Bits and Bytes: Because of 'Dead Space,' 'Tomb Raider' and 'The Last of Us,' survival horror is on the rise.

Get prepared to man up if you want to play the latest and greatest games.

By Brendan Wray | July 10, 2012

Tags: Video games

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I am a bit of a coward.

Whether it be scary movies the likes of The Ring - a movie I consider to be the spawn of hell - or real-life stressful situations, I freak out. That is why, when it comes to graphic or grim video games, I am torn. On one hand, it's thrilling when a narrative takes a turn toward the grim side of the world. On the other hand, I want to run in the opposite direction. To put this into perspective, before I buy a game I'm unsure whether I'll enjoy, I usually check to see if there is a demo floating around online. With games that contain "scary situations," this is a must. In my mind, if I am able to complete a short 15-minute section of an ultra-scary, ultra-violent video game, then I can undoubtedly surmount an entire play-through.

This has yet to happen.

For example, my interest was piqued for a game ominously called "Dead Space" a few years back. This game falls into the genre of survival horror, which is a 10 out of 10 on my NOPE scale, but I foolishly downloaded the demo to the chagrin of my inner Jiminy Cricket. Inside the demo were a multitude of horror tropes that scare the life out of me individually, let alone bundled together. Among these scares were complete silence, dark hallways and things that jumped out at me. Needless to say, my television was turned off in a matter of minutes.

This is the reason I'm surprised that I am fueled with anticipation for these types of games. I could assume it's because my tastes are maturing and my qualms toward these types of situations are disappearing, but there’s more to it. These games just look so dang good.

Sitting at the top of my list is a Playstation 3 exclusive called "The Last of Us," which features the world collapsing due to a deadly fungus infection that renders its victims into a zombie-like state. The story revolves around two survivors, an adult and child, traveling across a destroyed United States. But, from what has been shown publicly, these fungus zombies aren’t the real enemy — actual humans are. The main task of any survivor is, put simply, to survive at any cost. So, your enemies are people trying to survive who are just like you. A world torn apart plus zombies would usually equal me timidly hiding away, but the promised desperation of the story sucks me in every time new information is revealed about the game.

Following close behind on my need-to-play list is the upcoming reboot of the "Tomb Raider" series. Lara Croft, the main character, has made her stamp on pop culture, whether from the horrible movie adaptations starring Angelina Jolie or the games themselves. A blast in their own right, the games (or terrible movies) have rarely made me feel anything for Lara, but that will change in the new game coming to Playstation 3, PC, and Xbox 360.

Set as an origin story, Lara is only 21 at the start of the game when she becomes stranded on an island whose ruthless natives seem to have it out for her from the beginning. She isn’t the confident woman from the previous games — she is unsure of her actions and is pushed to commit acts she never dreamed she would have to perform, all in her search to find her fellow shipwreck survivors. The promotional items for this game are striking because they show Lara, who is usually as Hollywood aglow as Jolie, up to her head in grime and stains. This is survival of the fittest in every sense and looks absolutely fantastic in my eyes, even if my hands happen to be covering them.

I am literally aching to play both games, which are set to arrive in early 2013, as you should be too. They both promise to offer intensely personal stories of human survival during profoundly grim times. Before they come out, though, I’m going to have to seriously man up. Horror movies, anyone?

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