In honor of Halloween coming up later this week, I was trying to think about a favorite scary game to talk about. Originally my plan was to kick it old school with the point-and-click horror classic Darkseed, but when I sat down to write about it, it occurred to me that beyond a couple of gross-out moments supplied by HR Giger’s imagery, it wasn’t that much of a scary game. So, instead of talking about a particular horror game, I decided to talk about some specifics. What follows are things within some of my favorite games that freaked me out then and still occupy a special place in my memory. Read on, if you dare.
Knife Guy – Spec Ops: The Line
One distinct gameplay characteristic of Spec Ops: The Line is that nobody, least of all you, is a bullet sponge. Enemies go down with only one or two shots, so it’s worth it to take your time and aim properly. Most enemies pop in and out of cover so taking them out is a matter of patience and being ready for when their heads come up. There’s one enemy type however that comes right at you wielding a knife.
He’s some skinny dude with cut-off sleeves and looking all crazy. He’ll go down with only one or two shots, but he’s FAST and if he gets in close, you’re finished. One nice touch , and just one reason why this is such a phenomenal game, is that the Knife Guy not only scares me, but my NPC allies as well. I guarantee, hearing Lugo yell, “Watch out! Crazy fucker with a knife coming at you!” will cause you to do an immediate 360 trying to find him and take him down quickly.
Ubermorph – Dead Space 2
Some people like to get all snooty about the Dead Space series…”Oh, it’s all just jump scares. It’s not reeeaaal horror.” Whatever, Dead Space 1 and especially 2 scare the absolute crap out of me and I have no shame about it. None are worse than the Ubermorph featured in both games. This Necromorph will regenerate any limbs you blow off, and will keep coming for you. In the first game, I had to incinerate one with a ship’s engines to stop it (at least, I think it isn’t coming back…). Right at the end of the the sequel, one is set loose on you as you make your way to the final confrontation.
On the way, I saw a save station there. I stopped, began to get ready for the last boss, and got attacked by it, who was not respecting the fact that this was a save station! Bear in mind, this happens AFTER you stick a needle in your eye in extreme close-up, and I thought I nothing could get to me after that. I got so scared that I said “screw it” to saving and booked it to the final area because nothing there could be worse than a Necromorph that can regenerate.
Psychopaths – Dead Rising 2
There is no one psychopath in this game who stands out as being particularly scary, but my reasons for fearing them are pretty consistent. If you’re not familiar with these characters, the basic premise of them in the Dead Rising series is that as zombies have overrun the game world, some human survivors have snapped under the pressure and will try to kill you if you encounter them. One advantage is that for the most part you don’t have to fight them, and to be honest you shouldn’t even try on your first playthrough.
The problem however, is that on that first time through the game you will almost certainly encounter them by accident, and at the worst possible time no less. Say you’re running through a casino trying to make your way to a save spot so you can get back to your home base. Suddenly, as you enter the area, a cutscene is triggered and you are being chased around by a cannibalistic chef…or a homicidal eco-warrior…or a tiger. If it’s your first playthrough of Dead Rising 2 and you encounter a psychopath, all I can say is run. Run your ass off.
Tank – Left 4 Dead
The Tank makes the list based on the simple fact that he has his own song to announce his arrival. You’re beating back the hordes in Left 4 Dead, waiting for rescue, and suddenly you hear … that music.
Aside from perhaps the distant wailing of a Witch, nothing in Left 4 Dead makes a team snap to attention like the arrival of a Tank.
Malboro – Final Fantasy Series
Status effects. I hate status effects. Part of it comes from being essentially an item hoarder and not wanting to use any of my softs, ethers, or echo screens. Also, there is frankly nothing more pathetic than watching a bunch of high level characters flail around with multiple effects, hitting each other, and dying like a bunch of amateurs. That, more than anything else, is why I am terrified of the Malboro. Aside from its deadly ‘Toxic Waste’ attack, it is consistently one of the more repulsive enemies in the Final Fantasy universe. Many enemies are cool looking, and some are even kind of cute. These guys however just make my skin crawl.
Closing Credits – Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 is, for my money, easily one of the best all-around games every made. Just off the top of my head, I can think of at least a half-dozen unforgettable moments of tension and fear most games could only dream of achieving. With that in mind, the scariest and most unsettling part of this game isn’t the Chainsaw Man, the Regenerators, or even the opening siege. It was the closing credits.
Picture this: I had beaten the final boss and escaped with the president’s daughter, and was in full celebration mode, and then this comes on.
By the time Leon arrives in the village at the beginning of the game, the entire population has been turned into Los Ganados, and you get the backstory of how it happened but it is not dwelled upon. Watching the slow but inevitable transformation of the people of Pueblo into monsters puts a human face on the true horror of what has happened prior to your arrival. Even watching it now makes me feel sad and disturbed. For all the over-the-top gore, cinematic action, and relentless tension of Resident Evil 4, who could have guessed that its most chilling moment is when it uses still images of simple drawings to show what true horror looks like.
In the spirit of Halloween, why not leave a comment and talk about what scares you in your favorite games.