Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Attack on Horror Games

Also in keeping in with the season, I thought I'd do a review of the genre pertaining to horror video games.

I'll admit that I am not a big fan of Horror games, for a few reasons:
1, they're not scary
2, the story usually sucks
3, the controls are usually overly comlicated
4, what constitutes a "horror" game anywhay?

As I said, I am not a fan of these types of games; therefore, I haven't played many either. Among the ones I have played are some of the Resident Evil(Biohazard) and Silent Hill games. Even Devil May Cry, but I wouldn't really call that horror (even though it deals with demons and junk) But the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games are really the ones that carved out the genre we all know. And lets just say, because of them I'm not a fan of horror games.

In Resident Evil, you play either a male or female S.T.A.R.S. operative (mostly) there has been an outbreak of the T-Virus which causes the deceased to become reanimated and crave to feed on the flesh of the living, and in some cases cause severe mutation. Simple enough. So what's the problem? Well ya see, this game would technically be called an over the shoulder action shooter game because that's what it is. It just so happens that there are zombies and monsters running around. The controls are terrible(which IS the main reason I stopped playing the games) I mean really, I have to press the directional right or left buttons and then the down button to turn around (fully rotate the analogue stick once available) that's utter bull! I want to be able to turn at a moments notice in the direction I need to go. And don't say the technology wasn't there. There were plenty of games around that time that allowed instant direction change. It's a hinderance to have to fully control the turn. When zombies are pouring into the hallway I want to be able to run not pivot slowly while they draw nearer. It doesn't make sense.
Now like I said, I think this game series more accurately belongs in the action genre and not the horror genre. it's not that scary. "Yes it is," you say? Take a closer look. What is really scary about it? Monsters? Non horror games have monsters and its not scary. Zombies? Just think of them as a mass of slow moving targets. They aren't scary, there's just way too many of them. That can go for any action game too. When you're surrounded by dozens of enemies(no matter what kind they are) you get anxious. Then is it the fact that things pop out at you? The classic jump scare. All games nowadays and even back then had moments where something unexpected jumped out at you. Especially action games. You're walking along a path, or through a clearing minding your own business when BAM! monster. Resident evil is just an action game with zombies in the dark.

One of my most anticipated horror games coming out is Saw. Now I haven't played it yet so I can't really include it in this review, but I will say it seems scary from the footage I've seen. If you've seen any of the movies, you know the drill about how it works. You play a person who has to go through Jigsaw's maze of death traps. And at any moment you could to the wrong thing and BAM! dead. It seems to have an uber dark atmosphere like the movies, where you're not entirely sure what is in the shadows. I'm sure there will be some jump scares as well, but it is not an action game. Saw is a puzzle solving game. You must think in order to survive. The problem here is that once you've figured out the puzzle it lessens the replay value of the game. (that's the problem with all puzzle games, but I still play them) I will definitely play this game because its not an action game masking itself as a horror game.

Now that i've talked about the horror game genre, I'd like to illustrate the top 6 of my favorite scary moments out of video games (not just horror games) Carefull there may be spoilers ahead...
#6 Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - During the final act of the game, Raiden - after being captured and robbed of his gear - must sneak through the Tron-looking facility butt naked. It is then that he begins to receive abnormal codec calls from the Colonel. In these calls, the colonel's voice becomes distorted as if he's mechanical. The calls also range from him giving you mission orders from the previous games, to him talking about being abducted by aliens. But the Scariest moment is the first call. Raiden - butt naked covering his junk - runs up a flight of stairs. And the colonel calls saying, "Raiden, turn the game consol off right now... The mission is a failure, cut the power right now... Don't worry, it's a game. It's a game like usual..."
"You'll ruin your eyes playing so close to the TV..." interjects Rosemary. Now a videogame telling you to turn it off is pretty out there, but think about this. Like me, most people who played this game probably played straight through with no stops(except potty breaks hopefully) and reached this point of the game after about 20 hours, probably between 2:00 and 4:00 in the morning. Running only on adrenaline and the drive to beat the game, they (and me) were extremely exhausted when this was dropped on them. I was terrified. The Colonel, the man guiding me through the game suddenly tells me that I've done something wrong and should turn off the game. And to top that, every now and then his face disappears and you can see his skull. WTF! It terrified me so much that I wont even look at the screen at that part of the game. Now to be fair, this is not as effective a scare when you play it at noon in the bright daylight. You can tell that the designers knew that people would play straight through the first time and reach that point in the still dark of 2:00 am tired and unwary. It still freaks me out tho.
#5 Metal Gear Solid - About halfway through the game you run into the boss character Psycho Mantis. At this point in the game you've already fought 2 bosses, so you're getting a little cocky. Well the game has a surprise for you. Apart from Mantis reading your memory card and moving the shock controller(which I still think is neat) you're not intimidated by his tricks and you're ready for what ever he throws at you. Or are you? The fight begins, you hear Mantis' creepy laugh and BAM! the screen goes black. A word pops on the screen "video" and you think, omg I turned off the game at a crucial point and like mantis said I havn't saved in such a long time! After a moment the screen comes back on and You see that you didn't turn the game off, but something's missing. Where is mantis? He's gone. You just have time to think, "wha't going on here," when BAM! mantis attacks you. That guy is invisible! SOB! After a few minutes of dodging his invisible attacks he reappears. Now it's on! You pull out your trust SOCOM and open fire. Wait. He dodges all of the bullets! What the hell! BAM! screen goes black again. The word video is back, but wait... it doesn't say video it says Hideo. For those of you who don't know (and shame on you for that) Hideo Kojima is the creator of the Metal Gear Franchise. So it is all to mess with the player. It really shoots down your confidence. I was 12 when I played the game for the first time, (again really late at night) it freaked me out beyond belief, now I've beaten the game so many times it doesn't even bother me, but it still remains one of the most terrifying moments of my gaming history.
#4 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Around 2/3 of the way through the game, snake is captured, and tortured, ultimately losing his eye in the process. Afterwards Snake is held in a dingy cell and fed rotten food. I need to take this moment to explain a side aspect of the game. Every time you enter a new area and save the game Paramedic will enlighten you with a synopsis of a movie she's seen (generally science fiction) this will conclude with a witty banter by Snake which annoys paramedic. If you save the game while snake is in the cell, paramedic will tell Snake about dracula, and we find out that snake is afraid of vampires. What's the scary part, you ask? Well, I actually found this by accident. It only happens if you load the saved game from the cell. I had to stop playing because it was dinner time, and my family went out to eat. It had been a few hours since i had played, by the time I started again it was pretty late at night (again 2-3 am) I loaded the game expecting to just escape the cell and continue on my way. I loaded the game whenBAM! I was playing a completely different game. I was no longer snake. I looked more like Dante from Devil May Cry or something similar. I was in a warehouse being attacked by monsters dressed like cops. They were wolfish and large, but I had 2 sword-like weapons and began to tear into them, eventually if you kill enough monsters you transform, your hair becomes white, and instead of swords, you use your bare hands to tear the monsters in half with blood gushing. You also bound around on all fours. You eventually go back to normal. and the screen fades. Snake wakes up in the cell after having a nightmare. I was shocked and terrified when this happened. Now I just think of it as cool, and play that section on purpose.
#3 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Halfway through the game you initiate a boss fight with a sniper called The End. This fight takes place in 3 areas. The End is a terrifyingly good shot, but that's not what makes this moment terrifying. There is no music during the boss fight (there's actiony music in every other boss fight in all of the games) The weather changes from calm and sunny, to a heavy rain, and to fog. The End is perfectly camouflaged to blend into the environment and he could be anywhere just waiting for you to come by so he can shoot you, which he will if you just go running around. And if you think you can wait him out, you're wrong. He doesn't move until either he shoots you or you shoot him. (he does fall alseep tho, which makes it easier for you to move in on him) He also can sneak up behind you. which is the most terrifying. You can only see one direction at a time. Sometimes you need to use First Person Perspective to find him, but that's when he'll sneak up on you. This and his creepy voice echoing through the valley, make The End one of the scariest bad guys in MGS. But like with mantis, once you've gotten through it enough times it means little.
#2 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - I know i've got a lot of it here, but seriously the Metal Gear Series is closer to a horror game that resident evil is. After Snake escapes the cell, he has to get across the fortress without equipment, then run through a sewer being chased by dogs. He eventually leaps down a waterfall and gets pulled downstream. He wakes up and all of the trees surrounding the river are ablaze. Freaky, but not scary yet. It begins to rain, which puts out the fire, and your next boss emerges. He is levitating (which isn't really scary considering the amount of levitating/flying bosses in MGS) He also has a creepy voice(but a great one) This boss is the Sorrow, at this point in the game he has popped in and out on several occasions, and it seems that Snake is the only one who can see him. One the boss fight starts. I know you're expecting me to say BAm again, well not this time. The boss fight eases to its start. It is pouring down rain, snake is waist deep in water, and The Sorrow is floating around infront of you. But wait. The Sorrow has no health. I can totally take this guy. I fire the only gun I have after the escape which is a Single Action Army Colt. But nothing happens, The Sorrow is immune to bullets, what Kind of fight is this? Are you serious? I can't kill this guy? so I walk forward and he floats back, I'm thinking that maybe I can punch him. You can! but again it doesn't kill him. He disappears and reappears further away from you. Slowly as you progress down/up the river (immersed in creepy music) you begin to notice ghostly soldiers approach you. They're slow, kind of like zombies, but unlike zombies, these are ghosts and cannont be killed again. After a short while you realize that these are every soldier you've killed up till this point. And I mean EVERY. Depending on how many people you kill, the time of this segment is longer or shorter. If you havn't killed anyone, only the bosses appear, but if you're like me back then, you killed every hapless person who crossed your path and you had to spend upwards of 15-20 minutes wading through the vengeful spirits. And they do hurt you if you touch them. After you finally get past the hundreds of dead and the bosses, you're finally alone with Sorrow. Now I can finally hurt him right? I'll just calmly walk up to him... BAM! I died?! how did I die? did I do something wrong? How am I supposed to beat someone who can't be hurt by bullets and can't touch? You don't. That's right, this is an unwinable fight. If you cycle through you're inventory at the game over screen, you realize that you're not dead, you're fake dead. Which is something else I'll have to explain. See in the game, Snake has pills that send him into a state of apparent death. this fools the enemy into thinking you're really dead, and they leave you alone. To revive yourself, you have a pill that does that also. You can use it once you die in the river. Now as with quite a few of the other moments on this list, I reached this point of the game really late at night, while I was tired. But even still, facing the spirits of every person you killed in the game as a "boss fight" is frightening.
and now the #1 scary moment in my gaming history... Shadow Of The Colossus. Just Shadow Of The Colossus. The whole game is terrifying. Ok the premise of the game is that you're character brings his beloved to a sacred shrine to bring her back to life. In order to do this you must fight 16 colossi that are hidden throughout the land. And The area of land that you have to search rivals that of San Andreas and Mercenaries. You are all alone except for your trusty horse. All you have is a mystical sword that lights your path, and you are sent out into this vast expanse of changing landscape (featuring everything from beach, to forest, to desert) in search for the 16 Colossi.At first you think yeah, I can do this, no problem. But then after a while into your journey, the vast emptiness and ocasional entrance of the quite creepy music begin to make you think that at any moment something horrible is about to spring out and eat your lunch. I'm going to be very clear on this point - the only monsters you have to fight are the colossi, there are no other enemies in this game. But the mood it sets really scares you. And there is a reason that the monsters are called colossi. Apart from a couple that are roughly the size of small elephants, most range in size from 3-5 story buildings, to battle ships and planes, and they only get larger from their. the final four as I like to call them are the largest monsters I've ever seen in a game(tho I av not played resistance 2 nor lost planet 2, but the final colossus is still larger than the laviathon and the massive akrid shown in the trailers) but it is still the mood and the fact that you don't know when you'll run into the next colossus. (one thing that i dont like in that reguard is that there is only one colossus out and about at a time. I think to make it truly terrifying, they should all be walking around at the same time, it's just you can't get to some as of yet. Shadow of the Colossus is a puzzle solving game, where you have to figure out how to defeat the colossi, but what sets it apart is that, after you kill them, the scene that follows is full of remorsefully toned music and you begin to question whether what you're doing is right. The physical marks become more prominent on your character as well, you grow horns, and you become pale with weird demonic markings all over you. With just the scope of the game and the creative gameplay, as well as the terror mood it immerses you into, This is my number 1 scariest moment in gaming.

I hope you enjoyed that, be on the lookout for the next review. Maybe even a video or 2.

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