Another Halloween, another year in which shooter developers have inexplicably failed to implement my design for the ultimate seasonal weapon, the SpooK47. This despite clear specifications attached to the initial email, and in the follow-up, as well as in some cases described in person for the entirety of a 30-minute interview slot. Cowards.
For whatever dunderheaded bureaucratic reason, studios all over the world are convinced they have better ideas than an assault rifle that fires ghosts and have, instead, built their own Halloween modes and celebrations into their games. Which I suppose will just have to do for now?
Fine. I’ve pulled together those Halloween events that could sit alongside the SpooK47 in a pitch meeting and not look embarrassing by comparison. Yes, these are the games you should be playing over this most spooky of seasons.
Some host fleeting events, over so quickly you'll wonder whether you dreamed the horrors up yourself. Others are permanent updates, forever increasing the grimness of their parent games. All are devilishly nasty and worthy of your All Hallows' Eve.
Rainbow Six Siege
Intentionally or not, Rainbow Six Siege lies on the same kind of foundations (and beneath them, ancient burial grounds) as the slasher movie. Both are rooted in the eternally terrifying premise of home invasion, a scenario that turns your safest space into an extraordinarily dangerous one – filled with blind corners and dark crevices that your masked enemy would be foolish not to take advantage of.
In apparent recognition of that connection, Ubisoft has redecorated the iconic map House in seasonally spooky fashion, and dressed perennially favourite operators like Ash, Thermite, and Buck in costumes that make it all the more upsetting when they punch through a wall right next to your head.
Unfortunately, the event’s title, ‘Mad House’, is not the most progressive or sensitive Rainbow Six has ever been – that honour goes to Outbreak, a co-op mode and unexpected political about-turn.
Mad House shuts its doors on October 31st.
One death and you’re out – that’s the rule that makes Counter-Strike such an enduringly tense prospect, but leaves the question of what to do with the dead to keep them occupied. Spectatorship helps, but can’t hold an eerie candle to a decent haunting.
During Valve’s current Halloween event, dispatched players don’t leave the map, exactly, instead becoming ghosts. Invisible to their living counterparts, they can make their presence known by knocking physics objects about the map – pumpkin footballs, potted plants, and reliably noisy glass. It’s the same formula that has kept night vision camera shows on the telly for decades.
This new ethereal functionality will appear – or not, depending on which side of the veil you sit – to Casual, Demolition, and Flying Scoutsman modes for the duration of the event. As will the chickens. Ah, yes – poultry will spawn in all non-competitive matches until the end of the event. What’s more, ghost players are able to turn them into zombie chickens. We suspect foul play.
Time to add ‘haunting’ to the list of jobs Valve is happy to outsource to its users.
CS:GO’s Halloween event will end whenever Valve feels like it.
Blizzard giveth, and Blizzard taketh away. It’s one of the many wise moves the company has made while establishing Overwatch as an FPS mainstay – restricting co-op modes to time-limited events. By keeping co-op rarer than a ghost sighting in a new build, Blizzard ensures the idea remains special.
So it is that Junkenstein’s Revenge returns this year, throwing you and three friends against escalating waves of enemies. As in all supernatural sightings, the subject is altered in some way – Junkenstein now including a version called Endless Night, which makes Tracer and Brigitte playable in the co-op mode for the first time.
Of course, Halloween is also about dressing up – even the Château Guillard’s doing it. As such, Blizzard has reskinned several heroes for the occasion, Sombra in particular coming off like a Bride of Frankenstein – sorry, Junkenstein. Yep, 2018 is the year Overwatch players find out whether their thirst extends to ectoplasm.
Halloween Terror will end on October 31st.
The Festival of the Lost is the time of year when Earth’s Last City remembers and celebrates the dead. Despite the technology that regularly returns Guardians to life, they’ve got plenty to mourn – they started in mid-October just to give themselves time for all that remembrance. For players, the festival is an excuse to do as they’ve always done – acquire new loot.
The centrepiece of the event is the Haunted Forest and, ironically enough, this free event makes better use of that environment than the paid Osiris DLC that introduced it. The Forest is now divided into branches – har har – which each hurl mobs at you in large quantities, though you’ll want to pay special attention to the new elites named Nightmares. You get 15 minutes to clear every branch, or failing that, get as close to that goal as you can.
That task is made terrible by the dread that weighs down your very limbs as you fight for the forest – or, in typically transparent Destiny terms, a series of negative modifiers. Succeed and you’ll gain a new currency, Fragmented Souls, used to buy a powerful new auto rifle titled Horror Story. Frightening name, but hey: if Bungie really wanted to scare players it’d neglect to give them a drop at the end of a quest.
It only remains to bark a dire warning about the forest: most who enter never leaf. You may scream now – it’s Halloween after all.
Festivities will wind down on November 6th.
No Man’s Sky
Space is a lovely multi-purpose metaphor. If you’re watching First Man, it represents ambition, hope for humanity, and a place far enough away that it’s safe for a man to go there and have a feeling without anyone seeing. For Halloween, it serves as The Abyss – a vacuum with no room for life but plenty for existential horror. That’s exactly what No Man’s Sky has tapped into for its new update, even finding further depths to sink us into: the alien ocean.
The Abyss doubles down on underwater exploration, filling the space below the waves with buildings, submersibles, and marine life forms. They say the scariest part is not knowing what’s down there, but some of these creatures will put that to the test – not least the poisonous jellyfish, snapping clams, and a “predator fish rumoured to be larger than starships.” It’s the same terror of Big Things Underwater captured by that one good bit in The Phantom Menace.
Oh, and there’s one literally called the Abyssal Horror. Just for the avoidance of doubt.
The additions made in The Abyss are eternal.
Save the World might be the lesser-appreciated Fortnite, but that doesn’t mean its influence can’t bleed into Battle Royale, getting PvE ichor all over the carpet.
In the latest twist from Fortnite’s endless in-map ARG, the Battle Bus is knocked from the sky by that giant cube – called Kevin, keep up – everyone was talking about last month. From the cube emerge creatures, which you might think bear a striking resemblance to Save the World’s zombie husks, but are actually a different colour and called Cube Monsters, so you’d be mistaken in making that comparison.
Fortnitemares, as Epic is sensibly calling it, brings a new set of challenges that tasks you with smashing up cube monsters, dancing for local gargoyles, and various other diversions that won’t help you win a match but will eventually bag you a Dark Engine glider. There’s a new look for your avatar too, naturally – it wouldn’t be Fortnite if you weren’t peeling off your skin and replacing it with another.
Fortnitemares will haunt your every sleeping moment ‘til November 26th.