The countdown continues with some of the very best horror games in the medium. If you missed part one of this list, you can jump into it here.
For those up to speed, let’s rev those engines and keep rushing down this blacktop to oblivion. . .
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corner of the Earth
Dark Corners of the Earth has a pretty muddy development history behind it, one that makes the fact the game actually released a big surprise. I remember seeing the first promo images in EDGE magazine back in the day, which looked jaw-droppingly amazing and had me marking the days off on my calendar. Unfortunately, the game sunk into development hell, which ultimately caused some significant changes to it, resulting in a game that was behind the times technologically and visually, and the controls and much of the design department was a broken mess. And yet, it’s still one of the best Lovecraft adaptations ever made and a ton of fun to play - if you have the patience. Dark Corners of the Earths adapts The Shadow Over Innsmouth short story quite faithfully and throws in some extra Lovecraft monstrosities for you to contend with. Father Dagon and Mother Hydra, check. Deep Ones, check. Cthulhi (the Spawn of Cthulhu), check. The Great Race, check. Shoggoth’s, check. A surprisingly fear inducing boss fight against a Flying Polyp, check. Dark Corners of the Earth creates an incredible and unnerving atmosphere that has yet to be bettered in any Call of Cthulhu video game adaptation. Oh, you even get to jump into an anti-aircraft gun emplacement on a warship and shoot Dagon in the face; brilliant stuff.
Alone In The Dark
The granddaddy of survival-horror games and a Lovecraftian nightmare set in a deserted mansion. Alone In The Dark may not stand up well today with it’s simplistic polygon enemies and characters, but it pioneered the style of gameplay that Resident Evil made popular with it’s static camera placement, enemies you need to avoid, shattering window jump scares, and tough environmental puzzles. It’s worth playing just to see where the genre started off and how far it’s come since then - at least technologically - and good old pointy-hands Carnby still has a definite sense of charm about him.
Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare
After a couple of years hiatus, the granddaddy of survival-horror returned in this PS1, PS2, Dreamcast and PC reboot that, ironically, fashioned itself after the children it had bequeathed, rather than striding forward on its own path. The New Nightmare embraced the ideas and designs of the Resident Evil games, Resident Evil 2 specifically. We got pre-rendered backdrops and two playable characters whose campaigns ran parallel to each other, mixed in with some Lovecraftian horror and it’s own take on Native American folklore. As with most games from that generation, tank controls make playing it now a bit of a struggle (ed - Lies! Tank controls are still amazing if the game is designed around them), but it’s still a great horror game beneath all the Resident Evil trappings.
Evil Dead: Hail To The King
As with most horror games from that generation, Hail To The King also took it’s visual style from the Resident Evil games, so pre-rendered backdrops and fixed camera angles are the order of the day. Of all the Evil Dead games that I’ve played (about seven in total), Hail To The King is the one most authentic to its source material, specifically Evil Dead 2, and in many ways functioned as the fourth movie in the franchise; at least until the recent television series came along to officially continue the story. Heavy Iron Studios game clearly operated on a tight budget, but managed to still make a good looking game, with authentic recreations of Evil Dead 2 locales, some great CG cutscenes and, of course, Bruce Campbell as Ash.
Suffering from nightmares, Ash returns to the cabin to sort his[censored] out and, once again, things go wrong, big time. The game is more action-orientated than survival-horror, with an emphasis on managing your health, weapons, and gasoline for your chainsaw. There's even awkward, combo-based combat thrown in. You'll tackle zombie rednecks, zombie kids, and eventually time travel back to when the Necronomicon was first inked in blood and bound in human skin in this rarely played gem. Remake/remaster please!
Resident Evil: Code Veronica
This is my favourite installment in the Resident Evil franchise, a spot that was held by Resident Evil 2 until its release. Set a couple of years after the Raccoon City incident, Code Veronica follows Claire Redfield (ed - Steeeeeeve!) as she searches for her missing brother, Chris “The Guns” Redfield. Code Veronica shifts from a traditional Resi mansion setting on a prison island to a research facility in Antarctica (with its own mini recreating of the Spencer mansion), and was the first game to ditch the pre-rendered backdrops for real-time 3D geometry. A fantastic game you have to play.
Resident Evil 2
I loved the original Resident Evil. It was the game that I got a Playstation to play. But Resident Evil 2 eclipsed the first completely and gave me the zombie horror title I really wanted. Two characters, each with their own scenarios, a zombie outbreak in a city, some nasty monsters, and gory kills. Resident Evil 2 just about had it all. There’s very little that needs to be said about this classic other than go play it now and keep an eye on the upcoming remake.
Yup, that’s right, there was a video game based on John Carpenter’s classic Sci-Fi/Horror movie. Set right after the events of the first movie, The Thing is a third-person, squad-based action-horror game with survival elements weaved into it. Players take on the role of a Special Forces agent sent to Antarctica to find out what happened at Outpost 31. Your squad is comprised of engineers, medics, and soldiers, giving each member a specific use and personality. This was important as the game used - at the time - a revolutionary fear and trust system to determine your squads behaviour. As it became clear that The Thing was still around, squad members could lose their trust in you and even commit suicide if their fear level was too high.
Squad members could get infected at anytime by The Thing, which led to some interesting moments of trying to talk someone into a blood test, only to have them transform and try to kill you. While the system didn’t work as well as it could have - since there were many scripted transformations - the game was highly immersive, unnerving, and adhered to the movie’s world-building with creatures that could only be killed by fire. Throw in a government conspiracy, definitive answers to what happened to MacCready, and an official endorsement by Carpenter himself, and The Thing was a blast to play.
What a glorious game Parasite Eve was. Developed by Square, Parasite Eve also took a page out of the Resident Evil playbook but went in their own direction, creating a horror-RPG with an amazing story that still stands up well to this day. Players take on the role of Aya Brea, a cop in New York who has to fight off increasingly bizarre mutations. That’s all I’m saying about the story because you should experience it for yourself.
The games combat system was an odd hybrid between the ATB battle system that most RPG’s used, paired with strategic play as most weapons had a specific range and various abilities attached to them. The game spawned two sequels, Parasite Eve 2, which ditched the ATB battle system in favour of a more action-oriented Resident Evil-style approach, and The 3RD Birthday, which was mostly rubbish to be honest. The first game, however, is truly amazing and contains many moments that will linger with you long after the end credits have rolled.
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