Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a wuss. I’m squeamish, I faint at the sight of blood, and most horror movies will guarantee me a solid week of nightmares. The fact that I have an anxiety disorder doesn’t help much in the “not screaming like a little bitch” department. So when I picked up an indie game bundle for a lovely price and it contained both Killing Floor and Amnesia: The Dark Descent I knew there were going to be at least two games on my Steam account that I would NEVER be playing. At least, I thought so at the time.
My roommate, in her usual classy manner, decided a couple weeks ago that she was going to help me “stop being a pussy” and convinced me to try Killing Floor. Now, I’m pretty bad at shooters to begin with. Add bloodcurtling horror to the mix and I’m useless for all but curling up in the fetal position and having a nice cry. I managed to get through 3 waves of gore-splattered, intestine-splaying “fun” before I finally had to turn it off. It was the little crawling fuckers that did it. I could handle the huge monstrosities with chainsaws but those little bastards that you can barely even see until they’re chewing on your uterus sent me over the edge. Plain and simple, I wasn’t having fun at all.
Objectively speaking, it was a good game. In fact, it was a very good game. The atmosphere is perfectly set. The controls are responsive and the weapons had a satisfying “weight” to them. The recoils, the muzzle flash, the aiming and the reload times were all right where they should be for a pleasant shooter experience. The fact that it nearly gave me a panic attack probably means they’ve done their job in creating a horror game. I am just not their target audience for the same reasons why I’m not the type of person the SAW movie sare made for. Whatever joy normal people derive from having the shit scared out of them is not in my emotional repertoire.
My roommate—who I will henceforth refer to as “satan”—decided she wasn’t quite done with me yet. After explaining to her that any attempt to force or trick me into watching any portion of The Human Centipede would result in her losing her spleen in a fashion taught to me by my exploits in Killing Floor, we finally reached a compromise. I would play one level of Left 4 Dead 2 and she would drop the subject and never pester me about it again. I reluctantly fired up the game and, after seeing the opening cinematic, was less than thrilled at the idea of more rampaging corpses out for my tasty innards. There were some key differences this time, though. The interface was much more welcoming and I didn’t have to fuss about with classes and the overall design seemed to be a lot simpler. I’m not saying that Killing Floor was too complicated or unintuitive because it really wasn’t. Left 4 Dead, however, was a lot more straightforward and when you’re dealing with someone who is prone to panic attacks when she’s frightened not having to think about controls and configuration is nice.
Having four NPCs helping me fight off the horde was a definite plus and helped ease my tensions a bit more. I got started, shot some zombies, and slowly made my way through a burning building. Somewhere along the way I realized that it the game wasn’t forcing me to move. I could go my own pace (which was somewhere between “snail” and “turtle”) and once I cleared a room I didn’t have to worry about a blood-drenched shoggoth spawning right behind me to check my temperature with a railroad spike. I wasn’t panicking. I wasn’t even scared. I… I was having fun! Celestia help me, I was enjoying a zombie survival shooter. It dawned on me why exactly I was enjoying LfD2 so much when I had hated Killing Floor.
Its because Killing Floor is a horror game first and shooter second. It’s obvious that the game is really trying to scare the shit out of you and its good at what it does. Left 4 Dead 2, on the flipside, appears to place its focus on being a fun first person shooter with horror elements. I had a few moments where I was freaking (like when that fucking tank pinned me against a car and set the alarm off) but for the most part I was just enjoying the game. The gore in both games still bothers me, but at least it’s so over-the-top as to be kind of nonsensical. In the end, LfD2 is a game that I will likely be playing more of and Killing Floor is going right back to the “not installed” list in my Steam library. Satan roommate has been appeased and I’m sure I learned a valuable lesson about friendship or some shit.
I’m still not going anywhere near Amnesia, though. Fuck everything about that game.