28: A Real Horror Show

As Halloween approaches, Joe DeLia and Sinan Kubba welcome back friendly monster Eddie Inzauto and his fellow GamerNode pal Jason Fanelli to talk about the visceral appeal of survival horror games.

19 Responses to “28: A Real Horror Show”
  1. Andrew Drinkwater says:

    I have a theory. I think that Sinan has never played a horror game, because none of the games he listed were, but he listed them as horror games anyway.

    Anyone else get that impression?

  2. Sinan Kubba says:

    Hi Andrew, thanks for your comment!

    I said on the show that I haven’t played a lot of the games pertinent to the discussion – Silent Hill, Condemned, etc – and tried to stress that my opinions should just be taken as mostly unqualified, given that I hadn’t.

    Those two are horror game series, right? But I thought things like Resident Evil and Dead Space generally were considered horror games too? Not that Wikipedia is the authority on anything, but a quick check there has both listed as survival horror games. Like I hopefully implied on the show, I’m a bit confused by what constitutes a horror game and what doesn’t, so if I’m wrong about those games being horror – are they too action orientated? – then maybe I haven’t played a horror game.

    On a separate note, I’ve been convinced by Joe’s undying praise for Silent Hill to give it a go. To be honest, I’m not sure why I haven’t until now, given that I’ve heard such good things about the earlier entries in the series.

  3. SilentHitoshura says:

    Sinan, I think if you had an inclination, an affinity towards horror games then you would have played those “key games” already. Even F.E.A.R.

    I must say while I can’t handle horror movies at all I do love horror games and have played quite a few. I personally wouldn’t class Dead Space as survival horror as it isn’t scary. You have too much armour and the first weapon in the game is one of the most proficient in a game. Resident Evil (1, 2 and Zero) I would class as horror games, but 4 most certainly isn’t, nor is 5.

    Anyway I would state that while you may not have the arsenal to compare games directly you still offered some of the best questions to date re: Bioshock as horror.

    It was very nice to hear F.E.A.R and F.E.A.R 2 mentioned because a lot of ‘purists’ tend to leave them out and quite unfairly so. I was very close to shitting myself numerous times in F.E.A.R and while it wasn’t a psychological or cerebral masterpiece it certainly does what it sets out to.

    Great Podcast, great topic. I have since downloaded Call of Cthulhu for PC

    SIREN is an interesting case as well, especially because numerous staff members from Team Silent worked on it.

    Anyway I could go on for years. Animal Crossing was mentioned twice! 10/10 right there

  4. Sinan Kubba says:

    Yeah, but cerebral horror *does* interest me, at least in movies. I’ve quite enjoyed a lot of cerebral J-horror like The Ring and Dark Water. One of my favorite films is The Shining. So maybe I’ve just been a bit judgmental when it comes to horror games… based on what I’ve experienced with them. Growing up with light-gun games probably didn’t help that either…

    Glad you enjoyed the show, Paul – and I’m glad you thought I at least had some questions to offer ;)

  5. SilentHitoshura says:

    If it’s the cerebral part that interests you then you will be left wanting with 90% of horror games. SH2 hits the mark and then some but apart from that? Well you should learn to accept F.E.A.R as being cerebral as it gets.

    If I was you I would play:

    Silent Hill 2
    Project Zero 2
    SIREN (PSN one)

    Yes they are all Japanese but what did you expect from me? They all do something different and original and often impart very unique feelings.

  6. Speaking of J-horror, I meant to mention the Fatal Frame series, as those games create some of the more creepy atmospheres in horror games, and are definitely classifiable as J-horror. Silent Hill leans far more toward the J-horror end of the spectrum than FEAR or Resident Evil.

    And SilentHitoshura is definitely right about RE 4 and 5; it’s action with “zombies,” not horror. Just because a game contains some of the elements of the horror genre doesn’t make it a horror game. House of the Dead is certainly not a horror game, but still has undead all over the place.

  7. SilentHitoshura says:

    Eddie as a point of clarification Fatal Frame is called “Project Zero” here.

    RE4 certainly straddled the Survival Horror/Action genres moreso than perhaps any other game. In places it was genuinely tense and scary in others it was camp but always had strong combat sequences/arenas throughout.

    It may have been a bit of both but it certainly marked a departure from Survival Horror more than it did a convergence of the two.

    Fatal Frame/Project Zero had some great moments. Just a shame that it looks like we won’t see an English version of the fourth one. Which is a bit of a kick in the balls considering I own all three on PS2 but all of a sudden it’s Wii now. Fantastic

  8. Strident says:

    The show is still in my queue of podcasts to listen to – it’s half term week so I don’t get chance to listen.

    I’m not a horror fan at all. I don’t watch horror movies or enjoy playing scary games. I did really enjoy Fatal Frame/Project Zero though. Like Silent, I’m really disappointed that we won’t get to see the fourth installment over here… it’s definitely a game I would’ve turned my Wii on for.

  9. In a sense, I find that horror takes greater advantage of the interactive medium than almost any other genre. See, movies never scared me, because whatever was gong to happen to a character was going to happen no matter what. If one so desires, they can just turn away during the scary parts. In a game, however, you can’t look away because it’s your responsibility to keep your avatar alive. I find that last hammer bros in the first Mario (right before Bowser) scarier than anything in a Saw film, for example. Games are scary because they make you tense, and I feel like dimly lit rooms, monsters, and gore are simply window dressings to give something a horror vibe. In many case, these games aren’t even scary, but dress up as they are (Dead Space and RE5 certainly come to mind). I find something like Demon’s Souls to be far more terrifying than most traditional “horror” games because of the tension it creates as you slowly tread new ground, hoping to survive the next deadly encounter.

    I think what makes a game scary is that a.) a game over can have dire consequences. It certainly does in DS, where death means a lot of retreading old ground and loss of currency. And b.) a game’s pacing and enemy placement can really make you tense. If a game is constant action, you may feel a bit of unease about trying to survive the tail end of a long shootout, but that’s about it. If you only encounter enemies every so often i.e. Fatal Frame, early RE, Bioshock, etc… you’ll feel very uneasy about taking that next step.

    It’s strange, but there are some forms of unease that I enjoy and others I don’t. I dislike having to manage resources (those damn save ribbons is the reason I could never finish an early RE game. I probably had more than enough, but the though of using them up worried me and I simply gave up on those games), but I like feeling uneasy about enemies being around the next corner (Bioshock comes to mind as being one of the scariest games with the most lenient loss condition). There’s just something I find very exhilarating about not knowing what’s around the next corner, but knowing it’s probably evil and wants to kill me, yet having to summon up the courage to face my fear anyway.

  10. SilentHitoshura says:


    Is it just me or do you feel aswell that, although Left 4 Dead is a great game the Survival Horror implications that “The Director” could have had in order to create those moments that you have no idea what’s going on?

    Not just for a second play through but if you do have to re-tread certain areas “The Director” could not only keep the tension but also send it into the stratosphere of pant-wetting tension and unexpected scares?

    In this way I feel video games have a MASSIVE trump car over every other medium and also within the horror world.

    Imagine turning a corner for maybe the third time, you are by your very nature more relaxed than when you passed the first time, then The Director throws a fukin headless jirating pensioner in a wheel chair flying towards you.

    You had NO IDEA and you were relaxed, you are basically putty in the game developers hands.

    Ahem, sorry got carried away but this is what I expected from L4D and why I was so let down.

  11. Also, anyone else think the FEAR 2 ending was kinda hot? I mean, as far as undead zombie ghosts go, a guy could do a lot worse.

  12. SilentHitoshura says:

    Joe: While I like the Cerebral side of things for me it is 95% mood/atmosphere/art.

    I think the cerebral relies too heavily on narrative. Narrative I have no interest in. A story/expression/narrative/feeling can all be expressed implicitly by art and music. Atmosphere conveys emotion as does music.

    This is also why SH2 is my fav game; the music is horrifyingly and hauntingly expressive, the atmosphere is thick, dense and oppressive, the art direction is interesting, repulsive and attractive in equal measure. The tangible world, the feel of depression and foreboding, the murky filthy feeling of guilt and enigma are all conveyed more effectively in lieu of a strong narrative,

    So that’s kinda my angle

  13. SilentHitoshura says:

    Jeff I really liked the ending, it was like… she doesn’t wan to kill me she wants me to shag her. I felt kinda important, like “you are the one I want more than anything”

    Hell man it was way hot I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  14. Joe DeLia says:

    Enjoy Call of Cthulu, SilentHitoshura. A (mostly) great, underrated horror experience. By the way, I thought Siren PSN and Fatal Frame/Zero were interesting games, but wasn’t scared by them for whatever reason.

    Jeff, yep…I was hoping that someone would bring up Demon’s Souls and forgot to do so myself. As far as actual fear goes, games like Mega Man IX and Ninja Gaiden II inspired true fear in me, as any enemy is more than capable of ending your last 10 minutes of progress. Sure, it’s a different kind of fear, but one that is totally valid. I haven’t yet played DSouls, but I think that I’ll truly enjoy it once I do. Where we divide is in acceptance for the niggles that come along with certain horror titles (which I had planned to explore deeper on the show). I totally understand why someone would dislike RE for it’s tank controls and save system, but my mindset is always just, “ignore it and keep playing.” Of course, not everyone is willing to do that.

    My thing is that I don’t like slasher flicks, nor do I enjoy goreporn I–like Sinan mentioned–only like the cerebral stuff…the kinda that digs its way into your head and plays with it. All of the games that I mentioned on the show did that for me, along with a very select few of others. The first Condemned game had a terrific mood that really kept me on edge, while Dino Crisis and Clock Tower 3 had a “helpless” feeling that made them effective. I hope that the new Aliens vs Predator sets the right mood, as the old PC games were creepy and there is some awesome potential in that universe for true fear. I also really need to play The Path asap.

  15. The ending to FEAR 2 was incredibly hot. Not much going for a long-term relationship but it was a cool twist nonetheless.

    I’ve not listened yet but thanks to Silent’s persuasive rantings on Twitter I’ve picked up Silent Hill 2 today. Never usually like horror games – no matter what the definition is – but the way this series and SH2 in particular seems to affects people, has me really curious to try it out.

  16. Paul,

    I’ve actually barely played any Left 4 Dead. Never bought it as I just find it too much of a bother to coordinate when best to play a game online. Also don’t have a gold account for that reason, though if I were to give the multiplayer shooter a go, I’d start with a L4D game. But from what I have played, it was a bit of a disappointment as the people I played with (who owned the game) were able to call out when the waves would come and generally from where. Or at least narrow it down to one of two places.

    Silent Hill has always been something of an interesting beast with me. I’m intrigued by the games on a cerebral level and I like the artistry and aesthetics that go into them, but really dislike their core design, which felt like tired survival-horror tropes of running back and forth looking for keys to unlock doors whilst running past enemies. Visually, they got old kinda fast too, with too many hard to see areas. The little I’ve seen of SH4 was unusually brightly lit and still managed to look like possibly the scariest game I’ve seen, though also one of the least fun. Running around looking for keys while unkillable ghosts continually hurt you sounds like the opposite of fun to me, but that also makes it succeed on the level of making the player extraordinary uncomfortable. As a result, it’s a game that I like to watch being played, but not play myself.

    I did like the fact that it was brightly lit though. One of my biggest qualms with most survival-horror games is that they’re just too dark and it’s hard to see important objects and where you can go. It doesn’t make things scarier, just more annoying. I mean SH4 looked terrifying, despite the well-lit environments, and I recall the first Half-Life being quite scary for what it was as well. I wish more designers would stop relying on darkness, creatures with tentacles, torture devices, etc… as horror staples. Because that stuff doesn’t look scary, but rather kind cool. Which is kinda distracting. You can do creepy atmospheres in other ways. Several settings in Majora’s mask come to mind for me. I want more brightly lit, unsettling, psychedelic horror, dammit!

  17. SilentHitoshura says:

    Jeff, agreed.

    SH4 wasn’t developed as a SH game, basically it just used the branding which explains its many differences from those tropes you dislike. While it had original concepts they were hidden in a dimly lit bloodstained corner by awfully executed game design. A big shame really.

    I also distinctly recall the original Team Silent guys when making Siren wanted to explore horror during the day and at the same time Capcom devs were saying the exact same about daytime horror with RE5. Which obviously excited me no end.

    We all know what happened with the latter but the former I think did very well in that regard, although ‘daylight’ isn’t exactly correct as I have seen more light in an overcast Glasgow afternoon.

    I must say the future of Survival Horror looks dimmer than that Glasgow afternoon and those codes and conventions of the genre are the only thing I think that could get a horror game funded in the first place.

    Saw the game will get funded, your psychedelic fever dream cerebral trauma horror would only get funded if it wasnt a psychedelic fever dream cerebral trauma horror, and was more like Twilight, the game.

  18. Andrew Drinkwater says:

    Sinan: if you like cerebral J-Horror you must watch Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure, and Pulse as well. Cure is one of my favorite movies of all time, and Kurosawa is one of Japan’s leading directors even outside the horror genre.

    Resident Evil 4 and 5, and Dead Space break fundamental rules of the horror genre: you are way too empowered. Would the film Night of the Living Dead be a horror movie if every character had rocket-launchers, shotguns, assault rifles, infinite ammo and knew kung-fu?

    I think that the earlier RE games really were horror games, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if you didn’t find those scary: you seem like you’re pretty tough to scare.

  19. Andrew Drinkwater says:

    I would define a horror game as something that breaks the wall between the game and reality and makes you scared in real life. If you’re scared to play in a pitch black room, it’s a horror game.

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