Updated: Feb 19
Happy Hallowe’en folks! It’s the spookiest time of the year and another in a year of firsts for us here around the CGC virtual office. What better way to celebrate the shorter days and colder nights than with a nice, warm, comforting terror fueled game. You know, just to really make sure you don’t sleep tonight! Since horror is as subjective as other better analogies... We wanted to share with you guys some of our scariest gaming moments.
In keeping with our casual branding it’s a no man's land of personal favorites, new releases and funny anecdotes that make these titles so memorable to us here. So, without further ado let’s scare right into it…I’ll see myself out.
James Desmond: Amnesia: Rebirth
Available on: PC
Developer: Frictional Games
Genre: First-person, Survival Horror
Release: October 20th, 2020
My time with Frictional Games horror series is almost as terrifying as this new installment. Frictional are the renaissance artists of the horror genre in gaming and have, almost single-handedly, proved its viability in the market. At a time when the genre had almost completely been abandoned. The original Dark Descent was a master class in tension and horror, as you whimperingly tiptoed through the halls of a medieval castle, attempting to piece together your memory (hence the Amnesia). While simultaneously avoiding the lurking creature within. This was a game so terrifying that it literally bricked my then shiny new PC rig.
Not joking, I had just built the damn thing…A bad craftsman and all that but still!
With Amnesia: Rebirth, we are thrust into the shoes of yet another poor soul, Tasi. Our new amnesiac protagonist - having a rather rough go of it - is the seemingly sole survivor of a plane crash over Algeria in 1937. Desperate to find her husband and unsure about the whereabouts of the rest of her crew, Tasi ventures into the unknown to find them.
There’s a fine line between tension and boredom, escalation and frustration and Rebirth walks the line admirably. You can tell that Frictional didn’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel too much here. The pace is slow and methodical, as you try to logically find your footing (sometimes literally) and piece together the broken parts of your mind. All the while that gnawing feeling of something watching you persists with an eerie sense of deja-vu coming over Tasi, as she realizes things are not what they seem.
That delicate balance, of giving the player just enough incentive to make the bold choice and sacrifice some sanity for progress, is the carrot-on-stick mentality I love in horror gaming. As much as you really don’t want to know, the persistent need to find safety and keep moving keeps you engaged. The game is more than willing to let your own mind fill in the blanks, presenting you with horrifying scenes of past violence and gore, coupled with the notes and diaries of the fallen as they spell out their final thoughts really puts you in the moment.
If you’re looking for something new to dive into this Hallowe’en, to make you rethink every shadow in the corner of your eye, you wouldn’t go far wrong at all with Amnesia: Rebirth.
Rachael Murray: Oxenfree
Platform: Microsoft Windows
Available on: OS X, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Linux, iOS, Android
Genre: Graphic adventure game
Developer: Night School Studio
Publisher: Night School Studio
Release date: 15-Jan-2016
I am not the biggest fan of traditionally terrifying horror games. I prefer not to be shivering in fear through my day to day life, but there are a few games in the ‘horror’ genre that I enjoy. Oxenfree is not a game riddled with jump scares and hyper realistic graphics. It feels closer to the classic horror films of decades ago than it is to today’s. It is a campfire story, more spooky than terrifying, with a realistically written cast of teenage characters that isn’t condescending to the age group.
This game follows Alex, a girl who is trying to emotionally recover from the death of her brother, her new step-brother, and a small extended group of friends as they go to an overnight party on a decommissioned military island. Things then take a spooky turn as a series of unnatural events begin to unfold.
The mechanics are simple but enjoyable, with beautiful artwork to accompany it. I have heard the game itself described as 2.5D. A game of 3D characters navigating a 2D world. A lot of the gameplay itself is centered on dialogue. Your choice of not only what to say but how quickly you say it, or whether you choose to interrupt or listen in on a conversation all affects what other characters think of you and how they will continue to interact with you throughout the rest of your game. It can even decide which of the ten different endings you activate. The in-game puzzles are all solved using Alex’s handheld radio frequencies in an interesting sound-based mechanic I haven’t come across too often.
In short, Oxenfree is a great spooky game for those like me that are maybe looking for the scary theme but with none of the accompanying nightmares. It is not very long, it only has about four hours of gameplay per playthrough, so plenty of time to search out the other endings.
Paul Mason: Dead Space
Available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows
Genre: Survival horror
Developer: EA Redwood Shores
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: October 13, 2008
When it comes to horror games, one Paul Mason is an absolute coward.
There was something inescapably captivating about the premise of Dead Space. When my friend Rory gave me the synopsis of it all those years ago, I had to try it out.
Playing as engineer Isaac Clarke, you’re tasked with checking out the USG Ishimura, a mining vessel, after a period of radio silence. Isaac and team could not have known of the horrors within.
Upon entering the desolate ship, the player discovers the nightmare fuel that is the Necromorphs—reanimated corpses of the crew that once inhabited the spacecraft. Infected by an alien parasite, the bodies of these people have been twisted and contorted into new, horrifying shapes whose only intent is to kill and spread the infection.
The standout feature of the game is it's brimming atmosphere. Our protagonist is not a soldier, and as such makes use of various tools as his arsenal, to de-limb the frightful creatures bent on his death. The Plasma Cutter has become an iconic weapon in gaming, for its versatility in shooting horizontal and vertical plasma and iconic look. The absence of sound is what makes the game so unsettling. Throughout large sections of gameplay, there is no music and only ambience. Heightening the already-potent sense of impending doom, every metallic clink and suspect noise serves to amplify paranoia.
The main objectives see our hero repair vital systems on the ship to provide any chance of survival. Throughout the adventures on the Ishimura, there is a variety of bosses and gameplay environments—notably zero gravity, which is a lot of fun and creepy. In space no one can hear you scream, remember?
Compounding the visceral horror is the pathos of Isaac Clarke. Isaac wants nothing more than to be reunited with his girlfriend, Nicole, who was stationed on the USG Ishimura. Little does he know, there is more to her than it seems and his own mind cannot be trusted.
Dead Space is a masterclass of horror in several respects. The gore and grotesque seen throughout is enhanced through a lens of psychological horror. While I may not be the biggest fan of the direction the series went after the much-acclaimed original, the game and series will always hold a special place for me, as the first horror series I truly adored.
There is so much much I can say about this old favourite of mine, but it is best experienced. This Halloween, face the horror of Dead Space and tell us about your time with it.
Darren Mangan: Vampyr
Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox one, Switch, Windows
Genre: Action Role playing
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Released: 5 June 2018
We have had many incarnations of vampires over recent years, each offering a different take on the age-old mythos of those creatures of the night. Vampyr gives a fresh perspective on what it feels like to join the legions of the undead, as players take on the role of the newly created Vampire, Dr Jonathan Reid.
Waking up in a blood fever Jonathan feeds for the first time on the closest person to him, and your first experience as a vampire is that of feeding on his sister, not a very pleasant way to start the game, but this sets the stage for a very heavily choice centered game.
Right off the bat, you are chased and hunted by very well equipped hunters who appear very able to handle this unwary vampire, so your story begins as you try to make sense of your new found abilities, and choose whether to feast on the poor souls of London or fight against your nature.
As you progress through the game, you will gain experience which you will be able to invest in new skills and abilities. These new found skills will aid you in your fight against the monsters that go bump in the night. Your choices will also affect the citizens you encounter, and should you aid them the quality of their blood improves also increasing the experience they will grant you should you choose to feed on them.
Embracing people will make you stronger and make the enemies more manageable, but will also affect how fearful the local population is, should enough people die in a region, then the entire region will fall into anarchy, so your choices will literally change the landscape of London!
The interface is pretty minimal, and this helps add to the gothic feel of London in the midst of the famous Spanish Flu outbreak. It still feels quite surreal to say I played this game, which was set in a Pandemic, while living in a Pandemic!
All in all I felt the characters were enjoyable to interact with, and the story had some high points given the choices you as the player had to make. The enemy AI is pretty simple, but the combat felt challenging and the boss fights felt incredibly hard, however this ties into the pacifist route I had taken, so the game might be easier if you chow down on a few citizens.
I had a great time playing Vampyr and I would recommend this if you are looking for an engaging choice driven adventure game, with elements of the supernatural or even still waiting for your latest fix for the Vampire: The Masquerade.
Phil Keogh: P.T.
Available On: Nowhere if you didn't get it back in the day, however the PC space has ways to recreate.
Genre: First-person, Survival Horror
Release: August 12th, 2014
This summer I did something I never thought I would, I began streaming video games. One piece of feedback I was getting again and again however was to play some horror games! With October on the horizon, being the month of spooks, I decided to kick off Spook’tober, a month of heavily community influenced Horror streams where the chat would influence what we played, how we played and in the case of P.T., how we finished it.
Possibly the most interesting game demo of all time, P.T. first arrived on the scene back in 2014 as a stealth dropped demo on the PS4 store. Where gaming communities around the world came together to try and crack this impervious beautiful mess of realism meets obscurity. This is where the largest draw of P.T. began, in the community collaboration aspect in threads such as Reddit on how to beat the damn thing. You see P.T. does indeed have a start, middle and end, however, finding how to trigger each stage is in no way obvious or suggested to the player which leads gamers like me to frustration. The mastermind behind P.T. Hideo Kojima (no intro’s needed) had done this by design. He wanted the ‘throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks’ approach to be how people played this game teaser, as doing so sparks online conversation, and conversation leads to buzz. To say the internet had become somewhat obsessed about P.T in the day or two it was new on the market would be an understatement.
Of course this nut was eventually cracked and it was revealed by a short exit cinematic that P.T. stood for Playable Trailer which was used as one part proof of concept, one part marketing ploy, to introduce a long abused Konami franchise, Silent Hill. I was hyped when I heard this and immediately gave up on P.T and watched the cinematic on YouTube. That was it. I had left this obscure burden of tremendous horror behind me for good. Or so I thought.
When thinking on what Horror titles would be great to play in a somewhat short burst, with a high level of chat interaction, P.T. suddenly became a clear choice. I put out the call to arms to our community, set up the PS4 and jumped in head first. And let me tell ya something, it was great!!
The piece I had missed when playing through P.T. the first time around, way back when I was playing it by myself, was that I wasn't a part of any online communities. I wasn't privy to the conversations of those who were cracking the case, it was what it was to me. This all changed of course when I streamed it, the chat was frantically googling what we should do next, suggesting to try this and that, yelling at me when i did it wrong, laughing during the many, many scares and cheering on the eventual successes!
P.T. was of course always an important piece of software in our nerdy world, however, after this two hour community experience it now holds an everlasting spot in my spooky heart.
If you’d like to check out the playthrough, please do right here.
First image created by yours truly
Amnesia: Rebirth image taken from press kit here
Oxenfree image taken from press kit here
Dead Space image taken from press kit here
Vampyr image taken from press kit here
P.T image taken from press kit here
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