Best Scary Games - Half-Life 2, Doom 3, Aliens vs. Predator -1999
Half-Life 2 does so many things right. It is a fantastic action game that tells most of it’s story though the environment. The set pieces are satisfying and seem to have a purpose in the world. It can make you feel fragile and powerful all at once. It’s really just a great example of what can be done in the first person shooter genre. It is also terrifying. There is a discomfort woven into the fabric of Half-Life 2 that gnaws at you long after you shut it down. There are areas of flat out, jack in the box jump scares, but when the adrenaline stops pumping, you are left with a sense of crushing dread and hopelessness that few games are able to match. Sure a leaping, spider like, headcrab is immediately terrifying, but the implications of wretched stalkers, humans reduced to barely living automatons, is truly the stuff of nightmares.
Then there was Doom 3, a game that’s mechanics are honed to a fine edge, but is probably best known for its unrelenting tension. For something like 15 hours this game just never lets up. At every turn monsters lunge at you from the dark. Doom 3, somewhat fairly, is often criticized for leaning too hard on monster closets. Small rooms and dark corridors that exist for no other reason than to house leaping ghouls. Eventually it became fatiguing, but no game before or since has had me as constantly on edge.
One time, with all the lights out and headphones on, I played the Human campaign of the 1999 Aliens vs. Predator. I was roughly half way through the game and had already been scared several times. I had wandered into a lab with one exit when suddenly all hell broke loose. Aliens started attacking from the doorway, the ceiling, and the floor all at once. I tore through all of my ammo and ran like a panicked rabbit in a white knuckle battle, finally coming out on top. Severely injured, but alive. I was just beginning to catch my breath and started heading for the door, when a face hugger dropped from the roof and finished me off. In a flash of terror, I shut down the game, uninstalled it, took out the disc and put it in a drawer. This was the first and only game that literally scared the ‘play’ out of me.
You might notice that all of these games are shooters, and not the go to for horror games, survival horror. I played Amnesia and something about the movement and camera angle made me motion sick. I couldn’t really play it in a darkened room, or for long stretches so it never had the opportunity to sink it’s scary hooks into me. Also, I’m sort of a weakling and not really into repetitive jump scares. I also don’t really find the concept of ghosts very frightening, so most of the atmosphere of those games doesn’t work on me like it is supposed to. Someday I’ll get around to playing Alien Isolation and I will probably be very scared. Maybe next year I can add some more to the Best Scary Games list.