Tuesday, October 30, 2007


People are posting their scariest gaming moments now that it's almost Halloween.

Most people who know me would probably think that my scariest game was System Shock II, but that's just not true. SS2 has loads and loads of atmosphere, but it's only above average at actual fear.

Others might think Aliens vs. Predators 2, which was a scary freaking game, so long as you played the marines.

Some might say one of those new-fangled survival horror games, like the one where you take photographs of ghosts. Maybe they're scary, I can't seem to get any time to play them. But they're not the scariest.

The scariest game of all time is a tie between Silent Debuggers and Cyber-Cop.

The culture of fear evolves over time, of course. Back in the day, a werewolf movie could be scary. Nowadays, we aren't even scared by movies like Saw, just vaguely startled from time to time. So if you played these games today, you would find them unplayably poor and therefore probably not very scary. (Yes, he's transforming into a werewolf, we get it, get on with it!)

At heart, they are the same game. Which is why they are tied.

Both were first person view. Cyber-Cop was real: you could look around, even up and down, shoot cameras, so forth. Silent Debuggers was that old-school "90 degree fake" 3D.

Both featured very complex inventory systems - so mind-bogglingly complex you could never really tell if you were equipped right, or if you were totally screwed. Cyber-Cop's inventory system was more complicated than any I have seen before or since, including tabletop games. Both featured complex level design where the levels breathed terror. In Silent Debuggers, you had a central level that was a giant elevator. It descended with you towards the final fight. Except that... the enemies would attack the various rooms and DESTROY them.

Rooms like "recharge your health", "upgrade weapon", etc, etc. GONE FOREVER. You would watch their health dwindle as you hunted for the damn red speed demon.

Both had enemies that were scary as hell. Not because of their design or whatever. Because you can't SEE them. You're stuck in this labyrinth, and you've got these motion detectors beeping like mad, and something is howling on the other side of the wall HUNTING YOU...

Basically, these games were like AvP2, except with System Shock II's difficulty. Their sheer output in terms of fear, adrenaline, and simple scalp-tingling terror is unmatched.

And you've never heard of them.


Patrick said...

Nice analysis, I enjoyed your review of Penumbra by the same principle. This is a good ol' meme.

David said...

I have now.