Published on February 27th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
History of Horror Games: Transitory Era
With the honeymoon period for horror over, developers were left with all attempts at the genre being either bad Resident Evil clones or too left-field to pitch. But then came the PS2. The console that ushered in the blend of home cinema and media system with your games collection. The new DVD based media software meant that even more information could be stored on a disc.
The new hardware meant that games could experiment with new ways to execute horror.
When the PS2 was launched in 2000, it had nary a horror game to its name, but come early 2001 and there was Shadow of Memories (or Shadow of Destiny if you prefer ass to arse) not particularly a horror game -but it has freakish mystery to it, the main character dies right at the beginning of the game (that’s not a spoiler!) and he must find out why he has died. The character is strangely tall, like how Lara is with breasts, he is with his lanky legs.
Shortly after a game called Extermination was released, it basically has the story from Carrier (Dreamcast), the gameplay of Resident Evil and the influences of The Thing. Fortunately, the horror genre wasn’t doomed to die the slow death seemingly promised by Extermination as in September 2001 Silent Hill 2 was released.
Silent Hill 2 is said to have borrowed the story from Crime & Punishment, but as that is on my reading list I won’t be corroborating that information. I haven’t yet played SH2 and sadly my friend spoilt a major story point from the game for me, the game follows a similar psychological theme as the first one and this time features one of the most iconic of gaming’s baddies. Pyramid Head. He reminds me of Bobby from Clocktower, more affectionately known as Scissorman. Sticking random paraphernalia onto people’s heads is a pretty lazy horror tactic. We could all do that. Tampon-face. There.
Silent Hill 3 didn’t quite hit the mark that 2 did and 4 was never even meant to be a Silent Hill game at all! That was the last to be made by Team Silent before they moved onto other things (Siren), nowadays Silent Hill is made by many different studios and even the series’ musician, Akira Yamaoka, has jumped ship to Suda 51’s. Can’t say I blame him, Konami are marketing-saps.
Not often have games been ahead of the curve with mainstream popularity however, in the wake of the American remake of Ring, Japanese horror became “like so fucking cool and the original is totally way better and stuff”.
Games like Project Zero (well more Project Zero 2 at this time), and Forbidden Siren became hipster hits, they used psychological fear of Japanese horror and turned traditional survival horror on its head to produce fresh and innovative horror games. They also both shared in mutual Western name bastardisation with Project Zero being known as Zero in Japan and Fatal Frame in America, while Forbidden Siren is known only as Siren in other territories.
Project Zero’s mainly famous for using a camera as the weapon against supernatural forces, however the game offers an adventure collectible system with the ghosts and points can be earned to level up your gear. It’s these RPG and adventure elements that I feel really set the game apart, but the FPS camera thing is alright too. For some reason, in America, they felt the need to market the game as being “Based on a true story”, which its only claim to this is that Japan does really exist and there are indeed people who own cameras there.
Forbidden Siren is a stealth action game and has a singularly brilliant feature and claim of being what I consider the only “2nd person” game in existence.
Using the sight-jack system a player can “jump” into a zombie’s eyes, this way you can see what they see, which also means learn their patterns of behaviour, essential for the stealth aspect as you will need to sneak past them as combat is not viable.
The Japanese had for yet another generation dominated the horror genre and now with added women! Clocktower 3 came out with more of the same adventure thing going on, Kuon, Rule of Rose & Haunting Ground all also similar to Res-style gameplay with more melée focus and like Project Zero all focusing on female protagonists.
The West started the generation with Eternal Darkness a fantastic psychological horror game that makes some clever use of an insanity gauge as you explore the many different time periods featured in the game. Based heavily on Lovecraftian lore and using the Gamecube’s superior processor to the max, it was an optimistic launch for the West to get right back at home with horror, but sadly didn’t take back the reins as most releases weren’t exactly fit-inducingly exciting.
The Thing was next up from America, a 3rd person shooter with a trust mechanic with the NPC’s, it’s considered the true sequel to the 1982 picture and John Carpenter himself even has a role in the game.
Manhunt – No discussion necessary. It’s not a horror game.
The Suffering is a 3rd and 1st person survival horror with a morality system, the game features a character who has been convicted of murdering his family yet has no recollection. The creature designs were done by one Stan Winston who designed the monsters in The Thing. This effectively makes the PS2’s big running horror theme The Thing as opposed to the Golden Age’s zombies and the Origins’ Giger-esque Lovecraft.
AVP2 came to PC’s in 2001 and was really the progenitor of the horror action game with tense atmosphere and first-person shooter-action blent with suspense and jumps. It took a while for this to catch on, Doom 3 was the next to utilise this formula in 2004 but it would later become the most favoured style for horror, being used for other games like Call of Cthulhu.
Finally in 2005, Resident Evil returned with its 4th installment and changing the original tank style for a 3rd person shooter, the game is frequently said to be the best in the franchise. It was supposed to only be on the Gamecube as part of Capcom’s strange penis-pampering for Nintendo during those years, but in the end they threw the covers off the console bed and left Nintendo cold, alone and without bed-friend.
I often see Resident Evil and Silent Hill as the sole identities of the horror genre. So when they changed their formula, it set the trend for others to also follow pursuit – and if there is one thing the west is good at, it’s action. FEAR was released later that year, a first person shooter with fast paced gameplay and the shock-horror of old provided the perfect invitation for the west to get off their haemorrhaging backsides and straight onto the horror train.
The next post we’ll see the most recent incarnation of horror bringing us up to date with the latest consoles.
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