Hot Mods 20/03: Hot Horror

20 Mar 2009  by   Paul Younger
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Horror is a powerful and polarising genre, whether we’re talking about games, movies, books or mods.

A lot of people look down on it as the uncouth, idiot cousin of well-told drama, and turn a nauseated nose up at the gore and cheap scares of horror entertainment. And in many ways, they’re right – it’s a genre that’s often employed as a cop out, and a way to feed a captive audience without having to put too much effort into a development.

Horror’s rife with poor production values, tacky cliché and a profiteering effortlessness.

But it’s also one of the most powerful entertainment tools ever invented, when it’s used properly. A horror game, movie, or book forces the audience to participate in its events. A thriller or a romance struggles desperately to achieve the kind of audience engagement that horror can summon up with a walk down a quiet, dark corridor, or a sly glance in a mirror by an unsuspecting victim, and modders have been using its blood-soaked charms to grab gamers by the thumbs and terrify them into submission for a long time.

Unrestrained by non-commerciality, horror mods are one of the most liberated and uninhibited mediums the genre could ever want, so this week IncGamers’ Hot Mods is turning off the lights and splitting up to explore the dark, dank, foreboding graveyard of horror mods.

Let’s see who gets picked off first…

Killing Floor

http://www.killingfloor.freedomsnet.net/

What will we actually do when the zombie holocaust happens? According to most films and games, we’ll already know just enough about the undead outbreak to go on some heroic mission to save humanity.

But let’s be honest. All our efforts will simply go on immediate survival, and that’s precisely the premise this Unreal Tournament 2004 total conversion adopts. In Killing Floor, the world is suitably overrun with the living dead, and your task is to avoid being eaten.

No hunting around in underground laboratories for an anti-virus, no trying to escape from a walled in city before the nuclear strike comes, and no looking for some kind of Typhoid Mary zombie whose quick death will cure the world.

Thousands upon thousands of flesh eaters chase you down, and other than a good supply of weaponry, Killing Floor is all about testing your wits to their elastic limit. Holing up in a building is a decent tactic, but when the next tidal wave of zombies hits, any survivors who stay still will quickly find themselves cornered.

It’s an intensive and exhausting experience, battling through a co-op multiplayer like this, with no rest, and plenty of wicked. The onslaught of enemies is, in itself, an outstanding feature of Killing Floor, counterbalanced by the survivalist ingenuity you’ll find yourself exhibiting when the teeth are gnashing at your heels.{PAGE TITLE=Hot Horror Mods Page 2}
Mentality

http://www.moddb.com/mods/mentality

Horror mods do tend to gravitate toward first person shooters and zombies, and it’d be nice to see some of the more imaginative ones out there – such as Half-Life 2 mod, Mentality – try to resist the temptation.

But the truth is, zombies are the perfect antagonist. They’re a horrifying concept (remorseless cannibals), but they provide an army we can blow to pieces without suffering any conflict of conscience. And they inherently strip away all mad-made concepts of morality, ethics or humanity – placing you in a world of pure, violent survivalism, and that’s powerful stuff.

Especially when it’s backed up with the kind of psychological brutality of a mod like Mentality, which pokes long, tentacle fingers into the main characters brain and tampers with his sense of reality. Perhaps the only thing scarier than zombies is the sense of collapsing into nightmarish insanity, and here we must fight against both.

Not only is a legion of infected flash eaters on the hunt, but a rapidly warping reality that devours any moments of safety and comfort you could possibly muster in the face of an undead uprising.

Mixing in an extra layer of cerebral horror really adds weight to Mentality, and makes it one of those games that you’d tell your friends to play in the dark, but never dare to switch the lights off yourself.

It’s still in the arly stages of development, but the alpha release is well worth a few hours of any gore-nographer’s time. {PAGE TITLE=Hot Horror Mods Page 3}
Afraid of Monsters

http://afraidofmonstersdc.moddb.com/

It was a tough choice, deciding whether to include this Half-Life mod in our horror roundup. Not because it’s lacking in gameplay, chills or thrills, but because it taps into an area of horror storytelling that’s easily spoiled – kind of like a review of The Sixth Sense could ruin the entire film.

Well crafted horror doesn’t need gore, zombies, aliens or mute, axe-wielding psychos. Sure, they can be very entertaining in their own way, but there’s nothing more terrifying than a foreboding, suggestive atmosphere – and that’s where Afraid of Monster’s strengths are to be found.

Addicted to a brain addling new pain killer, your own sense of uncertainty from the hallucinogenic agent adds a strong sense of tension to the game that excessive gore would spoil. Creeping around the dark corridors of the hospital is far more nerve racking than actually being attacked by the weird, haunting entities that might – or might not – be stalking you.

But to go into much detail about the story would rob you of the experience. Suffice to say there are about four different possible outcomes, so on top of the nail-biting atmosphere, Afraid of Monsters also packs in the replay value. {PAGE TITLE=Hot Horror Mods Page 4}
Zombie Master

http://www.zombiemaster.org/

It’s not easy for any game, commercial or modification, to blend together two different gaming genres, but we’d stick our neck out to say that Zombie Master is the only one to attempt to combine a first person shooter with real time strategy – and succeed.

It’s a multiplayer mod for Half-Life 2, which casts all but one player in the shoes of the well-armed, stereotypical survivors of the zombie plague. These survivors, of which there can be as many as 15 or more, are given certain objectives to work together on for each map.

This could be finding objects, unlocking doors or simply escaping from the map alive. They’ve the usual amount of weaponry, and must use all their cunning to escape from the legions of undead whose only purpose is to eat their brains.

But that one player, chosen at random, becomes a kind of omnipresent flesh-eating god – the Zombie Master. For this player, the game is operated and viewed as an RTS, and it’s up to them to stop the survivors from completing their objectives. This can be done through spawning zombies in strategic locations, ordering them to attack in strategic places and setting traps for the survivors.

If online multiplayer is your thing, there aren’t many games that offer more hectic, manically entertaining gameplay as Zombie Master. {PAGE TITLE=Hot Horror Mods Page 5}
One To Watch: Desolated: The Crying Fate

http://davethefreak.scholze-wsb.de

Doom is actually one of the first, great horror games. True enough, it was designed with more action in mind thatn horror elements, but one way or the other it wound up with an eerily atmospheric plot, bloodcurdling characters and a uniquely tense theme.

Because of this, the Doom series of games have always presented modders with a great horror engine, and Desolated is a prime example of the nightmarish visions Doom III can be turned to.

You begin as a desperate man on a brutal hunt for revenge against the monsters that killed his wife and children. It’s a great setup that really sets the action off with real momentum.

“What’s so special about [Desolated] is the story is written by a talented fiction writer,” explains lead designer Dave the Freak. “And the plot about the good and evil is quite complex. It’s not simply good versus evil – it’s going to be special and new. A mod with a new kind of story.”

The main character is an ex-Marine, also called Dave, whose journey for bloodthirsty revenge takes him through a variety of different environments as he attempts to uncover the truth behind the tragedy of his slain family.

The good news here is that there’s already a demo of Desolated for you to test out, with the full version slated for a May release. The team is adding new aspects, items and maps at a rate of knots, so we can expect Desolated to go in leaps and bounds over the next few weeks.

Get in on the action early, as we predict this’ll be a great return to form for the sadly underestimated Doom III engine.

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