Five Fearsome Horror Games of the Last Decade

“just because the 31st of October has passed, it doesn’t mean Halloween can’t remain for a few days thereafter. Enjoy my Halloween horror videogame picks”

Hands up, I’m a little late with this one. But just because the 31st of October has passed, it doesn’t mean Halloween can’t remain for a few days thereafter. After all, no matter what the supermarkets show you, it ain’t Christmas yet! So without further ado, enjoy my Halloween horror videogame picks.

The Walking Dead Telltale Series

Telltale’s The Walking Dead follows zombie apocalypse survivor Clementine across four emotionally gripping episodic games. Growing up and evolving from a little girl hiding in a tree house through to adulthood, as a more than capable survivor, The Walking Dead offers a new and refreshing perspective to the hugely successful TV and comic franchise. From an emotionally provocative perspective it is arguably better than its parent’s narrative. As you make your own informed decisions as the story progresses, Clementine’s world develops around you as a result of these choices. Some choices literally play with people’s lives. The series began in 2012, and really put Telltale Games on the map. The Final Season however, marked the final chapter of Telltale as a development entity altogether, before it was even completed. Thankfully, Skybound Games saved the license, and Telltale has since been reborn. The Walking Dead is a perfect harrowing tale, perfect for Halloween, that few will ever forget.

The Evil Within

The Evil Within is Resident Evil-creator Shinji Mikami’s latest horror franchise. As expected, it is a highly-crafted, horrifying and intricate and immersive story that invokes tension and anxiety.. Whilst investigating the scene of a gruesome mass murder, detective Sebastian Castellanos encounters a powerful force that allows him to wander amongst the dead. The Evil Within is not for the faint of heart. Mikami has created a horrific, twisted world, as well as a formidable challenge. Halloween doesn’t get much more interactively harrowing than this.

The Wolf Among Us

Another entry from the ill-fated but now resurrected Telltale Games, The Wolf Among Us is a very different tale to The Walking Dead. Based on the DC Vertigo comic series Fables, this episodic adventure pits you as Bigby Wolf as he investigates the murder of a woman in the mystical enclave location of Fabletown. As the investigation develops, the choices made not only progress this very dark fairy tale, but also lay out the difficult path of Bigby as a protagonist. Nothing is as it seems, and there is more than enough horror-laden mystery and violence to satisfy any Halloween urges. More good news – A sequel is on the way.

Dead Space

Another ill-fated developer tale, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that Visceral Games perfected the third-person survival horror formula with the original Dead Space. Engineer Isaac Clarke and team venture to a mining spacecraft after a blackout in communications, only to quickly discover it has been overrun by monsters. The monsters, who turn out to be mutated versions of the ship’s crew, require Isaac’s various nifty, upgradable cutting tools in order for them to be eliminated.

Before Alien: Isolation hit our screens, Dead Space was the perfect substitute for old-school survival horror. The required limb cutting instils both panic and preservation in equal measure. There are jump-scares and uneasiness aplenty, set against a bleak yet fantastic looking visuals. Possibly its greatest success is all this comes with a minimal plot, as the action does all the talking.

Zombi U

Zombi U was an early pleasant surprise for the Nintendo Wii U, and arguably the best non-Nintendo title to use the second-screen dynamic. Inevitably, it received a much bigger audience when it was ported to PS4 years later. Set in a zombie-apocalyptic London, you guide survivor after survivor through a Zombie-laden English capital with the hopes of escape. As you scrounge for weapons and health, you soon realise that to survive you need to avoid zombie combat as much as possible. When you die – and you will – you pick the trail up as a new character, with anything collected left where you previously bit the dust. Its a bleak, slower paced affair, with the feel of a George A. Romero movie. Only this time, you’re in it.

Oh, what’s that, no Resident Evil 2 remake, even with the featured image as a nod? Red herring! I am still yet to play it. What are your Halloween horror choices for this past spooky season?

Let’s Play Anime #1 – Ghost in the Shell (PS1)

The first in a new series, charting the Anime genre in video game form.

First up: Masemune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell.

Developed by: Exact (now Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan) and Production I.G.

Director: Kenji Sawaguchi

Sales: 100,000

What would have been once seemed impossible for both the anime and movie industry 20 years ago, a Hollywood adaption of Ghost in the Shell was released last year. Masamune Shirow’s original manga of nearly 30 years ago is philosophical, sociological, and psychological. It is also essential reading. In 1995 an anime adaption followed, which is still one of most well-known anime movies in the world. Following its success on both eastern and western shores, and with the Playstation in full flight at that time, Sony released a Shirow-designed video game just 2 years later.

Ghost in the Shell is an action-packed yet simple first/third person shooter. It is a great entry for fans of the franchise as a whole. It retains the excellent animation and voice acting from the English dubbing. The highlights of this now-collectable PS1 title are most definitely the original cut-scenes. They give off the feel of an interactive movie of sorts. You play as the ‘Rookie’, a new recruit to Public Security Section 9. Working alongside Major Kusanagi, Batou, etc, the team seeks a new terrorist threat, the Human Liberation Front. HLF claims to be responsible for the bombing of the Megatech Body Corporation building, but all is not as it seems….

In order to complete the investigation and infiltration, you control a Fuchikoma, a highly-manoeuvrable spider-like mini tank. It results in hi-octane 3D action, with standard target assassination in order to access the next area type stuff. The Fuchikoma can jump, strafe, scale buildings, fire missiles and comes with an unlimited-ammo machine gun by default. Set pieces such as navigating through tight sewer systems and free-falling down a skyscraper are high points in between the glossy mission-brief cut scenes.

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But despite the stunning cut-scenes, top soundtrack, and easy pick up and play access, Ghost in the Shell is painfully short. A full play-through of the game only takes around the same time as it does to watch the movie. Add to that little-to-no replay value, and is incredibly easy. I remember my first play-through came from an overnight rental, back when rentals were an excellent try-before-you-buy method. This was more tried-and-don’t-need-to-buy; the game retailed around £34.99 on its release. A little less than the standard £40+ but still a questionable price. Amazingly, it has never been released on PSN in Europe, meaning that original copies are now fetching £60+ on eBay in today’s inflated collectors market.

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Ghost in the Shell is unique in that there are very few titles like it; an original anime production straight from the creators, which is ultimate fan service. 20 years on, it is astonishing that it still stands as the most original anime-based video game ever made. Unfortunately, much like the recent Hollywood adaption, it is a disappointingly shallow-yet-fun experience. A must for any fans/collectors, but nothing more.

Review – God of War: Ascension (PS3)

As mentally-scarred, borderline insane, revenge-driven, unrelenting anti-heroes go, Kratos is somehow quite an appealing character. In this already five-game series he has been pulled from pillar to post, and has hit rock bottom more times than a soap opera character. But somehow, someway, Kratos always manages to rise up. To ascend.

God of War: Ascension is not a sequel, but a prequel to the entire series. This includes the 2 PSP prequels, so Ascension is really a pre-pre-prequel. As baffling as that may seem, or sounds, Ascension is no step back. In fact, Ascension pushes the world of Kratos (and the PS3) upon us more than ever before, both aesthetically and creatively. The graphics here are fantastic; lavish detail among each and every piece of brick and mortar, accompanied with bold, vibrant colours.

The motion capture of Kratos and the supporting cast looks more real than ever before, particular in the cut-scenes. As expected, Ascension does not hold back on the graphic nature the series is famous for. It is however noticeably more suppressed than the ever-escalating violence of the mainstay series.

Single-Player

What separates Ascension from its peers is the changes made to the combat. Aside from the series-stable light/heavy attacks and combination strings, there are some excellent additions and alternatives to use. When confronted by many foes at once (as often is the case), a tap of R1 sees Kratos throw one of his chain-attached blades into the desired enemy, and latches on. This not only allows you to either attack your chained foe, but all those around you too, which makes for much more full-flowing combat. You can even evade and still be attached to a foe, making way to get those high numbered combos that bit easier.

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Kratos only has the Blades of Chaos as main weapons this time around. But in various areas of the game there are alternative weapons that can be picked up if desired. This is known as the ‘World Weapons’ system. These weapons can be used with the circle button, and also in combination with the Blades if desired. The chain grab can be used to obtain a shield as a world weapon from an enemy too. It all comes together really well, making Ascension more advanced than any other God of War game.

Puzzle elements are another re-emerging God of War formula. There is the typical form of “push block to access ledge/activate switch”, but this time around there is much more on offer. An ability acquired within the campaign allows Kratos to ‘Heal’ or Decay’ promulgated surroundings to access the next area, or weaken other materials to break through them. These get more complicated as the campaign unfolds, and prove a welcome break from the hack and slash.

Unfortunately, despite its pleasing aesthetics, combat and puzzle mixture, there are a lot of confusing elements to Ascension as a package. This is the only God of War game where I have had issues with the fixed camera system. Quite often in a typical setting, although the exit is obvious, you have to blindly guide Kratos through it, which can be very frustrating at times. One instance even led me to have to reload a chapter, only to find that the problem was the camera didn’t react the first time.

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The other major issue is the slightly bland single player campaign. From the original God of War through to III, the scale has always risen. The story always escalating through to the epic final confrontation. But in Ascension, once the first plot catalyst is confirmed, it just seems so long to get there. This leads to a lot more repetition and very uneven pacing. There is considerably less interaction with, well, anyone, for a good two thirds of the campaign, but does improves significantly from then on. Thankfully the action is noticeably different enough to keep Ascension from being the bad apple of the series.

Multiplayer

New to the series is the introduction of online multiplayer. Although you don’t play as Kratos, you play another Spartan warrior in the same predicament. After a quick tutorial of controls, you choose which god you wish to follow, each one granting different powers and abilities. From there, you can throw yourself into free-for-all or team-based battles, to gain XP which allows you power up and suit up your character.

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The gameplay itself is typical God of War combat. Except now there are eight of you at it at once, in maps littered with traps, power-ups and the like. Although originally sceptical, it works really well, and is highly addictive. The more you power up your character, the more you want to dive in for more XP. Where many will put a God of War game back on the shelf once the campaign is over, this will provide hours and hours of longevity.

Sony has really pushed for a complete package with God of War: Ascension. The excellent addition of multiplayer, the improved combat and puzzle elements, plus the fact it looks glorious throughout, is certainly testament to that. Only the less memorable campaign story and pacing is a slight blemish on what is overall a very worthy purchase. For fans, it’s familiarity with a bit more to tackle. For newcomers, there is enough here to get them hooked on the series. Prequels don’t get much better than this.