It's Halloween (everybody scream) and so our terrifying trilogy comes to an end with a look at horror which should be raised from the depths of the past.
There's been something of a resurgence of horror in gaming in the last few years, and it doesn't seem ready to let up with The Callisto Protocol, an Alone In The Dark remake and of course more Resident Evil and Silent Hill than you can shake a spooky stick at.
The latter might have been a good candidate for this question in fact, but now it's happening, so what will you choose? Let us know in the comments or chit chat in our Discord.
House of the Dead | James Parry
While it's not been long dormant, there was a fresh arcade game called House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn back in 2018 and even a Switch remake of the original this year, it's been a long while since we've had something fresh from this series on console. With motion controls a little more comfortable on PS5 and Switch these days, surely you could make it work.
To take the immersion up to 11, there's always VR – perhaps a candidate for PSVR2? But on the other hand maybe that would just be too intense and spooky…
The strength of this series isn't so much the scares as the shock value, as the enemies attack and the steadily rising panic and tension builds as you begin to fire more and more frantically.
A moment which sticks out from the second instalment, from way back in 1998, is the intense fight against The Magician (who doesn't look like what you imagine from the name), and surely there are more tarot cards left to name bosses after.
The tone of the series is what allowed for the Typing of the Dead spin-offs in the first place and that balance of silliness and intensity is something we don't get enough of in horror games these days – everything is so dark and intense.
Apparently the game director has said he'd like to do three more so perhaps I'll get my wish? We shall see.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem | Liam Andrews
I never actually played Eternal Darkness when it came out, but I remember reading about it in GameCube magazines and thinking it looked pretty cool, which was probably because of the combination of monsters and historical characters.
Having researched it a bit more since, I sort of regret not giving it a try. I like the idea of dipping in and out of different time periods depending on the chapter you’re currently playing, with a character’s weapons/abilities determined by the technology available at the time.
I also like the sound of different story paths that encourage you to choose a different route on another playthrough, and that you can target specific enemy limbs when attacking them. The latter seems like it would have been a very impressive feature at the time and makes me want to try the game even more.
Although I’m still not great with horror games, this would probably be one of the titles I’d make an exception for. I’m not sure I can handle a full remake, with modern, horribly realistic visuals and sound effects, but a remaster which keeps the chunky graphics and nostalgia and is easily accessible on modern platforms would be well worth a try.
With announcements from Silent Hill and Resident Evil promising more spooky journeys to come, we got thinking about the spookiest horror locations in the second of our trio of terrifying Team Talks.
It doesn’t have to be a horror game either, sometimes the spookiest settings are the ones which catch you by surprise. Some of those football stadiums in FIFA can be really rough on a Saturday night…
Is there a level that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end? Share your favourites on our Discord.
Aliens vs. Predator - Freya’s Prospect | Liam Andrews
It would have been very easy for me to match Chris’s choice this week, seeing as I’m barely able to endure an hour in Spencer Mansion before calling it a day, but I thought I’d (gladly) avoid the Resident Evil series this week.
That being said, I did mention last time that I briefly owned a copy of Resident Evil 0, and part of the reason I returned it was because of the game’s opening setting. Zombies in a mansion is one thing, but being stuck on a narrow train with them, unable to stop or get off, was unbearable. Worse, completing the train part only ‘rewarded’ you with a trip to a zombie infested mansion!
Instead, I’m picking the opening level of the Marine campaign from Aliens vs. Predator (2010). Most people probably wouldn’t call this game scary, but for a coward like myself, playing as a lonely Marine abandoned in an Xenomorph-infested mining facility was very stressful.
Everything in the poorly lit corridors was designed to look like an Alien was just about to tear you to pieces. Coupled with sudden noises, often sounding like they were coming from somewhere very, very close by (along with the occasional motion tracker bleep), and the whole experience was hugely unnerving.
Luckily, shooting Aliens in the face with a Pulse Rifle was a very effective way of conquering my fears. If only they’d thought to add one into the early Resident Evil games, I might have completed more of them.
BioShock – Rapture | James
Look, I know I’ve brought up BioShock once or twice before, but I’ve never waxed lyrical about the game’s magnificent setting, Rapture.
An iconic spooky setting has to have atmosphere, and not only does Rapture have that by necessity – since it’s all underwater, it has to – but it really oozes it out of every Roaring 20s-inspired corner.
There’s the murky holes that Little Sisters will occasionally crawl out of, the flowing curtains, complete with sweeping and often slightly torn fabric, and the dimly lit hallways, with spotlights that flicker on at just the right time to reveal the game’s incredibly unsettling Splicers.
The concept alone, that Andrew Ryan dreamt of a utopia under the sea only to see it fall into disarray is such a beautiful, dark twist on one man’s dream of perfection, and metaphorically packs a punch with a sense that there’s no such thing after all.
Despite the limited technical power of the original release, which is sharply and smartly polished in The Collection version, the understanding of water, reflection and light by Irrational Games is clear at every turn, and adds to the feelings of claustrophobia and dread.
To visit Rapture on its best day is nothing to the experience you get in BioShock, an relentlessly creepy experience.
As the spooky season starts to get into high gear we decided a trilogy of terrifying Team Talks was the only way to go. So, as we begin foolishly burn through ideas for the next few Halloweens, this week we’re talking about the games that had us hiding behind the sofa or under the covers at the mere prospect of playing them.
With so many releases, it’s easy to make excuses for things you just haven’t got around to, but we’re looking for the games that really make the hair stand on end from a trailer alone. What’s yours? Let us know in our Discord.
State of Decay 2 | Chris Brand
Since giving up the sauce over five years ago in favour of a life of (semi) sobriety, I've not had the fortitude for horror games. As such, I could have picked any horror game, or all of them, for this week's topic but State of Decay 2 is one of the bigger titles that I'm too afraid to play. Solo, at least, as my cowardice all but disappears when I've got company, I've just had no luck finding someone to hold my hand.
Back when the first State of Decay released, I had no fear and, even though Undead Labs didn't add co-op as they were hoping to, I enjoyed my time with it (despite the technical issues that carried over into the remaster).
The zombies, whilst definitely a nuisance, aren't as much of a threat to your survival as you might think. Yes, they can (and almost certainly will) chow down on your companions, but you can just as easily run into trouble if you find yourself short of food, medicine or ammo.
Then there's the rest of your survivors, each with their own traits and quirks, adding further uncertainty as, much like real life, some people are just dicks. If two members of your community are butting heads, you might need to "remove" one of them, lest things get heated and you lose two pairs of hands a little later down the line.
I almost feel robbed of an experience, partly due to being too afraid to play the sequel, and partly due to the myriad bugs I faced with the original. Though none of them were game-breaking, they did halt progress and ultimately turned me away. I know my little ragtag crew were only trying to help, but using our precious building materials to make sure my vehicle was on fire whenever I logged in just made things more difficult.
Resident Evil | Liam Andrews
My aversion to horror games is well established by this point, but recently I’ve been dabbling in what I suppose could be called a quasi-scary game in the form of DayZ. While it’s not your traditional horror experience, it does have zombies in it, and, despite jumping into a server with a friend, you spend most of the game alone (which is a little bit unnerving) as there’s no waypoints lighting the way to your buddy.
DayZ is more survival game then horror, if I’m being honest, and the shuffling dead that occupy built up areas quickly become more of a nuisance rather than any meaningful threat, especially in the countryside where they’re pretty much non-existent.
But there’s another zombie-based game I cannot bring myself to play: Resident Evil. I remember watching someone else play the game in the late 90s as a youngster and seeing that first encounter with a zombie as it slowly turns to look at the player after taking a bite out of your mate was enough to scare me off the franchise.
Despite many years going by, and some partial success with other Resi games (there was a copy of Resident Evil 0 that arrived too soon and was swiftly returned, while I played, completed, and actually enjoyed Resident Evil 4), I still haven’t been able to muster up the courage to go back to the original game. Perhaps this Halloween?
Continuing our look at hot new games to look forward to from EGX, we got some time to go on a journey with Ascent a Baltic folklore-inspired, narrative exploration game...
So, where did this game come from?
We were lucky enough to speak to both Freya Gill and Ada Lesinskaite from Amber Bear Games about the title, which has been prototyped and developed as part of the graduate programme Tranzfuser.
“It’s a competition which is open to recent graduates,” explained Freya. “We applied for a grant to make the game for three months over the summer, so now we’re pushing for the next round.”
“As a team of four core people and some freelance partners we put what you can see together over about three months,” said Ada. “We also had to put together a business strategy, so it was quite a lot of work!”
That sounds pretty difficult…
“The learning curve was very steep,” said Freya. “We’ve made games as a team before at university but this was another level thanks to all the business and projection work. It was tough but really valuable.”
The team will find out if they’ve been successful in pitching their game as part of the competition, but they’ve already decided to continue developing the project either way, as they really believe in the idea, with an aim to deliver something by Q2 2023.
These guys are pretty passionate about making games then…?
I’ll just let Ada take this one:
“I just think that games are probably the best medium to convey any sort of narrative, information or even education. With Ascent we’re trying to bring the Baltic culture a little bit more into the public eye and it’s things like that that keeps me going and creating games experiences for people.”
To dive into the industry with their summer rather than just moving home and begrudgingly taking a job in retail (This sounds strangely familiar… – Ed), this team poured their time and energy into creating something really cool.
I guess I won’t be playing this on my Switch on the bus any time soon though?
Developing games is really hard work and often takes years. So far the team has thrown a huge amount of passion and creativity into the pot to get as far as they have so far, and there’s no doubt, from what we’ve seen, the idea has huge potential, just keep an eye out in the spring to see what they do next.
So there’s no need to start refreshing the Nintendo eShop page just yet – rest assured we’ll keep you posted with any updates from the team next year.
If you’d like to hear more from the team, take a look at our EGX 2022 round-up video, featuring snippets from our interview with Freya and Ada.
During our recent jaunt around EGX, we got to play some awesome games, so we thought we'd round up a few to let you know what they are like.
First up, it's time to head to Small Heath, Birmingham, for some general trouble with the Peaky Blinders in Peaky Blinders: The King's Ransom.
So what do you do in the game?
Having managed to get hands-on with a demo of the game, – far more hands-on than usual, since it's VR and motion controllers and all that – we can reveal that the leader of the Peaky Blinders himself, Tommy Shelby, does feature in the game and is authentically voiced by the extremely talented Cillian Murphy.
In the section we played, you begin being smuggled into Birmingham by van and then can investigate the garage where you're dropped off, which is more exciting than it sounds.
You'll then meet up with Tommy at the famous Garrison pub and share a drink, which involves removing the cork from the bottle and manually pouring it into a glass without dropping it into the floor, and lighting a cigarette before making a difficult choice.
There's also an opportunity to take out some of the enemies of the gang by testing your shooting gallery skills in three dimensions.
When I've tried Virtual Reality in the past, I felt a bit sick, how is it these days?
It's been a few years since we spent a lot of time in VR and this demo was such a huge leap in visual quality alone it immediately made us sit bolt upright, or rather it would have done, if we hadn't already been standing…
There are options available to customise the controls to your preferences, for example being able to choose between sitting and standing. The modern motion controls also help you to move with far more precision than early VR headsets, or the more interface of the Wii era.
In terms of movement, you can either teleport forwards or walk around using the left stick, and then either rotate your body physically or pivot with the right stick. It takes a little getting used to, but the game eases you in by putting you in smaller, more contained environments to begin with and then gradually giving you more to interact with, so the risk of motion sickness should at least be lessened.
What did you think overall?
Honestly, it’s the most impressive VR experience I’ve ever played. Even in just a fairly short demo there was so much detail packed into the world and the attention to detail in all of the period items you examine is incredible.
How the experience will extend into a full game experience, in terms of the variety and keeping the gameplay fresh throughout, might be a challenge, but the immersiveness of the format and all the touches the licence tie-in offers, such as the iconic theme tune by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, immediately transports you.
The high visual fidelity of the backgrounds also helps draw you into the world, and the environmental storytelling, which was a particular focus for the team, makes you want to spend more time poking around every environment, looking for clever little touches.
Finally, add to that the authentic feel to the characters you interact with, largely voiced by their original actors – though unfortunately without Helen McRory, who passed away during the development process – it really shows off the best of what VR can do.
You can see more on Peaky Blinders: The King's Ransom in our video round-up of EGX 2022 on YouTube.
They said it would never happen, it couldn't happen, but after almost three years, Google has called time on its Stadia gaming platform, adding to the ever-mounting list of products the tech giant has killed.
The good news for those who did jump in and buy games on the platform is that there will be refunds, and Ubisoft is even talking about migrating purchases to PC.
We pondered Google's great experiment when it was first announced and so now we're back to pick through the bones and see what we learned.
Were you using Stadia? Chat about your experience in our Discord.
A Silver Lining | Liam Andrews
I never got around to trying Stadia, and though I still don’t feel much desire to, it might have been nice to give it a go, if only for the chance to participate in a (fleeting) bit of gaming history.
However, I’m not entirely sure I would have enjoyed it. My cloud gaming experience extends to Xbox Cloud Gaming, and only then because it came bundled with a Game Pass Ultimate subscription. The results were mixed, with passable performance with smaller games and not so great performance with more complex titles. Sometimes games just refused to load at all.
I have to agree with Chris’ Lurpak theory: the tech isn’t ready yet. I have middling internet these days, which is a marked improvement of my rubbish internet I had previously, and while I’m happy with it for online multiplayer, I don’t really want to rely on it for streaming the games unless it works 100%.
I will say it’s pretty decent of Google to refund those who did invest in Stadia, as I expect they could have quite easily walked away without giving anything back.
A Missed Opportunity | James Parry
As a YouTube Premium subscriber, Google decided to try to tempt me into the Stadia ecosystem early by sending me a pro controller box for free, and so, naturally, I gave it a go.
Honestly, it was fine, but the controller lag at the time, and with my internet connection, which was more than quick enough for minimum requirements, was still noticeable. Unfortunately with something like Destiny 2, which I spent the most time with, you need that immediacy and precision.
What was fairly clear as the service continued to mature is that it wasn't aimed at me – since all it offered was the games I already have access to on other platforms, but worse. Increasingly though it became clear that it didn't seem to know what its audience was.
If it was a "pro gamer" type persona, then it would need more exclusives to make it attractive, and if it was a "casual gamer" then the experience of FIFA or Call of Duty would have to be better than dedicated local hardware, and, even with the best connection possible, you can really only get a performance which is "as good as".
In the end, the experience in practice didn't meet the vision and so – it deserved to fail. Hopefully future newcomers into the industry, no matter their size, will learn from this mistake and focus on supporting people who really know what they're talking about.