The Only Thing We Have to Fear

Matt Turano

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Jul 30, 2008
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The Only Thing We Have to Fear

Reanimated corpses on a spaceship? Not scary. Mannequins in a department store, now that's scary. Matt Turano examines why some things give us the willies and others just make us shrug.

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ElephantGuts

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Jul 9, 2008
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Actually Dead Space was a pretty scary game. But I agree completely with those points. A giant mining space ship in space will never be as scary as that abandoned house in the woods, will it?

Also, I find it interesting that sound seems to be the scariest part of horror games. Citing Dead Space, since I'm playing it now, the faint whispering, moaning/growling/screeching of zombies, and clanking/thumping/grinding of ? always scare the shit out of me without an actual zombie being anywhere near me.
 
Feb 13, 2008
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Total agreement here. It's the little 'spooks' that give way to the inherent terrors of the mind.

Dark Corners of the Earth had some of it's best bits, not with the Shoggoth, but with the vertigo feeling when you're up a windy ledge.

Half-Life 2 with the helicopter battle on the bridge.

Vampire: Bloodlines in the haunted house. Despite being almost invulnerable, the ghost can really scare you.

And who doesn't get scared in an FPS when they run across loads of ammo/medipacks.

Terror is best served by getting at the PLAYER, rather than the character. Once you can't really trust yourself, then the door is opened.
 

uppitycracker

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wow, i'm not the only one that was exposed to the blob at a young age and scared shitless! lol

anyway, i dunno what it is, but I've never truly found myself actually legitimately scared at any point going through a video game. i tend to get pretty immersed in the experience, but something about games just never really caused me to feel real fear. maybe anxiety because i'm so close to beating this boss but just about to die, but no real suspense. maybe i just havent found the right game yet, who knows? i cant wait to check out dead space though.
 

klakkat

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May 24, 2008
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Bioshock did a pretty good job actually, but it looses scariness quickly the longer you play.

System Shock 2 I loved for its horror value

Farcry. I jumped out of my seat a few times when this game unintentionally scared me, usually by a guy sneaking up on me and unloading a machine gun at my head, or a mutant jumping on my car and ripping me out of it

Unreal. Not intended as a horror, but you feel it... Play it on hard with all the lights off and you'll really feel it.

I did play Dark Corners of the Earth and Vampire: Bloodlines. Both good uses of the effect, though Bloodlines rapidly ceases to be scary after the haunted house.

Counter Strike, more than any other game, got my blood flowing. That feeling of competing with other people, the rush to shoot them first, to react one hair faster; that did it for me. I've felt scared and thrilled more with CS than any horror game I've ever tried. If I'm playing against someone near my skill level, anyway... playing against someone vastly better/cheating/vastly worse looses all effect for me. Also, bots don't do it.

Funnily enough, Fear really never scared me. The ambush by a giant suit of powered armor almost did it, but once I figured out that I could just lay some mines the fear vanished instantly (and that realization took all of 5 seconds...)

Fallout 2 certainly had some creepy moments. While you're one level removed from the character (unlike an FPS, where you see through their eyes) it still did a good job with some of the effects, coming across as disturbing and macabre.
 

SinisterDeath

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I do agree that Dead Space isn't a scary game, and relies on startling you more than anything else. But Damn it Is creepy as hell in deadspace, HEARING those necrons just inches away from you, slithering around, making noise, but your never quite sure WHERE they are, or WHERE they'll attack from! That is how the game tries to scare you, and it does a good job at it, though, not for me. I don't get scared that easilly. If anything it sends my natural paranoid behavior into over-drive. ;)

Oh, and Fetus-Necrons = Disturbingly awesome?
 

Pebsy

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Jun 12, 2008
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i totally agree that sound is a very scary part of a sucefful game. The simplest drop of water hitting a puddle below is enough to set off a trigger when your walking down a deserted hallway that was once a nice decored entrance
 

The Iron Ninja

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Good... I thought I had arrived too late. I'd just like to say before anyone else says it
"... is fear itself."

I agree about the music thing. One time I watched a horror movie (I honestly can't remember which one) that earlier on I was too frightened to watch properly, but with a happy music playing in the background (the sound of the movie being muted) at the drunken behest of a friend, the difference it made was astounding.
 

Mr.Pandah

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Jul 20, 2008
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Condemned, the first one, not the second(just to clear that up for some people), was one of those games that scared me to no end. Not because of the pop out scares, but because I was just a normal everyday guy doing his job that got thrown into some serious shit. I mean, a blood crazed hobo could kick my ass, I was freakin scared from stuff like that!
 

OuroborosChoked

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Aug 20, 2008
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Is Dead Space really that scary?

Scarier than System Shock 2?

Scarier than Thief 2?

Scarier than Fatal Frame 2?

Worth picking up scary?

Wow... lotsa twos there...
 

Matt Turano

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Dead Space went for the jumpy, in-your-face scare, as opposed to the kind of fear in System Shock 2, which was slow and relentless. (Think about your first run-in with a maintenance bot in SS2, watching the condition of your pistol slowly deteriorate and your armor-piercing rounds disappear, and you'll know what I mean.) DS made very good use of sound, and it was very well done, but I'd definitely say no, it wasn't as scary as SS2. Although it depends on what sets you off, really.

What was missing from Dead Space, for me, was a sense of humanity, of people living basically normal lives that were completely ripped apart by what had happened aboard the Ishimura. SS2 took tiny portions of the crew's everyday life and laid them atop the horror on the Von Braun so skillfully that it was reflected, as Root of All Evil said, not on the character, but on the player.

For instance:

The midwives' aloof, sing-song promise that they'll "tear out your spine," and their deadpan claim that "they grow up so fast." The latter is especially chilling for me specifically because it's completely out of context, but you know that they're reaching for some remaining shred of their human past, so it works anyway. Also, the way they hum that demented metallic-sounding lullaby as they prowl the halls looking for you necessitates a quadruple Fruit of the Loom bypass, every time.

The various crew members who've been taken by the Many, who come after you saying "I'm...sorry," and "run!" as they blast away at you with their shotguns. They realize that they're all fucked up, but enough of their humanity remains to try to warn you to beat feet before it's too late.

The slow, inexorable gait of the maintenance and security bots, who come after you not because you're the enemy, but simply because you're an anomaly. A nuisance to be dealt with. Same thing goes for the robot butlers, who chatter away amiably enough right until they, you know, blow the hell up all over you.

In addition, there are dozens of audio logs in SS2 that chronicle the last days of several characters, some of whom you grow quite attached to over the course of the game until you find them splattered all over a closet or hanging quietly in their quarters because they lost hope and saw no other way out. SS2 did a great job of keeping you right there, consistently on the verge of losing hope, because it used very personal and sometimes heartbreaking methods to remind you that hope is futile against the Many.

I'd definitely recommend Dead Space, as it's one of the best games I've played this year, but don't expect to be particularly frightened if you thought SS2 was scary. I don't know about Thief 2 and Fatal Frame 2, but it's worth picking up, regardless of the fear factor.
 

OuroborosChoked

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Thanks for that analysis. You did a really good job. It's very helpful, too.

I think I will pick it up, based on your description... but I'm definitely going to wait until it's somewhere around the $20 to $30 range...
 

Jordan Deam

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Dead Space's storyline absolutely feels deficient, if not compared to those of other videogames' then compared to actual horror films. And, as with so many other science fiction properties, the atmosphere is sort of sterile. You're absolutely right: It looks like plenty of people died there, but nobody lived there.

Nonetheless, I've been consistently impressed with the architecture of the game. It's certainly inhospitable, but it has a very keen sense of scale. I've had a couple jaw-dropping experiences going from the prototypical spaceship corridor into a cavernous room (with an equally mindblowing view of the planet around which the craft is orbiting).

It's not exactly 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it's been a very pleasant surprise so far
 

ElArabDeMagnifico

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I heard Dead Space was initially a System Shock 3 concept until they put in the RE4 part in, and just called it "Dead Space".

The_root_of_all_evil post=6.74750.845021 said:
Vampire: Bloodlines in the haunted house. Despite being almost invulnerable, the ghost can really scare you.
Not to mention that there is a total of 0 enemies in that level.

Anyway, I don't know anything that I could say that hasn't been covered in the article, because I've always tried to get the point across that horror is only used effectively when you feel totally defenseless, and that Horror Movies really suck because they can't get to our minds.
 

TheWickerPopstar

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Dec 6, 2007
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I think I'd love to see a game that blends the more traditional elements of horror that we all tend to favor with a bit of humor (not just creepy children laughing), both dark and light...almost adopting a Gothic attitude.

Horror isn't experimented with as much as it could be. Sure, the environment and the plots change, but the actual scares can typically be classified into eerie or sudden shock.

Also, I'd love to see a regression to some traditional American colonial horror.
 

Tiamat666

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Dec 4, 2007
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I don't think I'm a person that is easily scared. Horror movies don't have a strong effect on me and I've played through games like Doom 3 and FEAR fealing only "mildly scared" every once in a while.

But the one game that made me shit my pants, the scariest I have ever played was the original Aliens vs Predator playing as the marine. The atmospheric, dark levels, the constant pulse of the radar and naturally, Gigers aliens screeching and coming for you at unforeseeable moments was a horrific experience, literally. I seriously had to take a break after every hour of playing to calm my nerves. And I still never actually finished the game.
 

huntedannoyed

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Apr 23, 2008
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It really is hard to get into the shoes of the protagonist in modern horror. I think that all of the "little hairs sticking up on your neck" moments have all been done. I recently saw "The Strangers" and I did not find it scary at all. But the intro to your piece, when you say "How far away are you (there is someone outside the house)..." reminds me of that movie. As a viewer I disliked the movie, but if I was in a simmilar situation it would definatly be horrific.
Well, I don't want to ramble but, I think what modern horror is missing is character development. There is a reason why the "Shining" and the "Exorcist" still crawl under our skin... Because we can relate to the characters.

*Spoiler Alert! By the way, "Dead Space's" best scare was at the very end! Creepy.
 

Volucer

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I didn't really find condemned that scary, FEAR on the other hand, somehow freaked me out. No idea why, when really the only thing it makes you do is jump occassionally.
 

Matt Turano

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Jul 30, 2008
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I don't feel fear. Incidentally i've never played a silent hill, resident evil, fear, condemned, that japanese zombie game, the japanese game with the cameras, system shock or any other horror game at all, except bioshock but there's no incentive to not die in that so that isn't very scary at all.
 

huntedannoyed

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zee666 post=6.74750.846894 said:
I don't feel fear. Incidentally i've never played a silent hill, resident evil, fear, condemned, that japanese zombie game, the japanese game with the cameras, system shock or any other horror game at all, except bioshock but there's no incentive to not die in that so that isn't very scary at all.
Haha, you mean "Fatal Frame?" that is the only game that I won't play at night!