Posted Wed Oct 29, 2014 at 11:49 AM PDT by Trevor Ruben
Dread, fever, desperation, foreboding, and the unknown.
Fear of the Unknown - This Halloween just happens to be the time that 2K picked for their 'Evolve' Big Alpha, and that's what I'll be playing. The monster hunt is damn exhilarating, for both the humans and the um... monster. But then again, my love for surround sound has often forced be to bow out of some creepy games, including classics like 'Eternal Darkness,' and 'Silent Hill,' which are proof positive that Dolby Pro Logic can be chilling. Still, playing a semi-public alpha no matter how "Big" brings with it a fear of the unknown. Those screams coming through the headset may either be teammates that are cutoff across the map with nothing but a last-stand staving off death or those screams might just be coming from inside the same house, the same room, the same headset. (Or it might be frustration from a connection, who knows, demand will be huge.)
Sure, the world outside can be pretty scary. It gets dark an ominous on every night that isn't Halloween, but on Halloween the outside world is a haven for trick-or-treaters and questionable drivers. No, the scariest place on Halloween isn't a culdesac with a bunch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spidermans running around, nor is it a drunken party with far more skin than sense. The scariest place is on your TV, your hands trembling carefully on the controller, your eyes attempting to peer around a corner into a hallway that only begins to exist in the exact moment some horrible creature decides to appear at your heels.
The heart of Halloween isn't on the streets anymore, it's in the wires. 2014 feels like the year video games have finally, completely caught onto that wonderful trend of scaring the shit out of people for a solid 30 days in the run-up to this ridiculous, fattening, lustful parade. But fear is a funny thing. It comes in all kinds of dark to darker shades.
It's all in the title. You are isolated, but not alone. The company you keep is alien, an Alien, a monster, a predator. To be seen or sensed by the "perfect" organism, that adapts and reacts with deadly precision, is to be prematurely dead. And so you dread, because the time in between being sensed and being devoured is negligible as to be null. And so you dread your scent sniffed, your flesh glimpsed, your presence known. These are the best (worst) moments of 'Alien Isolation,' when the game accomplishes dread in you. It's not a constant success, but it is a unique one:
"The story of Amanda Ripley is definitely worth experiencing, but be prepared for some stretches of thin narrative amidst your quest to survive, or more aptly, die less. Finally, it seems, Sega, has directed developer Creative Assembly to make a game with enough authenticity, creativity, and style to make the franchise proud" Our Review
See also: 'Resident Evil 3: Nemesis'
Maybe it's a stretch, but the essential difference between the stalking predator of 'Alien Isolation' and 'Slender: The Arrival' is one of pace. The former is a slow hunt with a quick end, but the latter is an ever building fever of terror, culminating in one final moment of upended reality. The success of 'Slender: The Arrival' is far more dependent on the player's willingness to submit to the atmosphere, but upon submission the end result is a frightful thing:
"One level seemed so hopeless that I decided to sacrifice myself to Slender for a feeling of empowerment and a quick restart, but even that process was difficult because the closer I got to him, the more I wanted to run. To add insult upon injury, during the most frightening moments, the pause button will not work." Our Review
See also: 'Amnesia: The Dark Descent'
The visuals and set-up are far too ridiculous to inspire true fright, but as is the case with any survival-horror type of game, it's the dwindling resources that eats at the mind. Somehow, mathematics turns out to be the scariest thing of all, because as the numbers on your ammo counters tick down and down, the impending confrontations with various bullet-sponge horrors becomes ever more a test of fortitude and creativity. How to kill and survive using as few bolts, shells, bullets and syringes as possible. You're even encouraged to burn the bodies once they stumble, using matches to finish off the creatures instead of a headshot:
"'The Evil Within' forces the player to strategize and plan in ways that best utilize the environment and the dwindling resources. For example, lure the beast into the traps and trip wires that have been have previously identified. Set fire to surrounding objects to direct the beast's path. Save a last grenade to finish it off. The options are there, but recognizing them and succeeding with the plan is typically much easier said than done." Our Review.
See also: 'The Last of Us'
Something bad is going to happen, and when it happens it's not a jump of the heart or sweat on the palms, but a gut punch. You're going to feel it for a long time, because the stakes aren't the tangibles of death and pain, but the lingering of psychology and emotion. Of loss. Uncovering the mysteries of Ethan Carter's broken home, quiet sorrow and sickening loneliness isn't about making you jump out of your seat, but defeating your resolve in another way. When the credits role, you may not want to move for a while:
"Just know that the team takes wonderful advantage of gaming's unique ability to warp its own perceived reality, all without a single tutorial, erratic shift or alteration of the central mechanics. You're always solving a mystery, you just won't know whose mystery it is until it's solved." Our Review.
See Also: 'The Walking Dead'
The stupidity of partners in 'Left 4 Dead,' the reality that toys can really come to life as amiibos, the PC ports of 'Dead Rising.' These are all terrifying, scary things. Every video game, in fact, is a trove of fears uncovered. The impending 'Evolve' big alpha fills me with fear of untouched potential. 'Super Smash Bros. for Wii U' might just end life as I know it. 'Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare' will emerge the ugly trolls and 'Assassin's Creed Unity' introduced the soul-sucking imperfections of 900p resolution. I tremble in my seat.
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