Tech News on G4

Halloween Gaming Deathmatch

October 31, 2007

By John Powell - G4 Canada

back to -|- Tech News index -|- John Powell column archive

 

It is that one night of the year when long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night are welcome sights. Don’t want to venture out of the house to face them or all the little ghosts and goblins in your
neighbourhood but still want to have some thrills and chills this Halloween? We may have the answer for you as not two but THREE recent horror video games duke it out for all tricks and treats in our Halloween
edition of Gaming Deathmatch.

Vampire Rain
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Artoon
ESRB Rating: (M) Mature
Official Site: http://www.microsoft.com/xbox/vampirerain/

Vampire RainOverview

Imagine ‘Blade’…only worse. A vampire plague has spread across the U.S. Hordes of the bloody-thirsty undead have swarmed their cities and towns. To combat the threat, the government has created an elite military strike force specially trained to hunt down and eliminate the Nightwalker menace. That means shoot them and shoot them until they are dead…again.

Sights and Sounds

You’d swear you’ve loaded up your PlayStation by mistake. The colours are wishy-washy and the graphics are blotchy. Everything is so awfully dark that it is hard to make out your enemies and the obstacles in your way. In the same black spandex battle suit and combat goggles, the main character – John Lloyd – is a blatant Sam Fisher clone. The ‘You’re Dead’ cut-scenes in which the vampires tear you to pieces after you have botched a mission have been unashamedly lifted right from ‘Resident Evil’. Like the sights, the sounds are unremarkable.

Vampire Rain:  You want trick or treat?Gameplay

Don’t even bother. Borrowing heavily from ‘Splinter Cell’, the game is nothing but mundane scavenger hunts, sabotage objectives and
assassinations. Although the city streets look like their free-roaming, they really aren’t as there are all sorts of invisible force fields blocking your way so that you stay on the rail provided. The vampire beasties are quick as lightning and impossible to kill. Your weapons do little or no damage and the undead can leap like freaking spider monkeys from the roof tops. There is no ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ fun to be had
here. Once the bloodsuckers spot you, nothing can stop them and you are deader than the careers of MC Hammer, Fred Savage and the dude who played ‘Screech’ on ‘Saved By The Bell’.

 

 

The Darkness
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Starbreeze
ESRB Rating: (M) Mature
Official Site: http://www.2kgames.com/thedarkness/

The DarknessOverview

‘The Darkness’ is based on the superbly disturbing comic book series by Marc Silvestri. An ancient power - ‘The Darkness’ - is passed down from father to son and can be used in many devilish ways. You can fashion weapons out of it, use it to blind people or even summon demonic ‘Darkness’ minions to do your bidding. The only major drawback is that the power cannot be employed in lit areas so you best be shorting out the electricity or breaking a lot of light bulbs and because you are possessed by the evil force, you always have to keep ‘The Darkness’ in check.

In the game, you play as the Jackie Estacado, a hitman for the Franchetti Family mob who ends up in the middle of a bloody and heart-breaking mob war. It is a war that starts in the streets of New York and ends up in the fiery pits of Hell or the ‘Otherworld’ as they call it in the game.

Sights and Sounds

If you ignore the fact that the characters’ mouths don’t voice their words well, ‘The Darkness’ has an exceptional look since everything is so crisp and clear. The graffiti on the subway walls, the scratches in the pay phone booths, the scorched earth that is the ‘Otherworld’, everything is razor-sharp. The sound really accentuates the finely honed graphics. The gritty ‘Sopranos’ style dialogue is not for everyone’s tastes but it does give the game authenticity. The raspy, creepy demonic voice of ‘The Darkness’ is provided by singer/songwriter and former 'Faith No More' front man Mike Patton. How appropriate is that, eh?

The Darkness: Love the crash, thanksGameplay

Although all the shooting and shelling is fun, the artillery is predictable. The real hook of ‘The Darkness’ are the powers themselves. The
two that stand out are the black holes and the deadly tentacles. The snake-like tentacles sticking out of your shoulders are just the greatest
killing machines ever. You can strike and hurl foes with them. You can send them out on their own and control them as they slink down alleyways or creep through ventilation shafts. This allows you to get the drop on the foes around you and rip their still beating hearts from their chests. When it comes to coolness, next to the tentacles is the black hole power. You don’t acquire it until later in the game but you can spawn them anywhere and as their name implies, they suck anything and everything into them, including the bad guys. It is so satisfying to duck out, whip up one of those babies right behind three SWAT team members blocking your way and then stand idly by as they are torn asunder. Uber cool. To make things fair, the powers have to be recharged and cannot be used in bright areas but sometimes in battling the AI, you cannot help but feel you are swatting flies.

 

Clive Barker’s Jericho
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Codemasters
Developers: Mercury Steam, Alchemic Productions
ESRB Rating: (M) Mature
Official Site: http://www.clivebarkersjericho.com/

JerichoOverview

If nothing else, with ‘Books of Blood’ and ‘Hellraiser’ author/filmmaker Clive Barker penning the storyline, you know the plot is going to be
delectably gruesome, eerie, disconcerting and strangely poetic all at the same time. As he did with his work on ‘The Undying’ in 2001, Barker spins a beguiling tale that grips you by the throat and never let go.

Before there was an Adam or an Eve, God created a being in his own image and called it the Firstborn. Left unfinished, God kicks the Firstborn to the curb - or in this case the Abyss and goes on to create man and woman. Attempting to reclaim what it thinks is its birth right, the Firstborn seeks to break through into the mortal world at the cradle of civilization: the Middle Eastern city of Al-Khali. Standing in its way is 'Jericho', a unique strike force who have military training and are skilled in the arcane arts such as telekinesis, summoning and exorcism. Their job is to confront and rub out paranormal threats by any means necessary.

Sights and Sounds

Much like 'The Darkness', 'Jericho' has a really polished look with little effects here and there bringing the whole screen to life. You can see the dust motes and fog twirling and coursing through the ancient Middle Eastern ruins. You can see the actual folds in the leather battle suits worn by Jericho. All of the horrific creatures you stumble upon are really the stuff of nightmares...or worse. Even the Start screen is a patch of bloody, severed flesh. Nice. The ambient sounds are spooky and at times very unnerving.

Jericho: Meet my familyGameplay

The is where like a zombie from a George A. Romero movie, 'Jericho' stumbles. On the positive side, you can switch between your team-mates at will and combine their exceptional powers in complex attacks...and what powers they are. Delgado summons a flames spirit that barbecues enemies. Simone can slow down time itself. Abigail can fire a “ghost bullet”, a telekinetic projectile. ’Billie’ can freeze enemies and shoot flames. Father Paul and Devin can heal people. Oh, yeah. Healing. You will do a lot of that as members of your team fall like flies in combat. Half your time will be spent fighting and half wrenching people back from the brink of death.

The bulk of the battles are regrettably in closed quarters. With enemies using rapid fire weapons and there being so much smoke, dust and fire everywhere making it hard to locate them, prepare for many exasperating fights that will have you cursing like a netherworld demon. In their gear reminiscent of the Cenobites in ’Hellraiser’, the squad sure looks awesome but the AI is too darn smart for its own good. Overzealous to a fault, they will do a lot of the fighting unless you push your way through the mayhem to make your presence felt. Some of the game’s momentum is slowed though by the load times and interactive cutscenes requiring irritating timed button mashing.

 

Conclusion

Pound a stake in its heart. Vampire Rain just sucks. That leaves us with 'The Darkness' and 'Clive Barker's Jericho'. The biggest difference between the two is level design. The levels in 'Jericho' are just too identical while 'The Darkness' has more elaborate maps and locations. You will never get tired of deploying Jackie Estacado’s powers in combat while despite the assortment of arcane abilities, the showdowns in ‘Jericho’ are set up in such a way as to wreck havoc with your blood pressure...and not in a good way. ‘Jericho’ does have some great things going for it, it is just the entire package needed more refinement.

Final Score

Vampire Rain: 2 / 10
The Darkness: 8.5 / 10
Clive Barker's Jericho: 7 / 10

Winner: The Darkness

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