Horror in games

3 11 2006

The Guardian Unlimited Gamesblog posted this great piece about the current state of horror in games. It’s an interesting read and brings up some genuine questions about the state of scary games.

I must admit that the 4th installment of Silent Hill really left me flat. I liked the idea of the incarceration in your haunted flat, but where was the constant oppressive horror of the first two? I still rate Silent Hill 2 as one of the greatest last-gen video games. That first walk through the woods, the radio, and the great (if thoroughly confusing) storyline really sold it for me. The excellent pacing of the game added beautifully to the verisimilitude of the experience, at times nerve-shreddingly slow with very little action, but enough non-combat action to create a real horror atmosphere.

The only game that really captured that same feeling was F.E.A.R. Admittedly I’ve not played through to the end of it, but what parts I have played are tense and have some great scary moments. It is still true that there is very little in gaming that really echoes the true duck-out-of-water recipe of real horror.

The only exception I can think of is the Clock Tower series. I’ve only played the third installment, but it really does hark back to classic horror movies and brings to mind the John Carpenter movie Halloween. More recently Haunting Ground has tried to tread the same ground, but somehow felt too cutesy to really pull it off.

A series worth noting is Project Zero (née Fatal Frame), a game which made both me and my friend jump about a foot in the air even though only one of us was playing. These scares are great, but what they’re all really missing is the hopeless and oppressing environment for them to work in. Capture the mood of The Descent and put it in a videogame, free of zombies and vampires and you’re on to a winner with me.

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5 responses

9 01 2007
trendthrift

I never finished Project Zero; it was really getting to me every time I put it on. I’ll go back to it one day.

Have you played Thief 3? There’s supposed to be a particularly horrific level in that game. I’ve got it sat on my shelf along with countless other still-shrinkwrapped titles, but I’m looking forward to checking it out at some point.

9 01 2007
Null

I hear good things about Thief but I’ve never tried them. I’d heard that the third one became a bit of a mess towards the end, but that could just be scuttlebutt.

9 01 2007
trendthrift

I’ve not played any of them either; I’ve just read some interesting things about one level in particular in the third game. It’s supposed to be the stuff of nightmares. There’s an article on it here which is apparently excellent (I’m not going to read it until I’ve played the games as I think the piece goes into some detail):

http://gillen.cream.org/wordpress_html/?page_id=618

9 01 2007
Null

Hmm, I trust Kieron Gillen implicitly and if the level is as good as the first page of that PDF makes it look I’m going to have to find a copy. Cheers for the tip!

9 01 2007
trendthrift

Yep, he’s usually on the money. And you’re welcome!

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