There was a time in my life when I was in college and I was only armed with an Xbox 360 and a weak gaming laptop that could run games like Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead and Amnesia: The Dark Descent on low quality settings. Games like Call of Duty or Battlefield would’ve never been able to run. I was limited in what I could play. So when it came to survival horror, I had to be picky. Amnesia: The Dark Descent could barely run on my laptop. And sure, there were indie games I could sink my teeth into. But nothing that matched the fear I felt playing games like Silent Hill. Until I discovered a Half-Life 2 mod by the name of Nightmare House 2.
Watching the trailer now, I kind of laugh to myself because it really isn’t that great, but in college when I was used to playing low quality games and solely relied on things like action and story to hold me, it really made a difference. I’m highly addicted to being scared, to feeling the fear of the unknown, watching horror movies and feeling the tension of a scene cloaked in silence and darkness. So a mod like Nightmare House 2 quickly drew me in.
Nightmare House 2 is a mod of Half-Life 2: Episode 2 using the Valve source engine, and it takes place after the first mod, Nightmare House, which oddly, I never played for one reason or another. The player wakes up in the middle of a seemingly abandoned mental asylum with no idea how they got there. As the player wanders around a little, unexplainable thing start to happen and a man by the name of Dr. Romero contacts you, claiming he’s trapped somewhere in the hospital. I always secretly wondered if the name of the doctor was a tribute to George Romero, the creator of the famed Night of the Living Dead.
So at this point in the game, it’s about meandering your way around the creepy hospital to find Dr. Romero. And let me tell you, you are not alone. You can check out the official game trailer.
Obviously, the trailer doesn’t give you a lot of insight into actually how terrifying this game really is. I played this game well before games like Outlast or Daylight where jump-scares were almost a requirement, but before Nightmare House 2, I had never really been someone affected by jump-scare moments. But when you’re playing at night in the dark with a high quality gaming headset, it’s utterly terrifying.
I want to give you a little more insight into just how terrifying this game really is. It’s obvious it uses elements from Silent Hill like the limited area of view using the tiny flashlight beam, blood trails and environmental effects and sounds that seriously keep you on the edge of your seat. The gameplay below will give you a little taste of Nightmare House 2.
There is some messed up stuff going on in this game and it really toys with your head. The mannequins in this scene, particularly, are horrifying because at first you tell yourself you’re just seeing things and the mannequins aren’t really moving. But then things start to get...weird. What’s great about this is how subtle the movements of the mannequins are. They don’t turn into ravaging zombies that get all up in your face and you’re sick of running from them after 10 minutes. They move when you aren’t looking and I think that’s far more terrifying than something blatantly chasing you.
Going through Nightmare House 2, I had to question everything I saw. Like in the above video when you see the SWAT Team member behind the glass, you’re sure it’s someone who needs help. But if you’ve been playing Nightmare House 2 long enough, you’d know better than to take something you see in-game as reality.
For a mod released in 2010, it’s come a long way in its power to instill genuine fear. You can download the mod at Desura. And if you go to play it, I highly recommend you get the full experience with a nice set of headphones and a dark atmosphere. While Prospekt has been officially confirmed as the next major fanmade Half-Life 2 mod, I still feel like nothing will be better than Nightmare House 2.