Spookytacular 2015: 5 major horror fails

Every now and then, something like Amnesia or The Ring will come along and change our perception for horror video games and film, respectively. Other times, we're right to look at low-brow horror with disdain, because what we get are utter failures of execution — horror games and movies and books that are damn near laughable.

With that said, let's lighten the mood on this week's entry of GameCrate's Halloween Spookytacular 2015 and take a look at five of the biggest horror fails in gaming.

The Letter and its stupid ending

You may think that purchasing The Letter on the Wii U eShop is totally harmless. After all, it only costs $2, and it's a downloadable title, so it's certainly an appealing, inviting little deal. You should know, however, that you're better of spending those $2 on something better, like a candy bar. Hell, throwing those $2 on the floor is probably about as effective a use of that money as purchasing The Letter.

For starters, you can get through the game in under 20 minutes, and that's only assuming you'd want to complete the game after you realize within the first few seconds that it's a clumsy, broken mess. The controls are awful, there's no real sense of satisfaction as you progress, and it all feels half-baked. And then there's the ending, which we're going to spoil here to save you valuable time. The whole it-was-all-just-a-dream scenario is lazy, uninspired, and insulting. The Letter fails not just as a horror game, and not just as a video game, but as a work of fiction in general.

Splatterhouse on the TurboGrafx-16

Essentially the granddaddy of slasher games (or what I like to call a pre-slasher), the original Splatterhouse took beat 'em up and hack-and-slash gameplay and added to it a horror twist. With a dark atmosphere, creepy castle environments, and grotesque enemies, this arcade title generated caution from worried parents who didn't want their kids playing these types of games. But while the arcade version is still heralded as one of the earlier examples of gory gaming, the port to the TurboGrafx-16 was a massive blunder.

Heavily censored visuals, short levels, and cookie cutter enemies make for one of the most boring beat 'em up experiences of all time. Splatterhouse on the TurboGrafx-16 isn't technically bad, but it's such a by-the-numbers affair that it doesn't provide any enjoyment. For a game that made such a big impression at arcades, it's ridiculous that the console version was so tame and uninteresting. Also, that opening theme is just atrocious.

The War Z — No, wait ... Infestation: Survivor Stories

Infestation: Survivor Stories was supposed to be the open-world zombie game people dreamed of. It was supposed to take the survivor-focused direction of The Walking Dead and create a living, breathing video game world it. In concept, it was something to be excited about, and the reception to the game's alpha release was positive. Then the game launched ...

Probably one of the biggest MMO failures of our time, Infestation: Survivor Stories was removed from Steam just two days after its release. Among the complaints cited were severe bugs and a lack of promised features, resulting in fans feeling cheated as a result of false advertising. Not shortly after, the game's original title, The War Z, was changed as it conflicted with the then-upcoming film World War Z.

These days, you don't hear anyone really talking about Infestation: Survivor Stories. Perhaps it's because people have soured on designer Sergey Titov. Or maybe it's simply because Infestation: Survivor Stories is pure garbage and one of the biggest failures as far as zombie games go. Or, hey, maybe, just maybe, it's because everyone still enjoys the far superior DayZ and has forgotten about that poorly executed imitator.

(Fun fact: Infestation: Survivor Stories wanted to be The Walking Dead so bad that it ripped off some of the popular TV show's promotional images.)

Manhunt 2's ESRB fiasco

I'm currently playing Manhunt 2. Though I've owned the game for some time and previously played some of it, I decided to start over and play it to completion. Barring aged controls and visuals, the game is actually good, especially if you're into slashers and gore-fests. Unfortunately, it takes hindsight to realize how good Manhunt 2 is — when it launched, it was at the center of so much controversy that it failed to meet the standards set forth by its predecessor. People were so distracted by the negative press that they overlooked what is, in actuality, a solid stealth-horror experience.

So what exactly happened with Manhunt 2? Well, the first Manhunt launched to massive critical praise, meanwhile would-be pundits chastised the game as offensive, terrible, and foul. The violence in that game led many to blame it on real-world killings at the time, and thus any chance for Manhunt 2 to succeed was squashed right from the get-go. When word of a sequel got out, fans of the first game such as myself were excited about it, but it wasn't long before the title fell victim to negative mainstream media attention.

Manhunt 2 was threatened with an Adults Only rating by the ESRB, so Rockstar Games had no choice but to heavily censor the in-game action by adding ugly, blurry, colored filters during the kill sequences. Ultimately, this resulted in a horrible visual experience that took away a lot of the horror flair that was so prevalent in the first Manhunt. Playing it now, though, the game is certainly fun, and it's definitely still gruesome — it just never really had a chance of achieving any sort of acclaim.

Clown House

I don't know if I can really say more about Clown House than I already did in the previous piece I wrote about it. Simply put, Clown House is utter trash — it's an example of what developers should avoid doing in horror games at all costs. It isn't scary. It can be finished in just three minutes. It's pointless. It's dumb. And it's lame.

The Letter is a bad game. Splatterhouse is too formulaic for its own good. Infestation: Survivor Stories is a lie. Manhunt 2 is the victim of negative, almost mob-like media attention. But Clown House — oh, Clown House is in a league of its very own. It's a dark, demonic example of a total lack of effort. It's supposed to be a horror game, but what it ends up being is a huge waste of time. It's free to download on Steam, and yet, even that's more of a waste than the $2 The Letter is asking for.