introduced enemies that could climb walls and along the roof. This game also had that perfect pulse gun sound that I just love, and to throw flares in front and behind you to briefly lit up dark hallways and see black slimy shapes run towards you as you fired like mad to buy yourself some time was just awesome.

Thief III: Deadly Shadows
Beside being a phenomenal game it also featured one of the scariest levels in any game I've played, "the Cradle". You play as Garret a thief who is tasked with stealing specific artifacts from various sources. And the great thing is that the game kind of builds up the suspense about the cradle, and the main villain only called "the hag". So when you finally get the mission to seek out the cradle you are very reluctant to set your foot in there. The story behind the place was sick and scary enough, insane asylum turned orphanage which burned down to the ground trapping inmates and children in the fire. A place of misery and despair.

The building itself looked scary as hell on the outside but the cradle on the inside scare you witless with the fantastic atmosphere of dread, and silent unease. It was also a level divided into two parts, one being the basement and one being the upper floors. The basement was spooky as hell, but it was first when you reached the upper floors that you started to hear that you were not alone. Silent shapes moved about slowly in the hallways and you only had very limited abilities to actually get rid of them which added to the fear, add to that the sound effects that were just spot on and greatly helped creating the mood.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark corners of the earth
A game based on the works of H.P: Lovecraft, with a huge influence from "A shadow over Innsmouth" in particular. This game is a bit special, since it included a hidden "sanity/horror" attribute that affected your character. Whenever you saw something unnatural or looked at something messed up your character started to panic real bad, shaking, mumbling to himself, hearing voices and if the fear grew out of control he ended up committing suicide by shooting himself in the head. The story in this game revolves around a private detective investigating a weird cult after taking part in a federal raid against a mansion owned by some demented cultists. His further investigation takes him to the town of Innsmouth, and this is really the best part of the game. You start out unarmed, wandering about Innsmouth where people looked really  scary to begin with. Wide eyed stares, growling voices, mysterious discoloration to their skin. Very few people want to talk with you, and you soon learn that the buss you came in with has "broken down and need fixin' " so you are forced to spend the night in the local hotel.

After having spent an hour or so doing your investigation you head back to the hotel for some well earned rest but you become plagued by a nightmare showing you a vision of the hotel owner leading a bunch of villagers towards your room.

You wake up and hear them just outside of your door trying to unlock it, and here starts the part of the game that is really hard to beat when it comes to pure panic and dread, the crazed villagers start bashing down your door so you have to run around in panic, pushing shelves in front of the doors, locking doors behind you as you run through rooms, jump out of a window with a 1 second margin, and then run like hell through town trying to evade your pursuers. The fantastic part of this is that it mixes running for your life while your character is delirious out of fear, and then keep sneaking around until you find a weapon - and even then you are reluctant to use it as it will call attention to you with more villagers showing up. Later parts of the game also include horror situations and crazy chases, but the first part where you are unarmed and feel completely helpless is hard to beat.

STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl
I love the first STALKER game, the second one was shit, while the third improved the entire concept for the better. But none of the sequels had the same amount of fresh "scares" as the original. The original also featured levels and enemies providing suspense and a thrill in a completely different way.

The game takes place inside the "zone" , the closed area around the Chernobyl plant and you are one of the scavengers living inside the zone with a mission to track down a guy named Strelok. Your little search takes you through a lot of cool environments and you meet a lot of weird mutants and anomalies. Some of them are very area specific. You have the shambling zombies of careless STALKER's who had their brains fried from the Chernobyl emission plaguing the area, poltergeist like enemies that can't be seen but throw crap at you but mainly the invisible "Bloodsuckers". This enemy is a tough beast, that runs around invisible, you can just hear it breathing as it moves closer or away from you - only appearing in solid form once it attacks or when very wounded. Hard to kill and moving fast it becomes a scary element when you are sent to investigate old underground bunkers. The game also stays fresh by having each of the 3 underground locations filled with different kinds of monsters, and while you can encounter those monsters on the surface it gets a lot scarier when crawling around in the dark concrete tunnels, hearing something breathing around the corner ready to rip you a new one.

One level just plays with your mind, while another is a zombie filled maze - and while the zombie may shamble slowly towards you, their mumblings and gasps are pretty effective in creating a scary atmosphere.

Amnesia the dark descent
This entire game is something of a survival horror/puzzle solving/mystery game. It does two things very well. First off, you are completely unarmed in this game, and you won't find any weapons. Second, enemies are few and far between - but the atmosphere of the castle environment where you wander about trying to figure out how you got there and why you had written a note to yourself talking about going down the dungeons and kill a guy who betrayed you is hard to beat. The game takes place during the 19th century, so have a lamp that requires oil to keep it burning, and matchsticks to light candles and torches with. Your character is scared shitless when it becomes dark - or whenever you see the supernatural enemies, this game pretty much use the same system as Call of Cthulhu: Dark corners of the earth in that regard. 

The enemies are randomly generated so if the monster appeared in one room during your previous game, it will be in different place in your next game. When you encounter monster you have to run as if your ass was on fire, close doors behind you and jump out of sight or preferably hide in or behind some furniture until the creepy monsters get tired of looking for you. The game is also cruel as you have to put out your lamp not to be spotted, so while you hide from the monster your characters slowly goes insane and the only way to calm him down is to light some candles or the lamp. Parts of this game are really nauseating, like moving through the old dungeons and hearing voices of the long dead prisoners scream and beg for mercy as they are tortured and then open a door leading to a dark room only to hold the oil lamp in front of a monster face!

Things also get a lot more disturbing as you learn more about the background of the castle and its owner.

Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
I really love this game, it’s a Vampire 1st/3rd person RPG that lets you play as a vampire from one of the clans of your choice. It is a great take on the "hidden vampire society" idea that vampire of everywhere but have to follow a strict code of conduct not to reveal themselves - which becomes hard if you chose to play as the disfigured Nosferatu clan which have to use the sewer system to move around unnoticed. Anyway, in one early part of the game you are given a quest to exorcise an old haunted hotel. The story and how it plays out is very similar to "The Shining". You had a guy who went insane and killed his family, and you have to find a way to stop the haunting so that the hotel can be restored. This level features everything from messed up visions and poltergeist activity. It was also the only level where you felt that you being a vampire wouldn't help you out.

System Shock 2
This is another game that is intended as a scary game through and through – and succeeds rather well. Your character wakes up alone and instantly neck deep in shit just like in Alien vs Predator. You are aboard a space ship, the crew is gone or at least you think so. You will encounter them twisted and infected with something as you start exploring the ship. Dead bodies, twisted crewmen and a guiding voice leading you through the ship are your only companions for a long while. Uninfected survivors are pretty much absent from the game, and wandering it alone trying to figure out what the hell is going on and trying to survive is a great thrill. Just another game with superb creepy atmosphere.


There are of course tons of other games, Resident Evil (at least the early one's), Doom 3,  Alone in the Dark etc. But the games listed above are the ones I found to be most memorable.

6 comments:

  1. Great post!

    Have you played any of the Fatal Frame games? Highly recommended!

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  2. No, while I did own an Xbox I never got to play those available to that platform. Asian stuff is always creepy as hell so I can imagine it being great :D

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  3. Can't believe you missed Silent Hill. I found the continuous eerie nature and the far more free roaming feel much more creep and unsettling than the jump-shock scares of the contemporary Resident Evil.

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  4. Great Post Anatoli reminded of some classic games

    Silent hill was one of my all time faves especially when the sirens started going proper era with some fiendish puzzles as well. That dam piano in the school

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  5. The lack of Silent Hill on the list is mainly because it was a PS console game for most part. I never got around to play the PC release but I'll look into it now :-)

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  6. It true that Silent Hill most of the in Console list. I have played it on my PSP couple of times. Whatever i like the above scary PC games. Glad to see here.
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