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Eurogamer Q&A: Terror lives here

Homes under the horror.

Dead Space is ten years old this week. You probably didn't need another reason to feel as old as dust - I know I didn't - but there it is.

In terms of terrifying game locations, Dead Space's USG Ishimura still stands the test of time as an iconic house of horrors: cramped, dark and packed quite literally to the rafters with ghoulish creatures ready to eat the face right off your head.

Of course, because everyone is unique and special, different people are spooked by different things. Which is why I asked my colleagues here at EG to tell me which location or environment has sweatied their palms the most in their video game playing career:

Tom Phillips, News Editor:

The Village, Resident Evil 4

Your first glimpse of Resident Evil 4's Village comes from afar - through the binoculars of floppy-haired hero Leon S. Kennedy. You've just been run off the road in the remote Spanish countryside, your hapless police escorts have disappeared, and you suspect foul play - but civilisation should just be around the corner.

So you peer through your binos at the village and see what, at first, is an idyllic village scene. There's someone piling hay, someone carrying water from the village well, and in the middle of it all there's one of your police escorts, slowly roasting while being burnt at the stake. Civilisation, this is not.

What follows is one of the best introductory areas of any game, as you approach and quickly get set upon by the entire village population - culminating in the genuinely terrifying fight with that chainsaw-wielding maniac with a sack on his head. In this opening half hour of running and gunning and trying to stay alive you will learn the layout of the entire village as you move from house to house barricading doors and windows and picking off the zombie-like ganados as much you can. You eventually will find a shotgun and great - you have some more firepower. But now some bastard has a ladder against the upstairs window and is climbing through. You move bookcases against all the doors and get a few seconds to breathe - and then comes the sound of the chainsaw revving.

There's no way to properly beat the threat which now surrounds you - it simply subsides as a church bell tolls and the population ambles away, called by some higher purpose to stop attacking and regroup. "Where's everyone going, bingo?" Leon quips. Not quite...

Paul Watson, Social Media Manager:

The House, Gone Home

You arrive home in the dead of night. The storm outside whips rain past your ears, pushing you towards the shelter of the house. Pinned to the front of the door is a letter:

Katie, I'm sorry I can't be there to see you, but it is impossible. Please, please don't go digging around trying to find out where I am. I don't want Mom and Dad anyone to know. We'll see each other again some day. Don't be worried. I love you. ―Sam

The house stands before you, foreboding and voluminous. Stepping inside, you immediately become acutely aware that you're alone - nothing else but you and the sound of the floorboards creaking underfoot. Why does exploring this huge empty home feel so crushingly oppressive?

Gone Home is not a horror game, but you could be forgiven for viewing the majority of the game through your fingers. Every step around a corner, every newly unlocked door is an opportunity for some unseen horror to make itself apparent. The everso slightly-too-dimly lit environment, quiet emptiness and haunting soundtrack does nothing to dissuade the player that something tragic happened, could happen again in this place.

But as it turns out, the ghosts living in this house, like the ghosts living in every house, are far scarier than anything conjured in your mind.

Christian Donlan, Features Editor:

Willy's Home, Jet Set Willy

Jet Set Willy's mesmerising, horrifying home is one of the first video game environments that I ever saw. It's also one of the few that has struck me with the strange force of somehow being a real place. Now, over thirty years after I first saw it, it still strikes me as being a fascinating location, filled with mysteries and unspeakable unpleasantness. I close my eyes and the brightly coloured walls rise in the darkness, the toilet starts to chatter, and that terrifying form standing before the bedroom raises an arm and points into the distance. Away! Back into the house! Be off!

The genius of this early 2D platformer, I think, is that each screen has its own name, and these names give a sense of houseiness that generally clashes with what you're seeing. The chapel! The first landing! But why all these glittering horrors, these floating ledges, these roving saws and pen-knives and razor blades.

And then why the mega tree? There is a point at which trying to hold an idea of Miner Willy's house together becomes impossible. Even now, seeing the rooms laid out in the right order there is a sense that things do not add up - that ledges do not connect and doors to not work as they should. It is intoxicating but also grim. I binge watch Youtube videos of playthroughs, and then I back away for weeks and months unwilling to enter such an odd place again.

House of Leaves is a terribly good book about a terribly nasty house, and at the very start there is a simple thing that is puzzling and troubling and only everso slightly wrong about the place. Two new doors have appeared while the family was away, and these doors create a corridor that lies, I think, behind one of the bedrooms. But this corridor is slightly longer on the inside than it can be given the length of the outside. It is off, but only by a millimeter or so.

Who would want to live in a place like that? Few of us, I reckon - but Miner Willy would probably be right at home.

Matt Wales, Reporter:

The Pit, Dark Souls 2

That hole is there from the beginning. It's one of the first things you'll see upon emerging into the golden rays of Majula's frozen, final sunset. It lies a short walk along the cliffs, the centrepiece of a run-down village, beckoning the curious with its intractable gloom.

But, in Dark Souls' usual way, there's a long road ahead before the pit reveals its secrets. You'll need the right mix of health upgrades, fall-damage-mitigating items, or, for those truly left-field thinkers, a ladder - and once they're yours, you can finally face its enigmatic yawn head on. However, you might well wish you hadn't.

The first few levels of Dark Souls 2's pit, known as the Grave of Saints, are, all things considered, relatively benign. It's gloomy, and faintly oppressive, sure, but neither are exactly unfamiliar in the world of Dark Souls. Once you've navigated the largely unremarkable catacombs though, fending off the occasional Rat King Covenant member, or their rodent kin, things rapidly take a turn.

Far below the Grave of Saints, in the smothering darkness (it was around about this point that I started to suspect the whole pit thing had been a terrible idea on my part), lies The Gutter. And what initially appears to mark the end of your downward journey rapidly transpires to be a maddening chamber of almost total blackness. A gaping, sweaty palmed nightmare of endless, labyrinthine walkways - disorientating, far too narrow to be in any way practical, and full of creatures waiting in the shadows to nudge you to your doom.

It's pure claustrophobic terror, a gauntlet of suffocating vertical misery. And hours later - after a seemingly unending descent, of fending off a relentless assault of awful monstrosities hiding in the darkness, feeble torch in one hand and sporting a selection of nervous tics I'm pretty sure I didn't have before all this began - I finally reached the bottom, the strange rickety centre of inexplicable nothingness far beneath Majula's surface.

I was, it's fair to say, a bit of a wreck by the time I'd navigated that hellish, sightless pit, but still flushed with pride at my perseverance - and, frankly thrilled that I'd reached the end unscathed. Except of course, I hadn't. There's another level below the Gutter - a pounding, pulsating thrum of queasy, suffocating terror, where grasping shadows lurk, and little shit-headed statues vomit endless toxins. After all that, I just couldn't take any more, so obviously I turned the whole thing off and ran away.

Dark Souls 2's pit is a fantastic bit of design - a wonderful, perfectly paced bit of escalating terror, and an astute bit of mindfuckery to ensnare the fatally curious. There's a lot of this delightfully devious, mechanically inventive stuff in Dark Souls 2, and it's one of the reasons why, in among the sometime wonky geography and unquestionable rough patches, I still think it's an utter gem. That pit though? Never again.

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