Digital Death (Part 1)

Level 1. The time my 10 year old ass got rocked by a guy named Rick

Hey, know what I love? Horror video games! Seriously, I can’t get enough of them. Some of my all-time favourite horror stories have come in video game form. When done right, a video game can be the most immersive story you can experience. Don’t believe me? Imagine the scariest movie you’ve ever seen. Got it? Now instead of an hour and a half, make the story stretch for days (even weeks or months, depending how fast you play your games). On top of that, the story is completely interactive. You are not just along for the ride, you actually get to control the fate of the protagonist (to a degree).

Nothing beats a scary game. With that in mind, here are some of the ones that have left the biggest impression on me.

Splatterhouse (1990).

My cousins had a turbo Graphix 16 (I know! Lucky little bastards!). I was stuck with a broke ass Nintendo while they were rocking 16 bit graphics. The Nintendo had waaaaaay more games, but it didn’t have anything even remotely close to Splatterhouse. I could remember sitting on the carpet in front of their 20 inch television, watching glorious bodily mayhem explode across the screen.

Splatterhouse_arcadeflyerYou played as a hockey mask wearing, 2X4 swinging fellow by the name of Rick. Being a huge (HUGE!!!) Friday the 13th fan, I was already down with the guy based solely on his choice of facial armour, but then when I witnessed the first creature get spattered against a nearby wall Jackson Pollock style, I officially joined the Rick fan club.

Besides the gratuitous gore, what really stuck with me about this game was the setting. You had to traverse a house so haunted that it would have sent Father Merrin running for the hills. Every floor of this place was a nightmare. The best part was, none of it made sense. You would exit a room on one level…then come out into a cemetery on the next, and then walk into the attic after that. I really didn’t notice the odd-ball architecture as a kid, but yeah, The Winchester House wishes it was as weirdly designed as West Mansion in Splatterhouse.

The ghouls which came at you one at time (ala every kung-fu movie ever), were ripe for the killing. Besides the above mentioned 2X4, Rick also rocked everything from knives to the holy grail of horror gaming, the shotgun! Each instrument of carnage dealt out unique destruction. Use the 2X4 and you would splat the baddies against a nearby wall. Using bladed weapons would lop off heads, while the shotgun would blow their upper bodies clean off (I told you this game was rad!).

Two sequels followed (which I played when I upgraded the NES to a Genesis), and there was even a recent remake (I played this on the Xbox 360). These weren’t bad (part 3 really tried to get innovative and the remake upped the ante by adding nudity to the mix), but like the best shock-rockers screaming on stage in their leather pants, once you get past the gimmick, it doesn’t seem that enjoyable anymore.

Doom (1993).

Picture this. You are a space marine. That automatically makes you the coolest version of a marine you could be. Next, imagine that you are going to Mars. Why Mars? I don’t think that was explained, but does it matter? It’s fucking Mars…nuff said. So there you are, hanging on the red planet getting all kinds of Martian trim when BAM! All. Hell. Breaks. Loose.

I’m not talking figurative Hell either. I’m talking about some hellfire and brimstone shit. All of a sudden you are running and gunning you way through nightmare mania. A few things you can expect. Walls made of human skin with bloody pentagrams cut into the surface? Check! Zombies? Check! Demons of all varieties? Check! Endless backtracking for primary coloured key cards? Ugh…check.

Key cards aside, Doom was a mind-fuck of epic proportions (or maybe because of the key cards…). ThisDoom-1- was my first forays into what would become a staple of video gaming, the first person shooter (or FPS). Nowadays, every third game is an FPS, but back then, it was still a novelty. So what’s the big deal about it being a FPS you ask? Let me tell you, nothing causes stress like not being able to see what is behind you in a horror game. Doom was great at this. Monsters would appear out of nowhere (usually from hidden doors) right fucking behind you. To make matters worse, either as a stroke of brilliance, or poor technology, monsters anywhere near you produced the same volume of sound. The clicking of an Imp nearby would cause you to spin like a drunk uncle at a bat mitzvah, only to find that it was actually two rooms away.

With over 20 years of hindsight, you realize Doom has some strange levels. Don’t forget, this place is supposed to be a military/scientific installation. That being said, I would have hated working there. Besides the fact that you would have to travel down endless corridors (and don’t forget those fucking key cards), but there is, like, no furniture to speak of. Just hundreds of toxic waste barrels that blow up faster than my bathroom on taco night. And if that wasn’t enough, employees needed to watch their step, because around every corner there is a random pool of glowing green liquid that will quickly deplete your health. You would think the company would want you to avoid this stuff, but you’d be wrong. Often times to get one of those pesky key cards, something the staff would need to get around the place, you’d have to walk across the stuff. I’m not even going to mention the large openings in the walls letting in all that fresh Martian air.

These things aside, Doom left a big impression on me. Whereas Splatterhouse was my first horror game, Doom was the first game to legitimately scare the shit out me. I would play it not because it was fun, but rather as a way to conquer my fear. I would blow through each level at breakneck speed hoping to get to the end as fast as possible.

Doom has two numbered sequels and an upcoming remake. Doom 2 was a bigger version of Doom 1, while part 3, which was released on the X Box, was actually a remake itself of part 1. I know, confusing.

Come back next week for part 2 when I examine just why that resident was so evil.

One thought on “Digital Death (Part 1)

  1. As someone with little horror experience and less video game experience (at least during their respective times) i actually know both os these games. I think I’ve played about half of Splatterhouse and all of two levels of Doom. I’m glad I got a taste of it from the perspective of a diehard.
    I was more of a Wolfenstein fan myself. I can’t wait for part two!

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