Just in case you had not noticed, today is October the 31st or as it is better known, Halloween. With the spooky day in mind, here are five games (maybe) guaranteed to give you more of a fright than a bunch a dressed up, sugar high children turning up at your doorstep and asking for sweets and money.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Don’t let the fact that it came out as launch title for the Xbox 360, some eight years ago, and the fact it looks like an upscaled PS2 title fool you, Condemned remains one of the creepiest, tensest experiences this console generation.
Starring you as Ethan Thomas, a by the books FBI agent, as he tries to hunt down the man responsible for framing him for murder, the story will take you to some truly terrifying settings. The fact that the game is largely based around melee combat, rather than gun battles, gives everything a much more personal feel and I still lay awake at night waiting for the next tramp with a lead pipe to sprint out from the darkness. The story tows the line between fantasy and gritty realism perfectly and blurs the lines as to whether what is happening at any given moment is real, or just Ethan slowly losing his mind. The after hours department store mission, where mannequins shift and appear to follow you about, is a particular highlight.
Having been out for so long now, the game can be picked up dirt cheap and if you haven’t played it yet, you owe it to yourself to join Ethan in his descent into madness. Just be sure to pack a 2×4.
From one lead character desperate to cling onto any last shreds of his sanity to another, Alan Wake launched in 2010 after one of the most tumultuous development periods of recent memory.
Putting you in the shoes of the established writer as he deals with a case of writers block, things go from bad to worse as his wife disappears from their holiday cottage mysteriously and things very rapidly begin to take a turn for the supernatural. Alan Wake is a creepy game rather than an outright scary one but the reason it gets a place here is due the pressure it puts you under to keep moving. Other than specific stand off moments, anytime you are in darkness enemies will spawn infinitely until you either run out of resources and succumb to the armies of the night or until you find the next source of light, which cleverly act as the games checkpoints. Normally I loathe infinite spawn in games but this is one of the rare occasions it actually works as it creates a real sense of dread and a feeling of always being watched. It will also give you genuine pause for thought as to whether to stray off the beaten path in search of extra resources, or to just plough ahead to the next safe haven. Other than the already released pseudo-expansion Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, Remedy have said they have no immediate plans for the future of the Alan Wake universe, which is a shame for the of the most underrated games of the generation.
Dead Space 2
After the very good, but slightly limited, Dead Space its sequel burst onto the scene in 2011 striking the perfect balance between the claustrophobic tension of its predecessor and the bombastic Hollywood style set pieces that the third instalment traded too heavily on.
Freeing itself from the shackles of the USS Ishimura for the first time in the series, the game took you to all manor of locales with not only added to the story but provided some truly memorable moments. Whether it was a trek through a cultist Church, a long abandoned school with only tentacled suicide babies remaining or a late story slog through the ship where it all began, you never felt bogged down in one area for too long. The new enemy types added tension and dread to the proceedings and turning protagonist Issac from a mute in the first game to a fully fledged nut job in the sequel proved to be a great choice, as it gave a much needed jolt of human emotion to a downright scary game.
State of Decay
Released earlier this year on Xbox Live Arcade, State of Decay might be the first true survival horror game the Xbox 360 had seen.
It is not the type of game that will jump you out of your undergarments, but it will make you scared. Scared for your character and NPC’s as any death is permanent. Scared that supplies will run dry and people will bicker, leave or even kill for what is left. Scared to go and search for more supplies for fear of coming across a hungry, ravenous horde. Scared to move safe houses, a terrifying prospect but story driven necessity.
It might have more bugs than your average ant farm and look like you expect from an open world survival game crammed onto an Xbox Live Arcade downloadable title, but State of Decay still manages to provide on of the tensest gaming experiences money can buy. The soon to be released Breakdown DLC should ramp up the stakes even further, adding a continually increasing difficulty level and a new mode where the only goal is to survive for as many days/weeks/months as you can muster.
Left 4 Dead 2
Is there any more pant-soiling a sight in gaming than that of a pack of raging, sprinting zombies charging towards you in Left 4 Dead 2 when you are armed with nought but a flimsy pistol?
The sequel to the excellent, but shallow Left 4 Dead released in 2009 with a host of new levels, enemy types and a new AI director that could alter various aspects of the map every time it was played. This immediately gave it more playability than its predecessor, but what really made Left 4 Dead 2 stand out was in its four player co-op. Roping three friends along for the ride and trying to survive any of the games campaigns on the hardest difficulty setting was a herculean task. Working together as a tight knit unit was the key to success but chivalry would quickly go out of the window as players would madly sprint for the nearest safe house and lock the door behind then, trapping enemy and teammate alike in the abyss. The game stands strong today as still one of the finest co-op experiences available and if you can convince a few mates to make the purchase as well, then the game goes from very good in single player, to unmissable.
Is there anything you feel I missed, any game that made you sleep with one eye open for weeks on end or any particularly memorable sequence in a game that stands out. Let me know in the comments below. You can also check out the recently release ‘Nick or Treat’ trailer for the forthcoming Dead Rising 3. Happy Halloween everyone!