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Dead Space 2 sees you reprise your role as Systems Engineer Isaac Clarke three years after the horrific events on the USG Ishimura. Expect more of same atmospheric horror and monster-stomping action, only this time around, Clarke's a little less taciturn when he encounters more of those murderous Necromorphs.
If you've never explored the original game, you can add that to your library for cheap, too. The Dead Space bundle—which boasts the tense prequel, too—is available for just £3.74, a whopping 81 percent off its usual retail price.
Last month EA closed Visceral Games, the studio behind Dead Space and Battlefield Hardline. Electronic Arts' vice president Patrick Soderlund confirmed the closure and confirmed that the design direction of Visceral's Star Wars project will undergo a "significant change."
In the words of one plucky commenter on the Dead Space 2 customer reviews page, "Don't be sad that it's over, be happy that it happened."
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The environments of massive open-world games, particularly in recent years, have been rightly praised for their representation, scale and design accuracy. However, there are some gems at the other end of the spectrum - environments that make you feel cramped, tense and desperate for a break. This is an approach to environment design utilised in our real-world, from gardens to architecture, and is mirrored excellently in some game environments, creating areas that trap us in cramped, claustrophobic conditions.
The underground tunnel network of the Metro series, adapted for human life but traversed with trepidation and tension, nailed its own post-apocalyptic look and feel, and had claustrophobia, discomfort and fear oozing from its design. These spaces successfully evoke real-world design principles of landscape mazes and labyrinths, such as dead ends, twists and turns to cause doubling back and elevate desperation, fluctuating size and scale of spaces, and a continuous and monotonal finish (a symphony of grey in Metro's case) that makes every surface and area look the same, but also makes for an unrelenting and repressive aesthetic.
Often, the spaces are not only characteristic of uncomfortable mazes and tunnels, but their disrepair and crumbling structure means they have a constant feeling of pressure and weight about them: the feeling that, at any moment, the space could collapse on top of Artyom's head. The tunnels are also powerful spaces as they are a believable and familiar environment to us; adapting a real-world, recognisably claustrophobic environment makes for a powerfully uncomfortable virtual space.
Electronic Arts closed the doors on Visceral Games yesterday, bringing to a close the studio whose (relatively) recent work includes Dante's Inferno, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, Battlefield Hardline, and the Dead Space series. Following the announcement, Zach Wilson, who worked briefly at the studio as a designer on Hardline, took to Twitter to offer some thoughts about where it all went wrong.
Wilson's opening tweets say it all:
In follow-ups, Wilson said that he's "back of the napkinning" the numbers, but added that they're close to the real thing. "I don't know the exact marketing budget but they're frequently close to the dev cost (I have heard this anecdotally)," he wrote.
Sky-high budgets are also why developers are launching their own digital storefronts, rather than simply relying on the simpler and far more ubiquitous Steam.
"Do you hate uplay? Well, the pub gets 90% of the $$$," he tweeted. "EA makes $30 per copy after retailers and console makers take their cut. Then consider that a chunk of the game was sold on sale ... Through Origin they get 90%"
Wilson's tweets don't directly address the reasons for Visceral's closure, but they do paint a very grim portrait of the state of the business, and the extent to which major publisher releases are either big hits, or big busts. If a mid-tier game like Dead Space 2 can knock out four million copies and still be considered underperforming (and keep in mind that EA reported two years after its release that the original Dead Space had sold roughly half that number), then the bar is incredibly high. Any new project that looks like it won't be a huge hit, or won't have a long tail via microtransactions and DLC, suddenly starts to look like a risk from that perspective.
And if, on top of that, the game in question appears to be in trouble, as Kotaku suggested in its report of Visceral's closure yesterday, then risk-averse publishers (which is to say, all of them) aren't likely to wait too long before they take action.
EA have just announced that they’ll be “ramping down and closing” Visceral, the studio behind the Dead Space trilogy. Visceral have been working on an untitled Star Wars project, described as an “action-adventure”, and Amy Hennig, formerly of Naughty Dog and Crystal Dynamics, moved to the studio in 2014 to work on that project as senior creative director. EA’s statement regarding Visceral’s closure suggests that they’re unhappy with the status of that game and they plan to “pivot the design” to fit “fundamental shifts in the marketplace”. Full statement and thoughts below.
So you're looking to spook yourself with the best horror games you can play on PC. Whether you're into jump scares, interactive fiction, thematically interesting stories or just large men running after you with a chainsaw, we've included a wide variety of games that'll hopefully freak you the hell out. Enjoy.
Like our lists of best strategy games or best FPS games, we tried to focus on a variety of horror experiences that still hold up well today, though we've expanded the remit slightly to include a few retro curios as well.
What starts as a bold, scary reboot certainly gets closer to the more recent action-oriented entries in its later chapters, but exploring the Baker family's grimy plantation in Resident Evil 7 is a grisly treat. The detail of this setting is amazing, and in the first half of the game, there's such a sense of the unknown that you're cautiously poking around every corner and treating bullets like they're gold. Resi 7's videotapes, which have you play out-of-context asides shedding more light on the Baker family and the story, offer the game's best and most experimental moments.
Resi 7 is close to the original intent of Resi, but we kept the HD version of the original on this list too because they're both fantastic in their own way.
An unrelentingly bleak platformer that puts you through a gauntlet of hellish imagery: creepy mermaids, security robots, people hunting you down, nasty weather and more that we won't spoil here. Its vision of a cruel dystopian world that's out to kill you at all times is extraordinary, even if the moment-to-moment platforming is pretty familiar and can be frustrating. You're mainly playing it to experience the setting, really.
See also Little Nightmares, a similar type of horror platformer that isn't as scary but is arguably just as inventive.
In this anthology game, you operate a computer within the game: first playing an old horror text adventure game set in a spooky house, and later performing similar interactions in other locations, including a lab and a station in freezing conditions. How these episodes link together is the game's overarching mystery, but it's the way the surrounding environment changes with the story beats that'll shit you up here. Stories Untold is co-developed by Alien: Isolation UI mastermind Jon McKellan, and a lot of that DNA is present here. Plus, it'll only take you a few hours to beat, and it's a very reasonable $10 on Steam.
As a trial-and-error stealth game, Outlast 2 might not be for everyone, but thematically it's among the more interesting games on this list. Playing as a journalist searching for a missing woman in Arizona, your wife is then kidnapped early on by a deranged cult, the origins of which are told through snippets of letters during the game. You navigate dark environments using the night vision mode of your camera, and it's just scary as heck, with a whole village wanting you dead and some of the most gruelling imagery ever put into a game.
Before BioShock was BioShock, it was System Shock: an altogether freakier combination of RPG and FPS, and one that in its second (and best) iteration told the story of a rogue AI on a haunted spaceship—that rogue AI being the incomparably uppercase SHODAN. The murderous artificial consciousness paved the way for GlaDOS of course, but its the combination of meaningful character advancement, rewarding exploration, horrifying enemies and (at the time) the novel use of audio diaries that make System Shock 2 such a memorable horror game. It was essentially Deus Ex on a spaceship—if you've ever played Deus Ex, or been on a spaceship, you can imagine how delectable that sounds.
Don't be put off by IMSCARED's rather tedious "A Pixelated Nightmare" tagline—it is easily one of the most unsettling games available today. But it's also a tough one to pitch, because much of its terror lies in the surprises that shouldn't be ruined by a meagre 150 word-long recommendation. Know that it borrows from 90's horror games via its aesthetic and fourth wall-breaking, file-bothering makeup; and that it consistently strives to surprise and keep players guessing. Understand that it'll play with your emotions, and drop you into a confused and confusing world while incessantly goading you till its final breath. Don't expect jump scares, but do expect to be scared enough to jump from your chair. The 2012 of IMSCARED is free, while the full, extended version is cheap as chips over on . If you think we're at all grandstanding here, please be our guest and give it a try. We'll be hiding behind the couch.
A rhythm action nightmare in which you play a silver beetle speeding down a track into the mouth of a huge demented boss head. Death comes quickly. Miss a couple of turns and you're dashed into a million glittering pieces against the courses metal banks. Miss a beat in the gaze of the ring-shaped guard robots and they'll hurtle towards you, lasers blazing. All the while the ambient soundtrack pulses uneasily and the the rhythms become faster, and more erratic. The effect is one of tense, compressed dread. Probably best to play it in short bursts only.
We can all agree that Silent Hill 2 is the best in the series, and although Konami have never made much of an effort with the PC versions, if you factor in mods and texture/resolution tweaks this is probably the best way to play it these days—even if prices for the (extremely rare) retail copies can be pretty extortionate. It was the first game to really push the idea of horror narratives as subjective, fluid and untrustworthy things, with a story that invites interpretation and a semi-sentient city that warps and shifts itself to fit the damaged psyches of its inhabitants. The confusing cult nonsense of the first and third games was pushed to the backburner for the more personal story of a psychologically damaged widower battling his way through a foggy purgatory populated by zombie-things, dog-things, and whatever the hell Pyramid Head was.
Whereas the likes of Silent Hill and Fatal Frame rely on radios to alert players to otherworldly adversaries, Sylvio uses sound, EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) and audio manipulation as its central ideas. Not only that, the game builds its entire gorgeously creepy world around this principle theme as players strive to uncover its backstories, bizarre plot twists, and insights into its unsettling unknown—all of which is backed up by some stellar voice acting. Generic first-person horror this ain't, and while it does occasionally force tedious combat set pieces upon players, it thrives in its quirky, idiosyncratic moments that are filled with atmosphere and character and dread. Sylvio is a thinking game and is unique within the horror genre.
Horror games owe a significant debt to one Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and not just because he's long dead and his work is out of copyright. Plenty of games have included references to his unique brand of cosmic horror, but Anchorhead is more inspired than most, drawing from several of his novels and stories to tell the tale of the a married couple who have inherited an old mansion in a creepy New England town. The sedate exploration of the game's opening segments eventually give way to tense, turn-limited puzzles as you struggle to stop an ancient, possibly world-ending ritual from being completed. No pressure then. It's free, and you can .
The Dark Descent casts you as Daniel, an amnesiac who wakes up in a mostly deserted castle that must be explored in search of escape. Frictional draw on all of their experience creating atmospheric, exploratory horror in the Penumbra series to fill Amnesia's fortress with an oppressive and lingering sense of foreboding. Expect distant echoing noises, strange rumbles behind the walls, and to start seeing half-formed dark figures in the ambiguous candlelight. There's a monster, too, stalking you through the corridors. The perennial rule of horror creatures—that they're less scary once you've seen and understood them—certainly applies here, but Dark Descent is still a must-play horror game.
You won't find scripted jump scares here. Dark Souls is a lonely, gruelling struggle through a world on the verge of being extinguished. Lordran is a sad and horrifying place to be. You catch glimpses of the gods' old glory, but mostly you're confronting the aftermath of their terrible mistakes, whether it's the nightmare of the Bed of Chaos or the gross parasite eggs of Demon Ruins. The PC port is poor, but most of its visual shortcomings have been solved by the modding community. Start with the and pick and choose from the to get the game into shape.
Dead Space's lanky alien monsters are noteworthy not just for their ability to fit into tiny closets and jump out at passing protagonists, but for the satisfying fragility of their narrow, bony limbs. Dead Space's high concept, back in the first game, was that you're a simple engineer tending to a broken ship, rather than a meaty space marine with miniguns coming out of his chest. Better still, the cutting and cleaving tools your engineer is so practiced with ended up being more rewarding than the traditional machine guns and shotguns of your typical FPS. Worryingly, foes react differently when you snip off certain limbs—a headshot may only make them madder. Oh, there's a batty plot about an alien obelisk that sends people insane, a space cult, and other nonsense. Don't worry about that too much, the room-to-room stalking is super-tense in spite of the flimsy story. Dead Space classic piece of linear horror design that still holds up.
Poor Pripyat just can't catch a break. In real life it's been abandoned since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. In Stalker, it also suffers the indignity of corrupted anomalies and invisible monsters. The entire series has focused on a harsh and desperate struggle for survival. You may be seeking valuable anomalies and treasure, but first you'll need to secure the basics: food, bandages, and weapons. Occasionally you'll enjoy the companionship of fellow travellers around a campfire, but for the most part your exploration of the open world will feel oppressive and lonely. Call of Pripyat is the best and most technically competent game in the series, but the original Shadow of Chernobyl is also worth a look. Don't miss the Stalker: Lost Alpha—Director's Cut, either.
Is anyone still scared of zombies? Sure, they're creepy—there's something intrinsically unsettling about a vacant sack of human flesh—but when is the last time you felt visceral, gut-wrenching fear in the presence of the horde? Blood, guts, and realistic subsurface glistening just don't do it any more. Telltale's The Walking Dead forgoes the anatomy lesson for something more harrowing. The eponymous dead are extras in a bleak human drama, a handy plot device to prompt the fall of society and watch what happens when people break. Those people, all well-written and interesting characters, make for a more immediate, more believable horror story. The Walking Dead could be real, a plausible portrayal of a world going to hell, and that is scary indeed.
Phantasmagoria is the most infamous horror adventure of the interactive movie age, but that's only because almost nobody played the infinitely gorier, endlessly more disturbing Harvester. You wake up with amnesia in a messed up 50s town, where mothers pop their babies' eyeballs, the paperboy packs a gun, the local teachers deals discipline with a baseball bat at Gein Memorial High School, and nobody bats an eye at the wasp woman down the street. All you know is that unless you join the mysterious Lodge in the middle of town, you're not going to last the week—one that ends in an involuntary blood drive where the nurse uses a scythe. Then things get really weird. It's a tough game to find legitimately, but check out our on it for more.
Pathologic is ugly and broken. It will sit on your hard-drive like a gangrenous limb, in need of amputation. If this sounds like a criticism, it isn't. Beyond the dirty, putrefied atmosphere, Pathologic is also weird and theatrical, frequently breaking the fourth wall and questioning your role as the player. You choose one of three characters, each with their own mysterious past. Afterwards, masked figures explain the rules of the game: that you have twelve days to cure the town of its disease, and that time will progress regardless of your actions. As it slips by, you'll have to pick your goals wisely, gathering resources and helping characters in the hope of slowing the inexorable decay. Whatever your choice, the town continues to rot, and the game builds towards its horrific conclusion.
It's being remade and expanded, in Pathologic 2, but you can also grab the HD edition of the original on Steam.
The Silent Hill series does creepy mannequins well, but nowhere near as well as Condemned: Criminal Origins. The premise is quite simple: there's a serial killer on the loose, you're a crime scene investigator, and people expect you to catch him. What's less straightforward is how quickly agent Ethan Thomas takes to cold-blooded murder—even considering the entire populace of Metro City appears to have it in for him. Nonetheless, while Condemned: Criminal Origins offers frontman Thomas a range of firearms, he seems happy enough to do his crowd controlling by way of melee weaponry, each of which has its own distinct feel in close-quarters combat. With that, Condemned rarely pulls any punches—it knows what it is and is happy doing so from start to finish. It's now somehow ten years old, but it holds up well today.
Reasons to be interested in this survival horror can be boiled down to just two words: Shinji Mikami, the designer responsible for Resident Evil (the good ones), God Hand and Vanquish, the latter of which have criminally never punched and rocket-boosted their way to PC. The Evil Within is his grand return to horror. Expect to spend a fair bit of time hiding from chainsaw-wielding psychopaths, shooting and burning lumbering zombie-likes and laying traps. And a follow-up is on the way, with multiple routes through levels and a story that's a little Silent Hill 2-esque.
Frictional Games has already appeared in this roundup, and that's because time and time again they've proven that they know horror—first in the Penumbra games, and then again in Amnesia. Soma is their latest first-person scare-'em-up, full of creepy experiments, creepier blinking computer-things, and exchanges that question the nature of humanity and consciousness. There are disturbing monsters too, though you can switch those off with a Steam Workshop mod if you want to.
Similar to Stalker featured earlier in this list, Metro 2033 visits a post-apocalyptic, nuclear war-ravaged world that's filled with mutated abominations—the vast majority of which seek to harm you. Here, the year is 2033, 20 years after Russia fell victim to nuclear war. Moscow's surface is now too dangerous to explore, therefore much of the game takes place within its interweaving subway system and a hostile group named the Dark Ones stalks the player and their pals. Admittedly, Metro 2033, like Stalker, leans towards the action genre however while much of its scare factor is tied to running out of supplies and/or ammo, there's something truly unsettling about its post-nuclear war premise—that perhaps because this sort of scenario could happen, it becomes scarier? Maybe it's simply the fact the Dark Ones are bloody terrifying.
The slim, suited menace known as Slenderman started life as a forum meme, and has quickly grown into a horror series. His schtick is simple, but terrifying enough. If you look directly at him, he devours you, but when you look away he can move position instantly in an attempt to trick your gaze. You have to collect eight notes from a dark forest as the demon hunts you. The free downloadable version, , has inspired a wealth of YouTube Let's Play videos, because it turns out it's almost as fun to watch Slender's potent psychological terror inflicted on others as it is to endure it yourself. Its popularity encouraged Blue Isle studios and Parsec productions to create a prettier version called Slender: The Arrival, which is available for $10 on , and has bonus Oculus Rift support for VR terror.
The best Alien game ever, by a long way, Isolation stars the smartest, scariest enemy in any game. The Xenomorph's killer instinct is matched only by its curiosity. It learns more about the Sevastopol's nooks and crannies as it hunts you over the course of 12 hours, ripping doors off closets and peering under tables in search of prey. The motion tracker can help you to avoid its grasp, but it can sense the sound, and even the gentle green light of its screen, making every glance a risk. When the game forces you into the vents and you can hear the creature in there with you, Isolation becomes one of the scariest games ever made.
Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos should be a ripe playground for gaming scares. It rarely works out like that; the fiction often put to use in ways that fail to convey the sheer magnitude of its ancient and maddening horror. Despite the bugs and the clunkiness, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a first-person survival horror that both stays true to its source, and provides a multitude of ideas through its many and varied levels. You'll go from escaping an assassination, to being hunted by cultists, to fighting off Shoggoths and Deep Ones.
FEAR is a better shooter than a horror game, but is worthy of note for referencing Asian cinema with its creepy villain, Alma, a little girl who can rip people apart with her thoughts. FEAR also exploited the first person perspective to create jump-scares, using ladders and narrow corridors to funnel the player's view through a rollercoaster of linear frights. You catch glimpses of Alma in the corner of a room as lightbulbs shatter, you'll suddenly see her feet at the top of a ladder as you descend, and there's a gratuitous corridor of blood, because The Shining deserves a nod every now and then. First person horror techniques have been honed into a more concentrated horror experience by games like Outlast, but FEAR does let you pin clone soldiers to walls with a stake gun, and kick them in the face in slow motion as they scream “FUUUUUUU” in a low-pitched, slurry expression of terror. The psychological horror themes persisted in FEAR's sequels—FEAR 2: Project Origin and FEAR 3.
The tank controls and pre-baked backgrounds hint at Resi's age, but it's a survival horror classic nonetheless, and received a handsome in early 2015. The famous Resi mansion drips with atmosphere, and hides some top-drawer jump scares—when crows come crashing through a window, it makes every future trip down that corridor especially tough. The giant spiders are hideous and the relentless threat of the mansion's zombie population grinds down your spirit and your health bar. Soon you're a limping picture of pain and regret, searching for the octagonal object you need to go in the octagonal slot. What a nightmare.
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>
Nostalgia is supposed to be about the things of our early years, but recently I’ve been feeling nostalgic about games released much more recently than my usual rose-tinted diet of Ultima and Daggerfall. I’ve only gone and started missing Dead Space like it was a childhood friend. … [visit site to read more]
With 2013's Injustice: Gods Among Us, NetherRealm Studios showed it was more than capable of putting together a solid fighting game featuring the DC Comics pantheon. More than that, the developer capably made it stand out from sister franchise Mortal Kombat with its own distinct features and mechanics. For an encore, Injustice 2 further builds on the foundation set by its predecessor and steps forward as a truly superheroic effort.
The original Injustice featured a grand DC Elseworlds narrative of a world ruled by a totalitarian Superman and while that plot featured several twists and turns, Injustice 2's Story Mode seamlessly continues this tale with an easy-to-follow recap. Injustice 2 takes place in a post-Regime world with Superman safely imprisoned and Batman desperately trying to pick up the pieces of a world still shaken to its core. His efforts are quickly stalled by a supervillain gathering, the Injustice world's take on the classic Society, which would herald the arrival of extraterrestrial threat and perennial Superman baddie, Brainiac.
With Batman's team overwhelmed, there's a certain pattern the narrative starts to follow. The heroes have had their differences and it looks like now it's time to come together to take on the real villains. Then everyone hugs it out and everything's okay again? In actuality, much like the rest of NetherRealm's Injustice narrative, things aren't that simple. The story that unfolds surrounds the increasing complexity of the classic good vs. evil conflict, as well as what it means to truly deliver justice. It's an eye into Batman's perfectionist (and somewhat naive) view of what justice should be. It's a continuing look at why Superman has pursued the path that he has (albeit one that does Wonder Woman's character a disservice by making her into a Lady MacBeth type). But more than anything, it's the desire from all sides for things to be the way they were and the heartbreaking realization that there is no going back. Fixing things isn't as easy as remembering that everyone's mother happens to be named Martha.
Of course, between all the deeper themes, there's an outstanding, action-filled superhero story that culminates in epic battles unfolding through cutscenes and through standard gameplay.
One big improvement from the first Injustice game is that the quick-time events of the original story are gone. Instead, they're replaced with chapters that center around two characters. Whenever a fight is cued up, the player selects between one of the two heroes, with some of the story's dialogue unfolding differently depending on the character chosen. The choices take a much more extreme turn towards the end of the game, but the story remains cohesive throughout.
Besides the Story Mode, Injustice 2 also offers the standard single-player mode, but this one comes with a bit of a twist. Playing off the Brother Eye satellite used in the game's story, Multiverse mode offers up contains the standard Arcade mode, where players take on one opponent at a time. However, there are also other Earths that open up with different scenarios and different opponents. Beyond having their own versions of the game's fighters with their own distinct looks, Multiverse mixes things up by occasionally tossing in game-altering conditions, like hazards, boosts, or souped-up opponents.
Multiverse is a great example of using an online connection for something positive, adding in new worlds every day with a finite time to complete their missions and collect their rewards. Some of those worlds have rarer rewards that are worth pursuing. The game even offers a social element to help make Multiverse hopping a little more fun with the Guild system, where groups of friends can earn rewards by completing specific Multiverse tasks. The whole Multiverse package is a robust expansion of the Arcade Mode concept that gives it a much longer life, though anyone with an offline connection can still play the normal Battle Simulator.
Let's discuss those Multiverse rewards. They come in the form of Mother Boxes, as Injustice 2 is the latest game to get into the mystery loot craze. With a full comic book universe to play with, the Mother Box rewards dig into the rich DC Comics lore and give each character a dapper new look. The most interesting element, however, is that each piece of gear offers RPG-style boosts. Some of them offer advantages specifically for Multiverse Mode, while others can help give a little boost during multiplayer. What makes the gear system particularly cool is that it gives the sense that a player's fighter is progressing and growing over the course of invested hours. There's a sense of something to aim for, in addition to the usual character ending and the like.
The one problem with the gear system is that oftentimes, a cool Epic or Legendary item will get opened up, but won't be accessible until that particular figher levels up. And sadly, the characters level up about as slowly as the Batmobile with a flat tire. Getting to actually play with that awesome piece of gear will mean hours of grinding and that's when the Multiverse can start to feel tedious.
There's a sense of accomplishment once that gear is finally available, especially for those that want to take it online or assign it to an AI squad that can fight other players' AI squads in simulated combat. The latter is a particularly nifty feature that adds a fantasy element and a cheap way to earn extra experience or loot.
Of course, those that are looking for a more even playing field can also play multiplayer without gear benefits. After all, some people just want to see who's the better player without fancy toys.
Speaking of Injustice 2's fighting system, it feels like a further evolution of NetherRealm's distinct fighting style. A friendly tutorial explains everything in great detail, gently explaining how to perform combos, overheads, throws, specials, and anything else required of a NetherRealm fighter. Dashes and slides can cover much more ground, with environmental cues also helping cover a full screen's worth of ground in a moment, helping quell the rise of trigger-happy projectile spammers.
Given that combos are often the bane of the novice's existence, Injustice 2's eloquent explanation of the overhead and other moves that bounce opponents off walls is a godsend. The game encourages players to experiment with juggles, whether it's a simple light attack combo or a cool special move that catches an opponent in mid-air. This complements the rest of the game's mechanics smoothly, including the theatrical Super Moves and the returning Clash system. The latter goes a long way towards giving the game its identity, even if they start to feel old upon repeated viewings.
Injustice 2 feels like a step up from Gods Among Us in every way imaginable. It's a far deeper experience, follows up wonderfully on the last game's story, and also gives reasons to keep coming back for repeat visits. The rich cast of fighters all have their own distinct styles, but they're all wrapped up in an easy-to-learn fighting system that's just plain fun to play. NetherRealm has a true grasp of what makes the DC Universe special and this game is as much of a love letter to that world as it gets.
Resident Evil 4’s influence has become immeasurable since its release in 2005. Games like Gears of War and Uncharted owe much to the game that revolutionized third-person action controls. However, one popular sci-fi horror game would look a lot like an entirely different sci-fi horror game if not for Capcom’s reinvention of its seminal series. I got the opportunity to sit down with Dead Space designers Ben Wanat and Wright Bagwell to talk about the early days of development and how Resident Evil 4 helped them shape their own horror series out of another.
"When Resident Evil 4 came out, we were just awestruck by it," Wanat told me. "We were all playing it and we were like, 'Holy shit, this is a really awesome game. They're actually trying to tell a story; they've got some cool cinematics; the gameplay systems are fixing a lot of problems, bringing it into this action realm but keeping this intense horror feel to it. It was this amazing combination and—oh, the enemies were so freakin' cool."
Wanat didn't shy away from admitting that Resident Evil 4 is one of his favourite games of all time. And it's clear looking at Dead Space that he wasn't alone at EA Redwood Shores (now Visceral Games).
"It's pretty obvious when you play Dead Space, to look at it and go, 'Yeah, it's almost like they decided to make Resident Evil 4 in space,' which is exactly what we were doing."
But it wasn't always that way. Early on in its development, before Resident Evil 4 had even been released, Dead Space was a completely different game. Rumours have circled around the sci-fi horror game's early days, reinforced by similarities found within Dead Space. During our discussions, Wanat confirmed them to me.
"Originally, we were pushing around this idea of maybe we could make System Shock 3. And you can look at the Dead Space blueprint and be like, 'Oh, this is kind of like System Shock,'" Wanat said, smiling.
"To do a System Shock 3, you're really tackling a monumental task, to make people happy with a sequel that wasn't made by the same team as the original," he explained. And while the game didn't make it out the door and live on as the third System Shock, Wanat said that a new entry in that series was the goal they shot for early on.
"It was like, 'Everybody, get your System Shock 2 copy, play it start to finish, and let's figure out what we're going to do,'" Wanat said, recalling the early days of development. "Then Resident Evil 4 came out and we were like, 'Oh. No, this is the shit.'"
However, Redwood Shores couldn’t just change the name of its project and work on something completely new.
"It was at a time at EA when there was no appetite for original IP. It seemed like everybody else was doing it except for us," Wanat lamented. While Redwood Shores created games based on James Bond, Lord of the Rings, and The Godfather, Wanat said the desire to make something original was fervent within the studio. And Resident Evil 4 was the catapult they needed.
"We were so hyped about Resident Evil 4 and we got obsessed with improving the mechanics," Wanat said. The team truly wanted to develop a first-rate survival-horror game. However, convincing EA to bet on an original idea wasn't going to be easy, and it was something that co-director Glen Schofield, now the GM of Sledgehammer Games, would work on for a long time. Schofield would break the ice on the idea, show some promising progress, and over time, slowly build the confidence EA needed to give the project a thumbs up.
"Eventually everybody accepted it, they saw how cool the things coming out of it were. That confidence continued to grow," Wanat told me. "Having that group there from the get-go and building this stuff without a greenlight was a little weird, but it's probably what got that whole thing working because we could all put our expertise into a pool and make something tangible.
"And once people saw that it was a real thing, they got it much easier than if you were trying to say, 'I want to make this totally scary-ass thing,' to which they'd look at their portfolio and say 'Nope, scary-ass thing is not in our language.'"
The executives weren't the only people impressed by the Dead Space demos. Wright Bagwell, who was working on another game at the time, played through one of these demo levels and was so enamoured with the experience that he absolutely had to work on the game.
"One of the level designers came over and said 'Hey Wright, we're testing this out. I want you to come into this dark room, I'm going to turn the lights off and turn the sound up really loud.' And we played through this demo level, and I remember feeling like I was going to shit my pants," Bagwell said, laughing."I was working on another game that got cancelled, and EA was trying to get me to work on something I didn't want to work on, and I was like, 'No, I want to work on Dead Space or I'm going to quit.'"
So Bagwell joined the Dead Space team, and at this point, it was starting to come together. Controlling Isaac was becoming a smooth experience, thanks to some of the big improvements to Resident Evil’s formula that the team was working on. Wanat specifically pointed out the ability to move while shooting. Despite the relatively simple-sounding nature of this change, it wasn't as straightforward as flipping a switch and letting someone walk around.
"I love in Resident Evil 4, the tension of not being able to move. But it caused a lot of problems for us to put movement in because we were making a new game," Wanat explained. "The enemies couldn't follow the same formula. It breaks a lot of the mechanics. We didn't know it was going to happen until we did it and were like, 'Oh, I think we broke something fundamental about the tension,' so we had to get it in other ways.
"It was like, 'It's a game changer. Let's embrace it and make this the best, polished survival shooter. Let's try to be the gold standard.'"
The move from System Shock 3's first-person view to the over-the-shoulder perspective that we know from Dead Space was something else that Wanat was increasingly happy about, as it allowed players to more easily care about Isaac.
"Even though Isaac didn't have a voice in the first game, seeing him and seeing him get grappled and eviscerated, I felt like there was a better chance to make a connection with the character. And that kinda gives the player a sense of who he is and the place he's in that we could have missed out on if we went the first-person shooter route and—man, we ripped off so much stuff from Resident Evil 4," Wanat stopped himself mid-sentence, laughing.
"But in a way, the modifications we made to the formula gave it its own style. Things like the outer space setting gave us a way to include new mechanics that weren't really available for the time and setting that Resident Evil took place in."
Dismemberment by way of plasma cutter, perhaps Dead Space's defining feature, was one such mechanic that joined the movement system to set itself apart from its Earth-based counterpart.
"It was very interesting to get those two things together and see that something special was taking shape," Wanat said. "But we do owe tremendously to Resident Evil 4. We were really big fans. We had so many of those water-cooler moments after that game came out."
Dead Space released in October of 2008 and was met with an overwhelmingly positive critical reception, in addition to sales of over two million copies. When Dead Space 2 was announced less than two years later, it was no surprise that EA wanted to push the series into a more action-focused direction to appeal to a wider audience. Bagwell moved into the creative director's chair, charged with a delicate balancing act of making sure there were moments of adrenaline-surging panic, but also time for the player to relax among the nameless horrors and dismembered limbs.
Despite its obvious inspirations, Dead Space had become its own thing. The studio was no longer praying at the altar of Resident Evil 4, but Wanat says there were some leftover influences that didn't make it into the first game.
"We didn't really have the ability to do any elaborate cutscenes," he explained. "I mean, we looked at Resident Evil 4, and we thought those were elaborate at the time. I love the intro. They're in the jeep, a guy goes to pee in the bushes, it's this really cool moment. And we couldn't really do those things, but we all wished we could. So in Dead Space 2, you get a lot more character moments and those over-the-top moments."
Like its predecessor, Dead Space 2 garnered high praise from critics and, according to EA, sold nearly two million copies in its first week of release. However, that success wouldn't carry over to the third game. With less positive reviews and significantly less sales, Wanat, the creative director of Dead Space 3, expressed disappointment with how it closed out the series.
"I think in Dead Space 3 we kinda destroyed what we had because we pushed too far on it, but it was a deliberate decision in each of those instalments to make it faster, more relevant to a broader audience," he said. "It's a hard thing to do, to make a horror game have mass appeal. They're two diametrically opposed things."
Wanat and Bagwell went on to co-found Outpost Games, a developer that's currently working on a multiplayer survival game. Not much is known about their upcoming game, but the two designers wouldn't be surprised if Dead Space fans found some pieces of the sci-fi horror series woven throughout it. However, speaking to Wanat, it sounds like he's not quite done with survival-horror.
"Personally, I've got so much of that stuff in my system, that one way or another I will make another survival-horror game because I can't stay away from that kind of creative expression. That's just part of my DNA now."