Great moments in PC gaming are short, bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.
Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines
Developer Troika games closed shortly after releasing Bloodlines, but fans picked up the torch and fixed up the brilliant-but-buggy RPG with a decade's worth of patches.
Bloodlines is a horror game, but it's also about being a super-powered creature of the night. When you're the vampire, how scary can a vampire story be? All vampires are afraid of is daylight, wooden stakes, and holy symbols. And fire. Beheading kills them too. Being crushed is no fun.
Actually, there's a lot of stuff vampires should be afraid of. Turns out, a vampire story can be plenty scary, as everyone who's played through the Ocean House Hotel will tell you.
At this point in Bloodlines you're a fledgling, getting used to your abilities and being bossed around by established undead. One of them sends you off to a hotel she owns which has a reputation for being haunted. The laborers hired to renovate it have quit, and so you're sent to clean up. Ghosts? Big deal. In the Top Trumps of monsterdom vampires definitely beat ghosts.
But the Ocean House Hotel is an inspired bit of spooky design—especially the sound. Whispering voices, creepy music, footsteps in the distance. It makes you feel like you're in a movie. (Specifically The Shining, because if you're going to borrow then borrow from the best.)
When the Ocean House Hotel starts throwing vases and blowing up lightbulbs as you pass, it shouldn't be a big deal. You can just use up some blood points to heal the damage. As the night wears on and you press further into the haunted hotel, all those injuries add up and your blood meter runs low. Once it's gone you'll be in trouble and there's nobody to feed on in an empty hotel in the middle of nowhere. It's a clever integration of mechanics and mood. The tension rises as the blood level drops, and it hits a crescendo of clattering pans, fire-breathing ovens, and bursting pipes when it turns an entire kitchen into a weapon, then aims it at your face.
There's more scary stuff later in Bloodlines, like the werewolf chase, the empty hospital, and the personal horror of your increasing distance from humanity. The Ocean House Hotel stands out though, a high point of unexpected horror as much as the Shalebridge Cradle is in Thief: Deadly Shadows or Ravenholm in Half-Life 2.