There’s nothing that says “the holidays” quite like remaining sedentary for hours on end, and in that spirit Bloody-Disgusting has put together a list of the best, recent horror-themed video games to satisfy every hardcore gamer on your holiday shopping list. On the console front we have a slew of sequels and reboots to whet the appetite (sounds kinda like the movie industry, no?), while for mobile devices we’ve cherry-picked the best-reviewed titles to give you a better idea of how to spend that hard-earned…um, dollar ninety-nine on the people you love. Better yet, just by `em for yourself.
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Dead Rising 2 (Xbox 360 & Playstation 3)
List Price: $59.99 (standard edition)/$79.99 (collector’s edition)
The sequel to the hit 2006 survival horror game made exclusively for the Xbox 360, Dead Rising 2 – released on both the Xbox and the Playstation 3 this time around – was put together by the same team that collaborated on the first game and features even more bone-crunching zombie action. This time around players take control of Chuck Greene, a former motorcross champion who decides to participate in a controversial game show entitled “Terror Is Reality”, where contestants compete to see who can kill the most zombies. After a mysterious explosion serves as the catalyst for a zombie outbreak, Chuck must try to survive long enough to get his young daughter to safety. The sequel is more advanced in every way than its predecessor, with enhancements including the ability for players to manufacture their own custom weapons, online co-op play, and a multiplayer mode set in the “Terror Vision” reality show within the game. The special Collector’s version, packaged in a “steelbook case”, boasts (among other things) an 83-minute feature entitled “Zombrex Dead Rising Sun”, a Zombrex “syringe” pen, and a Dead Rising 2 hardback artbook.
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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (Xbox 360 & Playstation 3)
List Price: $59.99 (standard edition)/$79.99 (limited edition)
Like the original Castlevania titles, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a mixture of action combat, “platforming”, and puzzles, with a host of baddies to fight off including the requisite vampires and werewolves, along with giant spiders, trolls, and goblins. The main character is Gabriel Belmont, a member of an order known as “The Brotherhood of Light” that was tasked with protecting humanity after supernatural creatures were unleashed by an evil force known as “the Lords of Shadow”. This force also keeps the dead from going on to the next plane by trapping them in limbo, a limbo to which Gabriel’s wife, recently murdered by one of the creatures, has now been assigned. Developed by MercurySteam and Kojima Productions, the game features an impressive array of voice talent including Robert Carlyle as Gabriel, Natasha McElhone as Gabriel’s wife Marie, and Patrick Stewart, who narrates the game and also provides the voice of Gabriel’s mentor Zobek. Great for fans of the old titles, as well as younger gamers who have yet to be introduced into the Castlevania universe.
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Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare (Xbox 360 & Playstation 3)
List Price: $29.99 (stand-alone disc)
Release Date: November 23, 2010
Released just last month as the fifth “downloadable content pack” for western action-shooter Red Dead Redemption, Undead Nightmare – which features the same world seen in Red Dead Redemption but substitutes a zombie storyline and spooky atmosphere in place of the standard western tropes – is now being released as a stand-alone game. In Undead Nightmare players will face off with not only zombies (of the human and animal variety) but also mythical creatures such as Bigfoot, Chupacabra, and (evil?) unicorns. The “Four Horses of the Apocalypse” also join in the fun, with players given the ability to tame and mount them for use in their zombie-hunting expeditions. New multiplayer features are also introduced here, including the modes “Undead Overrun” (up to four players must hold back hordes of increasingly-difficult waves of zombies) and “Land Grab” (players defend a specific territory in the game for a set amount of time). It all makes perfect sense to me – after all, what’s a western without zombies?
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Splatterhouse (Xbox 360 & Playstation 3)
List Price: $59.99
Release Date: November 23, 2010
Splatterhouse is a remake of the first “beat-`em-up” horror/action game of the same title from the late `80s, which was about a young couple, Rick and Jennifer, who took refuge in the mysterious mansion of missing parapsychologist Dr. West, who it was rumored had conducted horrific experiments there. After demonic creatures go on the attack, dragging Jennifer away and leaving Rick for dead, a sentient “Terror Mask” fuses to Rick’s face, changing him into a monster that possesses superhuman strength. Rick then goes on a quest to save Jennifer, fighting through the mansion’s horrific creatures along the way. This update is obviously far more advanced than the original, but the goal is essentially the same – fight through the monsters using your superhuman abilities and get out of the mansion in one piece. Not a straight remake, the storyline has been expanded to include elements from all three earlier entries, the last of which debuted on the Sega Genesis all the way back in 1993. Rick’s monster design will also be different from that of the original game, losing the Jason Voorhees-inspired hockey mask and featuring instead the more skull-like “Terror Mask” featured in Splatterhouse 3. Gameplay will follow pretty much the same general outline, with players controlling Rick as he engages in combat with hordes of monsters, either hand-to-hand or using a variety of makeshift weapons. And, true to the more extreme nature of video games today (not to mention the technological advancements seen since 1988), the violence will be much more brutal and realistic than in any of the previous entries. In addition, Rick will have the ability to both regenerate body parts and revive slain enemies for use as his undead minions. Also includes the three original Splatterhouse games as “unlockables”, for those interested in taking a trip down nostalgia lane.
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Saw II: Flesh and Blood (Xbox 360 & Playstation 3)
List Price: $49.99
Set between the second and third films, Saw II: Flesh and Blood has players controlling Michael, the son of David Tapp (Danny Glover from the first movie), as he searches for clues to his father’s death while simultaneously being caught up in the sick games of Jigsaw and his apprentice “Pighead”. Gameplay, a combination of action elements and brain teaser challenges, is in its general details the same as the first game, with one major change being that there are now two combat modes: melee and puzzle. Melee will have players fending off attackers in the traditional sense (using punches, kicks, and weaponry), while in puzzle-based combat the player will be forced to use traps or other elements from the environment to subdue their enemies. The graphics – while not exactly groundbreaking – are also a step up from the previous game, rendering a more convincing and dynamic environment using the Unreal Engine 3. Overall, Saw II: Flesh & Blood should serve as a welcome addition to the libraries of both fans of the movies and those who enjoy survival horror.
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Alan Wake (Xbox 360)
List Price: $34.99 (standard edition)/$79.99 (limited edition)
Advertised as a “psychological action thriller”, this intriguing game unfolds in an episodic fashion that gives it an especially cinematic quality. Players take on the role of horror writer Alan Wake, a desperate man who must go on the search for his wife after she mysteriously vanishes while on vacation in the town of Bright Falls. On his journey he also begins to experience blackouts and strange, fearsome visions of characters and ideas from his latest novel – a novel which he cannot remember writing. As if that weren’t enough to keep him occupied, Wake must also fend off dark creatures known as “the Taken” that seem to be connected with her disappearance. The game, featuring loads of atmosphere that brings to mind both the Silent Hill series and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, is a great mix of survival horror and dread-filled mystery that debuted to a host of great reviews on its release and comes recommended for those who prefer a more story-driven gaming experience.
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Based on the blockbuster 1975 movie, Jaws has players using their iPhone controls to save vulnerable swimmers from the enormous Great White man-eater by directing them toward the shore and/or manipulating boats (some with guns on them) to pick up vulnerable swimmers on the open water before they become shark-bait. Each of the ten levels is more difficult than the last, building up to a frenzied conclusion that takes a page from the movie itself. To top it off, the game features the original John Williams musical cue to signal the shark’s approach.
To coincide with the November 23rd release of the Splatterhouse reboot on gaming consoles, the original ’88 version will be debuting on Apple iOS devices a week prior. On top of featuring all seven levels from the original game (reportedly the gorier arcade version rather than the toned-down, “kid-friendly” edition put out on the Turbografx-16), it also boasts an exclusive “Splatter Rush” mode, which consists of players being confined to a single room while fending off hordes of monstrous supernatural beings for as long as they can.
It’s a pretty silly but addictive-sounding concept: a “monster” made up of different letters and keyboard characters approaches your first-person perspective, forcing you to figure out which characters they’re made up of and then “shoot” (using the keyboard at the bottom of the screen) those characters at them before they can get to you. For example, if the monster has an antenna in the shape of an “S”, you must “shoot” an “S” at them to blast the antennae off. But do it quickly – if the monster ends up reaching they’ll go on the attack, deducting from your life gauge at the top of the screen. In addition, if you happen to shoot a character at the monster that isn’t a part of its makeup, they’ll send a random character flying back in a counter-attack. Kinda dumb, sure, but by all accounts tough to put down.
BrainDead 13 – a mobile version of the Don Bluth-style video game released on consoles in the mid-`90s – has players controlling Lance, a computer geek who’s mysteriously called to a spooky old castle to fix a super-computer. After repairing it he discovers that the castle’s diabolical owner, Dr. Neuro Neurosis, has plans to take over the world – and only Lance can stop him. The touch-screen gameplay is relatively simple, though that doesn’t mean it’s easy; as with the original Brain Dead 13, not to mention older, similar laserdisc titles like Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, it’s all about precision timing.
Dead Rising Mobile
Dead Rising Mobile is the hand-held port of the popular survival horror game in which players take control of Frank West, a photojournalist who has become trapped inside a zombie-infested mall. Capcom (who are planning on releasing it this holiday season) has reportedly incorporated as many elements from the console version as they’ve been able, similar to what they did with the iPhone version of Resident Evil 4 last year. In addition the game will feature an interesting social network component, in which a player who has just been killed can send out a “distress call” to friends over Facebook or Twitter, asking for their help to continue on in the game. If one of these friends then logs into their own version of the game and inputs a special code to “revive” the desperate player before the timer runs out, they’ll then be able to start from the same point where they were killed.
This prequel/follow-up to Solomon’s Keep is basically a “survival-style” version of that game, but different enough to warrant a download. Players choose one of seven wizard characters, each with a different magical ability, before setting out to stop an adolescent Solomon Dark (the villain from the first game, only 23 years younger) who has taken to practicing his black magic by disturbing graves at a local cemetery and reanimating the dead. The goal here is basically to stay alive for as long as you can against endless waves of undead minions, with your score tracked by a the social-networking leaderboard program Open Feint.
In Zombie Highway, players control an SUV driving through a barren post-apocalyptic wasteland while super-aggressive zombies leap onto the car to try and slow it down so they can get inside. To save themselves from being munched on, players have the option of either shaking the undead flesh-eaters off using the physics of the car or, failing that, using firepower to accomplish same (while also avoiding abandoned vehicles along the way). Zombie Highway is a fun, simple game that’s recommended for anyone who’s a fan of the zombie movie sub-genre.
Super Mega Worm/Death Worm
Price: $.99 each
Imagine playing a video game as one of the giant earthworms in Tremors and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from both Super Mega Worm and its follow-up, Death Worm. In both games, players are tasked by Mother Nature – angry over the destruction of the environment – to go to war with the human race by consuming them until there’s no one left. Of course the humans don’t take it lying down, going on the defensive by using police cars, tanks, planes, etc. to keep you from completing your task. Death Worm has better graphics and more goal-oriented gameplay than its predecessor (where you basically just attempt to eat as many humans as possible) and also allows you to start out the game as a giant worm (in SMW you begin small and grow the more people you eat), but the original is still a whole heap of fun and, unlike Death Worm, has a charming, 8-bit Nintendo-era vibe. Both are recommended.
In Chillingo’s “line drawing” game Zombie Escape, players must simultaneously: a) direct terrified humans into waiting rescue helicopters as hordes of undead flesh-eaters pursue them; b) pilot the helicopters, and c) stave off the zombies using guns, grenades, and any other weapons at their disposal (with more being unlocked as you make your way through). Adding to variation in the gameplay is the fact that there are several different types of zombies featured, including Seekers (who hunt down humans when in range), Stinkers (they leave a toxic cloud behind after they’re killed), and Bursters (which explode when you shoot them). For those who enjoy a little strategy to go along with their zombie mayhem, this is the game to get.
In Halfbrick’s Monster Dash you control bad-ass Barry Steakfries, who runs through a world infested with monsters (vampires, mummies, devils, etc.) and dispatches them with shotguns, sub-machine guns and even a machine gun jetpack. The goal of the game is to run to the right for as long as you can, slaying (or avoiding) monsters while steering clear of other pitfalls. There’s nothing fancy here; it’s just a fun game with simple controls that will surely have one slaying monsters for hours.