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I am Andreas. Day time programmer and technical consultant. Night time musician and game developer.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Scary videogame moments

Inspired by GameSpy's Scariest moments in gaming feature, (with which i mostly disagreed by the way), i wanted to do a list of my own. I have a huge thing for horror and sci-fi, so it would only be proper ;P

Fair warning is due; tharr will be spoilers.

So here goes, i no particular order
  • Marathon (MacOS): Running into the Hulks in The Rose
    Hulks appear in one level, a long, rambling one shaped like a rose, taking place amidst a slaughter of civilians. The end of the level, running through the "petals", is in almost complete darkness. Then you start running into these gigantic things that will *mash* you if you even come close. Something Dark Corners of the Earth really did well was the sense that there's nothing scary about something you can destroy. What's truly scary is helplessness under stress and the resulting panic, and taking down a Hulk would take 3+ rockets, which was just unheard of. You'd be backpedalling, emptying all your ammo reserves, and they'd still keep coming.

    Check out Craig Mullins' awesome digital painting of a Hulk

  • Call of Cthulhu (xbox): Escaping the Shoggoth
    On the topic of running away from things, i haven't played an escape sequence more tense than this. The Hotel escape is one thing, but the Shoggoth *crushing* the air duct you're desperately crawling through, without having even seen the damn thing yet is something mindblowing. CoC:DCOTE consistently terrifies the player by offering glimpses from the monster's point of view, coupled with noises, slowly ramping music, and a well learned understanding of the fragility of the player character. Running away is one thing, running away with a broken leg is another altogether. This game makes the player feel like a soft piece of meat in a meat packing factory, and the howling blubbering almost liquid Shoggoth promptly treats you like one. Vile, vile stuff.


  • Project Zero 2 (xbox, ps2): Broken neck lady
    Hoo boy. I play this in the first person mode on the xbox, and out of the blue catching a screaming woman falling through your peripheral vision, impacting with a sickening crunch is one thing, but having her twist and bend towards you upside down on the floor, her neck at a completely uncool angle was simply mindbending. Naturally, as with all things Project Zero, the horror wears off after the first couple of times, but the kind of mind rape these games inflict on a player in their set piece confrontations are completely unmatched within the genre. To me, the broken neck lady stands out as the most horrifying of Project Zero 2.

  • Resident Evil (gamecube): Lisa Trevor
    A mutated, malevolent little abused girl hellbent on absorbing other people so she won't ever be alone again. I don't know if there's anything else i need to say here. I like two kinds of monsters: The unfeeling, illogical Lovecraftian horror that bends reality and simply doesn't make sense (Shoggoth, Giger's Alien, Giant freaking insects), and the perversion of nature into something that makes no sense (Zombies, Slither's egg sack mutation etc). It is important that monsters make no sense to me, i don't know why. I don't find muscles and teeth scary O_o. The player gets to know Lisa through the diary of herself and her father, Trevor, who never tell explicitly what's going on, only that it's all very wrong. When you finally meet Lisa, you want to leave leave leave leave leave, at the same time as you feel
    bad for her. Vicious.


  • F.E.A.R (pc): Finally meeting Alma
    I was so sick and tired of the little scary girl motif by the time i played FEAR that i really wasn't very frightened by her. Boo-moments, sure, but not truly creeped out. Too much Grudge, Ring, K-horror ripoff X, i just couldn't dig it. But all through the game you know she's holed up somewhere. You know she's not dead, you know she's tormented, and you know she has something intimate to do with you. So what's the small girl? It sure isn't what Alma truly is, and this anticipation pays off in *spades* at the end of the game, which is one of the most chilling sequences i have ever played.

    Think a small girl insta-murdering nondescript marines is bad? How about everyone but you promptly shutting down, standing around like mannequins, as the decaying half-corpse of the world's most vengeful psychic mother figure really wants you back where you belong; with her, forever. This was nervous laugh inducing to the extreme. My girlfriend must've thought i was out of my mind.

  • Thief (pc): The Bonehoard
    Thief trashed my nerves hard with its sound work. This game stands out today as an excellent example of how fantastic sound can more than counter for lackluster graphics. Eric Brodius is a god damn genius.

    I know most consider Return to the Cathedral to be the most terrifying mission of them all, but to me, Down in the Bonehoard stands as the most memorably creepy, with its horrors going beyond the merely visceral.

    The Bonehoard has the player explore undead-infested tombs, looking for the Horn of Quintus, heard eerily playing a solemn tune far off in the distance. Creeping among enormous pillars as undead shamble all around you, following your ears to find your prize. Panicking in the Bonehoard is not an option, or you'd find yourself under attack by more dead than you can handle.

    This level imbues the player with the sense that Garrett really isn't supposed to be there, that he's all alone, and that he keeps going deeper and deeper, further away from civilisation and home. The loneliness is only compounded by the lack of human opposition. If Garrett dies here, noone will ever know, noone will ever find him, and he might end up among the walking dead. I found this experience incredibly bleak.

  • Project Zero 3 (ps2): Existing
    This game mortifies me. I'll freely admit to this, i can't even play it. I've reached a point where i'm not sure if i'm even getting any kind of entertainment from it, i can barely move down a corridor without being either weirded out or otherwise psychologically impeded. I feel like a retard playing it. I suppose at some point i'll just get over myself like i did with PZ2, but right now, it's kind of just sitting there waiting for that moment. The sound design and art direction is mindblowing, and challenges the player to make his or her own conclusions, not only in terms of the storyline, but also in terms of what's under that sheet over there. I'm a huge fan of the craftsmanship here, but it's borderline unplayable for me.

  • Silent Hill (PS): Having ears
    Another game that rises above the opposition through sound, Akira Yamaoka's work on the original SH is so far ahead of his subsequent efforts it almost makes me angry. This is a soundtrack that can make *crossing a bridge* terrifying, and stands shoulder to shoulder with the best dark industrial ambient can offer. SH2 and 3 rambled off into weirdness and strange pop-rock anthems to the point of self-parody. SH is terrifying in its ALIEN nature alone, and deserves to be played by people who aren't out for stabs of shock, but rather a biting, freezing *cold* of fear that permeates every moment of its gameplay.

More coming..

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