I talked about fear and being scared from video games during my week of Resident Evil - well, I think I did, but that was a long time ago, and my memory sucks after playing so many different games throughout the year. I'm sure I at least talked about when I played Resident Evil 1, because that is one of the scariest games I have ever played, even to this day. From the mood, the lighting, the ambiance, the feeling of helplessness and of course, the "cheap" scares where things pop out or make you jump unexpectedly.
Very rarely do I find a game to play that evokes so much fear and genuine scare factor as the original Resident Evil did back when I first played it (and even after the first time, despite know what was going to be scary already). I'm always looking for that next big scare from games, and even certain ones that promise to deliver, I rarely find them to live up to their own hype. Maybe it has something to do with expecting to be scared as opposed to just letting it happen.
When the Wii U was released, one of the launch games for it was ZombiU. For many people, it was at least on their radar as a launch day pick-up, something they were vaguely interested in, despite whether they actually bought the game or not. Nintendo had a decent launch line-up for the Wii U in my opinion, but other than New Super Mario Bros. U, this game was at the top of the list for games I had to have. It was a new, original IP, developed by Ubisoft exclusively for the Wii U. It's a zombie game that focuses on survival and exploration, rather than killing everything in your path. And most of all, it looked like nothing I had ever seen before, from the setting and feel of the game, to the gameplay mechanics and utilization of the GamePad.
What I didn't see coming was how scary it would be.
Playing it back then, and playing it once again after many months away from it, I feel the same way. This game is legit scary and full of fear. You play as a survivor during a full-on zombie outbreak in London, and you are forced to go out into the world and scavenge for supplies, help and hopefully, answers. It is in first person point of view, and while the combat is pretty straight forward on that front, the rest of the gameplay is where the game shines. If you want to pull out supplies or weapons or ammo from your backpack, you have to take it off and dig through it using the GamePad controller. The thing is, the game doesn't pause or wait for you for get your items out, as everything happening in the environment - including the zombies coming after you - continue as if you were still actively playing. This adds a level of suspense and thrill I never expected to feel.
When zombies are coming after you quickly, and you have to make a snap decision whether to melee, try and use a firearm or simply run away, the panic and fear comes on quick and intense. There never seems to be enough ammunition to fight, time to effectively use your cricket bat, or places to run and hide. One or two zombies heading your way can be fairly manageable for the most part, but once three or more zombies catch wind of your presence, it immediately turns into a fight for your life.
When you die, which happens a lot, you don't simply re-spawn at the last checkpoint. Sure, all your progress is saved for the most part, as far as which doors you unlocked or hallways of zombies you cleared out, but you don't just get dropped back into that world. Instead, you start back at your safe house, although you are not your character you played as before. Each death results in another survivor being brought into the world, each with their own personality and back story. You don't have any of your gear that you died with, as you essentially start from scratch, although the world that you progressed through remains how you left it. As you journey back to where you died, you eventually run into something strange and unexpected the first time. You encounter your last character, in the form of a zombie, the unfortunate fate of being mauled to death by the walking dead. The character is carrying the signature backpack and all, and once you dispose of them like any other zombie, you are able to loot it for all your gear back.
There is a lot to this game, and despite some flaws in it, immediately climbed my own personal list of scariest games of all time. ZombiU makes you feel things while playing that very few games have ever come close to making a reality, and that's saying a lot when you look at the pedigree of the survival/horror genre.