- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 31, 2017

After a night of Halloween tricks and treats, what better way to further appreciate the sometimes-terrifying event than with a session of horror-infused video gaming. Here are a few of the best titles to deliver goosebumps and smiles.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Retribution (Activision and Infinity Ward, Rated Mature, reviewed on PlayStation 4, $14.99) — Owners of the 2016 version of one of the premiere first-person shooters have been tempted with a series of downloadable content packs over the past year to take part in a frenetic, undead-infested homage to classic horror movies.

Specifically, five online multiplayer adventures provide access to the twisted worlds created by legendary schlock film director Willard Wyler (an animated-looking Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens).

The first, “Zombies in Spaceland” (fun in a ghastly theme park) came with buying the full game. The other four interactive movies — “Rave in the Redwoods,” “Shaolin Shuffle,” “Attack of the Radioactive Thing!,” and “The Beast from Beyond” — were slowly released over 2017 as part of packs that also featured extra multiplayer combat maps ($14.99 each or a season pass for $49.99).

The latest “The Beast from Beyond” (part of the Retribution pack) offers up to four players the chance to control the warrior actors Poindexter Zittermann (voiced by Seth Green), Andre Wright (Jay Pharoah), Sally Simpson (Sasheer Zamata) and Aaron “A.J.” Jordaniels (Ike Barinholtz).

The quartet co-operatively survive in a desolate military station filled with ghouls and monsters.

As standard, the action is fast and furious, loaded with access to weapons (such as the acid puddle shooting Venom-X or the very rare, zombie-capturing and transforming Entangler). Options include customizing armaments and powering up characters using a collectible card-based system.

Unfortunately, the action was also equally frustrating.

My advice is that although this release is crucial to conclude the Wyler story, it’s brutally difficult and will frustrate casual players. During some solo rounds, groups of ferocious Cryptids (smaller versions of Rancors) wiped out my team, making it difficult to get past the first level.

I was much more smitten with the nostalgia dripping from the “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Absolution” release from July that featured the black-and-white movie “Attack of the Radioactive Thing!”

It featured the same actors surviving in a 1950s small town invaded by monsters. The movie’s introduction features Elvira: Mistress of the Dark no less, who is even an unlockable, playable character.

Also, the previously mentioned, 1980s-themed “Zombies in Spaceland” was another wildly inventive event allowing players to ride a roller coaster to shoot ghouls. Players can take control of actor David Hasselhoff who’s found hanging out in a DJ booth spinning classic songs.

In all cases, the “Call of Duty Infinite Warfare Zombies” adventures are an entertaining experience for mature players looking to take on hordes of undead and a perfect treat for the season.

Suffice it to report, I can’t wait for “Call of Duty: WWII” hitting stores on Nov. 3 and promising an immersive encounter with Nazi zombies.

Lego Dimensions’ Beetlejuice Fun Pack (Traveller’s Tales and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Rated E 10+, reviewed on Xbox One, 56 pieces, $14.99) — The best way to appreciate building Lego sets while playing video games gets even better with a salute to director Tim Burton’s classic 1988 horror comedy.

Kids and parents now get about two hours of action as they fondly appreciate the 1988 film starring Michael Keaton as the obnoxious Beetlejuice, a freelance bio-exorcist ghost that helps a pair of new specters Barbara and Adam Maitland get rid of the pesky Deetz family living in their house.

The Fun Pack contains the pieces to build a 1.75-inch-tall mini-figure of Bettlejuice (also referred to as Betelgeuse) sporting his pale complexion, receding hairline, permanent smirk, green hair and pinstriped suit as well as a 3-inch-tall version of his nemesis, a double-jawed Sandworm that can also get rebuilt and turned into a haunted vacuum and spider.

Children take the built characters, attached to special bases, and place them on a glowing toy portal that is part of the Lego Dimensions Starter Pack (sold separately, averaging $39.99) that includes buildable figures of Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle (from the “Lego Movie”).

Once they find the Beetlejuice Adventure World, by visiting the Shard realm, they are immersed in a Lego-ized version of the movie, loaded with memorable characters, locations and puzzle-solving moments.

Specifically, the entire Deetz family as well as the Maitlands are looking for help with projects as a player explores such locales as the main house’s attic, study, dining room (complete with a set table), the Saturn Sand Dunes, and even that miniature model town highlighting Beetlejuice’s tomb stone and grave.

Beetlejuice is a riot as he scampers around, cackling, head spinning and belching out dialogue such as “that stinks and I know a thing or two about stinking.”

He has ghoulish green powers to scare away the living and produces midway carnival-sized hammers for his hands while he spins around and can extend his rubbery arms for massive attacks to collect a steady stream of Lego studs through his path of destruction.

The sandworm can be ridden by any of the playable characters and offers a sonic roar to smash objects and foes.

Missions include rescuing Adam and the “Handbook of the Recently Deceased” at the cemetery model town while fighting off skeleton attacks along the way; repairing Lydia Deetz’s camera by finding pieces strewn across the environments; and helping receptionist Miss Argentina fix up the Another World waiting room.

Also worth noting is the pop culture beauty of Lego Dimension that allows characters from many different universes to interact in the action as players buy the buildable expansion packs.

At one point, I pulled in through the portal already built figures of Gandalf the Grey Wizard, Batgirl, Wyldstyle, Ghostbuster’s Peter Venkman and even Krusty the Clown to help with the puzzles.

The Evil Within 2 (Bethesda Softworks and Tango Gameworks, Rated Mature, reviewed on PlayStation 4, $59.99) — Police detective Sebastian Castellanos returns to a nightmarish, technologically built, artificial world in a desperate attempt to save his daughter Lily in a terrifying, blood-soaked sequel to an atmospheric, third-person, survival horror game.

A player willing to turn off all the lights and crank up the sound system in his entertainment room is really in for a treat as he takes Sebastian to Union, an idyllic small town in middle America that’s seemingly abandoned and on the verge of self-destruction.

Well, you can bet that fast-moving, flesh-eating ghouls and grotesque monsters caused the desertion. The hero must use stealth, resource collection and high-powered weapons such as a shotgun, crossbow and sniper rifle to complete missions and survive.

It took little time before my hands were sweating and heart pounding as I took control of the hero and witnessed such disturbing imagery as a man bleeding out suspended in mid-air; an ax decapitating a priest who was transforming into a creature; and a collection of bloodied corpses wearing white sheets and hanging from the ceiling.

In fact, fear inducement is a major tenant here, brought to life through shadows, moaning, growling, the crackling of a communicator picking up cries of anguish, darkness, fog and  tight corners.

Also, of course, surprisingly gory creatures (from acid-spitting, flesh-weeping humanoids to three-headed, backwards crawling spawns) pop out when least expected.

I’ll admit that fear often got the better of me as I hid in bushes trying to think of a strategy to avoid death, or keeping my weapon wheel open to pause the action and figure how to avoid another violent death.

I loved extras such as stopping by a safe house and drinking a cup of coffee to restore my health or collecting green goo from corpses to power up Sebastian with help from a familiar nurse Tatiana and her antiquated wheelchair.

If the player can survive the bloated story exposition at the start of the game and a few genuinely unsettling jump scares, he’ll revel in a macabre universe inspired by John Carpenter and H.P. Lovecraft as he works through about 20 hours of nerve-shattering horror.

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