BioShock is one of the most fascinating, best-looking games I've seen in my long, long life. The alt-history underwater city of Rapture is an art deco paradise lying in ruin; the utopia based on the philosophy of Objectivism crumbled as gene-splicing became a way of life, transforming the city's inhabitants into hideous mutants. In this first-person shooter you're Jack, a man with no memory who made his way to Rapture after an oceanic plane crash...and now must find a way out in the face of Big Daddies, Little Sisters, and all other manner of psychos. Ayn Rand, stem cell research, body modification, morality...fun for the whole family!
Yeah, I know I actually reviewed this game once upon a time, but you know what? I'm still playing it, and it's still all kinds of awesome. Zombies, zombies, zombies...so many zombies in the mall. There's also creepy-mask-wearing, knife-wielding cult members and psychotic clowns with chainsaws and and and...Dead Rising is like a love letter to my crusty old horror movie-loving heart.
I have one major complaint about Dead Space: it's too damn short! I want more more more! This game is like Resident Evil meets Event Horizon, and it's absolutely one of the scariest games in the history of the history of ever- yes, it's that scary. You've got to repair your disabled ship while fighting off mutated crewmembers- of course there's an alien flu bug goin' 'round. Standard stuff, eh? Well, Dead Space utilizes sound and light like no other game since Silent Hill, and it's downright terrifying, to the point where I hit 'pause' on more than one occasion just so I wouldn't have to continue on into a pitch-black hallway where something was moaning. The score sounds straight outta Kubrick's The Shining, and it helps sink you into a never-ending state of heebie jeebies. Oh, if only there was more of it...ooh, there's a new Wii-bound prequel, a 6-issue comic mini-series, and an animated feature film prelude, as well. Sigh, I suppose those will have to do.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
While it wasn't a major hit, this oldie but goodie Gamecube release is a favorite amongst nerds in the know. Explore the mansion that belonged to your recently-deceased grandfather as you try to unravel the mystery of his death. Find chapters from the "Tome of Eternal Darkness" and engage in a little time-travel...and then Eternal Darkness really starts fucking with you via the "sanity meter". The more scary stuff Alexandra encounters, the nuttier she gets...and the nuttier you'll get. You'll be in the middle of a boss battle when suddenly your controller no longer works...or the game cuts to the title screen...or Alexandra ends up on the ceiling- the game really messes with your head as a player. There's nothing else like it. Hey, now you're a nerd in the know!
I'm tempted just to write "Fallout 3 is effing AMAZING, go play it!" and leave it at that. Here's the wiki synopsis to further tempt those of you who haven't become completely absorbed by the game:
Fallout 3 takes place in the year 2277, 200 years after the nuclear war between the United States and China that devastated the game's world in an alternate post-World War II timeline. The game places the player in the role of an inhabitant of Vault 101, a survival shelter designed to protect a small number of humans from the nuclear fallout. When the player character's father disappears under mysterious circumstances, he or she is forced to escape from the Vault and journey into the ruins of Washington D.C. to track him down. Along the way the player is assisted by a number of human survivors and must battle myriad enemies that now inhabit the area now known as the "Capital Wasteland".Your morality is up to you as you travel the wasteland and encounter religious wackadoos, raiders, mutants, ghouls...I can't even begin to adequately describe how massive- and how massively awesome- this game is. Fallout 3 is effing AMAZING, go play it!
Here's another game that got little attention, but horror fans should definitely bust out their PS2s and give it a whirl. At the start of Haunting Ground, you wake up in a cage (!!!) on the grounds of Castle Belli, and you've got to figure out what the eff is going on and how you can escape. Eventually you team up with a white German Shepherd named Hewie to solve puzzles and defend yourself as you search for a way out. What sets Haunting Ground apart from other survival horror games is that your character wields no weapons...just about all you can do when confronted by an enemy is run and try to find a good hiding spot. Sometimes these hiding spots work, and sometimes they don't...but you can never use the same place twice. It's incredibly tense to be crouched behind a curtain while someone is in the room, actively looking in all the corners for you. While there's definitely too much backtracking (and man oh man does the story get a bit perverse), Haunting Ground boasts one of the greatest, scariest video game villains ever in Daniella, the creepy-ass maid (pictured above). I'd say they should stick her in a movie, but we all know how movies based on games tend to go...
Left 4 Dead
Surviving the zombie apocalypse has never been more fun. What Dead Rising is to George Romero, Left 4 Dead is to Zach Snyder. These walking dead aren't walking at all- they're running really fast because they want to eat your face. There are hundreds and hundreds of them, along with "special" zombies, upgraded with all sorts of new ways to kill you. My favorite is the Witch, the goth-looking chick who sits around in her underwear, crying...until you get too close, and then she's up and clawing your eyes out in a flash. Reminds me of college!
Resident Evil 5
I've told you time and time again, I loves me some Rezzies. I'm gonna admit, though, Resident Evil 5 was a bit of a disappointment. On the one hand, it was a delight for an RE nerd like myself (Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Albert Wesker are all present and accounted for) and the co-op gameplay was cool. The graphics were amazing and the action was non-stop...but that was, perhaps, the problem. Since the incredible Resident Evil 4, the series has been moving away from the solve the puzzle and read the diary in the dusty, zombie-filled house angle that I love and geek out on so much. The developers should bring the series back to its roots because I want them to. Who's with me?
Silent Hill: Homecoming
It pains me in my heart place, but I'm starting to think that the Silent Hill series may be on its last legs. I enjoyed Homecoming, but it felt like more of the same, you know? Somehow it's missing the magic of the earliest games in the series- it feels like an imitation. The franchise was handed off from Japan to America, but that can't be the only reason why it's stale. Maybe it's just stale altogether...ugh, it hurts to type that. And who am I kidding? Silent Hill: Shattered Memories hits next month, and I'm sure I'll pick it up...and it'll be okay, but I'll have the sads 'cause it's just not like the Silent Hills of my yoot. Then I'll cry, then I'll play something else, repeat until I'm dead.
Did you know that there's a video game set right after the events of John Carpenter's The Thing? There is, and it's pretty good! You can imagine how it goes: after contact is lost with MacReady and company, the military sends teams to investigate...alien parasite hijinks ensue. While you've got to battle the creepy-crawlies, you've also got to battle the rising worries of your teammates as they become increasingly paranoid: no one trusts anyone. Dudes get scared and they kill themselves, or they try to kill you. You may have an infected teammate in your party. It's a lot like the game, except no one wears weird, giant sideways cowboy hats- and that's a pity.