Condemned has some scary moments, most notable for me was the scene where the mannequins appear behind you; it still raises the hairs on the back of my neck when I think about it. As a child I was terrified of anything inanimate that resembled humans.
Before I get into Amnesia, Thief: Deadly Shadows was a game that also really scared me. One level in particular was the The Cradle - a haunted orphanage you have to investigate which I've thankfully now managed to remove from my memory. It shares a lot of the atmosphere you come across in Amnesia but it a much shorter, safer dose.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is by far the best game I can't bring myself to complete. I'm not easily scared these days, but this game builds you up to spine tingling levels of fear and never lets you go. The only way to feel safe is to stop playing as the game cleverly throws you between the apparent blind safety of darkness and the clear danger of being exposed in light.
It doesn't stop at the visuals either; the audio is well used to the point where you start to question whether you're hearing your own footsteps or something else. With no way to defend yourself you're resigned to running away from any monsters you stumble across and hiding in the nearest wardrobe.
How about Silent Hill? I never got into it but running around a small town thick in fog was terrifying. I know Bindi [Richard Swinburne] was a big fan.
Aw, man - The Cradle! That was such a well designed piece of horror, with the whole game dropping hints about it prior to your eventual exploration of it about mid-way through the game. The really clever thing was that it was all based on this built-up expectation; there weren't actually any enemies to hurt or find you for the most of the level - but it was still terrifying!
Silent Hill, I'll admit, I've never really played. It's one of those games I love reading about, but can't actually bear when I'm playing it. Not because it's scary, but because of the controls and the mechanics. I never had consoles growing up either, so by the time I had chance to play it on PC I was already on to other things.
This reminds me though: I was reading a great article about Half-Life the other day and found out about one of the enemies they cut from the original game design. Called 'Mr Friendly' it essentially looked like a giant tentacle-phallus, lumbering along really painfully and attacking players by grabbing them and (as the artist described it) pulling them towards 'fatal copulation'. They cut it from the game in the end, but the idea was that the major market for Half-Life would be teenage boys who, still in the process of discovering their sexuality, would be highly perturbed by this homosexual violence.
Not you’d know what was or wasn’t in Half Life, Clive…
Half Life isn’t scary, is it? From what I’ve seen and heard, that doesn’t seem to be the intention. Unlike Left 4 Dead, say: after all, nothing says horror like zombies.
Except L4D wasn’t scary at all for me. Panicky, yes; a fact I put down to my woeful FPS skills, as I wildly fire bullets at scenery, sky and anything else stupid enough to get anywhere near me. Sometime zombies too. The tension in the game is good – creeping around corners to avoid mass zombie rushes and Witches – but there are too many zombie to be really creeped out by anything. It’s not like FEAR (which also freaked me out) where you have an elusive enemy that you can’t do much about and that just threatens you randomly when you least expect it.
Also, children are the scariest scary thing ever.
Are freaky humans more freaky than freaky monsters? I watched an interview with director John Landis (American Warewolf in London) the other day and he was saying he doesn’t find monsters creepy, but does find monstrous humans disturbing. He mentioned paedophiles as one example - I’m pretty sure there aren’t any games based on paedophilia (well, none I want know anything about) but what do you think of the idea that monsters/zombies/vampires/ogres might be frightening or momentarily shocking, but that only humans (and human-like characters) can be truly chilling?