Monday, October 20, 2008

Andrenn's Game Shelf: Halloween Special

Horror and videogames, could there be a better pairing? Horror is supposed to scare you and video games are supposed to immerse you. Mix immersing yourself and scaring yourself and you have some of the best game experiences of all time!

Now for this special Halloween celebration on the Game Shelf I’m choosing to only spotlight 2 franchises from the horror genre of games. Why only 2? Because a 20 page essay on Castlevania would drag on.

The 2 franchises I’ll be talking about are Resident Evil and House of the Dead. Save Simon and his whip ‘till next year.

We’ll start out with House of the Dead, since that is the first series I saw. Now let me take you back to the late 90’s when I was still a young zombie killer. Back when I was a kid, I loved the local theatre and went there at every chance my mom gave. But more than often, after the movie, I found myself running to the arcade in the theater. I ran past Street Fighter and DDR and went straight to the source of awesomeness.

*mimics the narrator’s voice*

The HOUSE of the DEAD!

It was the first game of its kind that I had ever seen and I was blown away by it. Gore, violence, zombies, freaky moments, I loved it! Seeing as even as a child I was a fan of horror, even if it be reading Goosebumps and whatever Halloween special Nickelodeon was up to (Bring back the Beavers, damn you!) I still loved the idea of being scared. House of the Dead wasn’t necessarily scary, but the idea of it was.

My mother of course hated that I loved the game so much and after a while told me to stop playing it. Of course, whenever I was at the Mall with friends or anyone else I would still play it, but just watched the game from afar whenever there with my mom.

As I grew up I grew past those limitations, I started watching movies like Nightmare on Elm street and Friday the 13th. Movies that I had previously begged my mother to let me rent but she insisted I not. By the time I was 12 I was fully developed in my love of horror, and my love especially of House of the Dead and other arcade shooters.

Unfortunately, House of the Dead 1 and 2 where removed from arcade machines when the local arcade died and get remade into a restaurant…and even when we got a new arcade, it was mostly prize based games. Outside of winning a Sonic and Shadow the hedgehog dolls, I was disappointed.

But little did I know that the House wasn’t closed down yet. I had no idea that 3 came to home consoles and that 4 did as well. Now we have Overkill coming up. It seems Sega’s monstrous masterpiece is still dead, but walking.

While I’ve never really cared for the storylines to House of the Dead, outside of the first one. The first one was fairly good and I enjoyed the cool twist of the Magician at the end. But overall, unlike Resident Evil, House of the Dead has never really been about story or characters. Seeing as the voice actors have all been shit, I can see why.

House of the Dead is also classic Arcade shooting fun. Games in arcades have always had these types, and I’m sure that anyone who’s been to an arcade knows what I’m talking about. You pick up a fake plastic gun, point at something on the screen and shoot. Similar to some of the stuff we’re seeing on the Wii right now.

House of the Dead has always captured the heart and soul of arcade shooters and, in my opinion, is the best of the genre. Sure other games have been good at it, the police play ones have been fine and Die Hard rip-offs are all cool but House of the Dead perfected the formula.

I’m definitely excited for Overkill. For one, it’s a prequel to the first game which is a good sign, seeing as the stories in 3 and 4 just…got insanely bad.

Now there has been 2 “films” on the House of the Dead franchise. The first by…*shiver* Uwe Boll, a man who’s name makes me shiver. The worst director of time, no doubt, and the director who is responsible for some of the worst movies ever made. My best way to describe him? The Rob Liefield of directors.

Overall though, despite an awful film adaptation and jumping the shark with making 4 a prequel to a sequel (Migraine building) the House of the Dead franchise is one of my all time favorites and has some of the best game play in the horror genre of video games.

Now we move to the other best franchise of the horror genre. Can’t let House of the Dead hog the spotlight all day now, can we?

Resident Evil is a series I was introduced to later on, around then 3 came out. Though 3 is also called Nemesis. A good friend of mine who also introduced me to Final Fantasy, Megaman and a few other games asked me if I like zombies. Of course I do, so he showed me Resident Evil 2.

I’d say 10 minutes in I was hooked. Though I didn’t have the console to play 1 2 or 3 I still played them whenever at my friend’s house and we had a blast! The Resident Evil series embodies fear to me.

House of the Dead isn’t really scary so much as it is fun to blast zombies and all that but Resident Evil is great when it comes to scaring people. It creates a claustrophobic atmosphere where even with a fully loaded gun, one zombie standing in front of you is terrifying as it is.

Though I never found the characters all that compelling or even interesting I did enjoy the characters of Leon Kennedy and Jill Valentine. 2 of the few really good characters in the series. Both protagonists and both starring in some of the best games from the series. Leon was 2 and 4, my 2 favorites from the series.

While I do love the RE series, I’ll admit that sometimes the controls where frustrating and added a level of suspense in that I wasn’t always sure if this hallway was too narrow to move away fast enough or if I’d have to desperately try to fend off these zombies with my ammo running on empty.

The storyline is usually fairly interesting and well done. 4 holds the best story out of all of them with brilliant twists and turns that put Final Fantasy to shame as far as plot twists are concerned. But the rest of the series still does a fairly good job at conveying an important and very interesting tale.

It’s no secret that I love to be scared, as I’ve said several times over and I’ll say it again. I love the rush of being frightened, jumping from my seat or being freaked out. It’s always great. Resident Evil has great pop out moments and some scary aspects that leave me practically tip toeing my way out of a room, in fear a zombie may be hiding in that closet or under that bed.

Resident Evil 4 has the best moment of all gaming, as far as scaring me is concerned, when you take on mutated mantis’ in a castle basement. Normally these buggy bastards wouldn’t be a problem, but they turn…invisible. Invisible mutant Mantis’ are no fun. They often pop up right in front of you and are incredibly hard to detect.

This moment is so infamous with me and friends, that whenever we get together and it’s nighttime, we’ve just got to replay that moment and relive the fear of just where are the Mantis and where will they pop up next.

The game play is Resident Evil is always solid but 4 just remakes and perfects it. The 3rd person perspective is great and really gets me in the moment of the game. While the other games such as the original 3, zero and Umbrella Chronicles are all great 4 is the masterpiece of the franchise.

RE 5 continues the formula and already looks promising, despite the controversy of Chris fighting zombies in Africa. The game looks incredible and if I ever get a PS3, it would be for Resident Evil 5, easily.

So that’s about all I can think of to say for the RE series. I didn’t comment on the movies because I feel they are far too detached from the main series to mention. Though Degeneration looks incredible and I can’t wait to pick it up.

So to close this edition of the Game Shelf, I love horror games. From playing Castlevania on my NES to playing a demo of Dead Space at the local game store horror games is always my cup of brains. (Somehow the term “My cup of tea” wouldn’t’ fit here.) I grew up with House of the Dead and I matured with Resident Evil. Either way, I was born to shoot zombies.

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