Vampire Rain Xbox 360
Published by: AQ Interactive
Developed by: Artoon
Release Date: Out Now
The previous games we looked at from developer Artoon where Blinx The Time Sweeper and its not so impressive sequel, Blinx 2: Masters of Time and Space. As you probably remember, Blinx The Time Sweeper was essentially a very enjoyable platform game that required a bit of thought. The game didn't do too well, when it comes to sales figures, probably because it required some thought, which is a shame and you can bet if it had featured a certain overweight Italian plumber instead of a furry pussy cat it would have done much better and received far more critical acclaim. Suffice to say then that the last thing you expect the developers of the Blinx games to do would be to turn their hand to a stealth-horror type game filled with vampires.
The story in Vampire Rain is essentially that every year millions of people around the world have gone missing without any apparent reason. It was soon discovered that the missing were actually victims of vampire-like creatures known as Nightwalkers. Initially mankind chose a passive course of action but, when the Nightwalker attacks went out of control, it was decided a more aggressive stance was required. In the US the American Information Bureau (AIB) secretly established a special combat unit to eliminate the Nightwalkers once and for all. This AIB Anti-Nightwalker Team targeted a city on the West Coast whose streets reek of the sickly sweet aroma that emanates from Nightwalker infestations.
You'll play as John Lloyd, a member of the AIB Anti-Nightwalker Team. The game begins on a rainy night in the aforementioned West Coast City. Lloyd is part of the Extermination unit and when the Advance unit fail to arrive at the rendezvous point Lloyd and the leader of the Extermination unit, Hank Harrison, are ordered to investigate. Initially, in the tutorial section of the game, you'll follow Harrison around the city and through the sewers etc. Before long you learn that the Advance unit have disappeared altogether and that you have to sabotage the communication towers that the Nightwalkers have control of. Once the tutorial phase is out of the way you're on your own and from here the game becomes very testing.
Vampire Rain isn't going to appeal to everyone. In fact at times it's maddeningly frustrating and the early part of the game in particular is really going to make some want to throw their controller down in sheer frustration. The main problem is that although you have weapons at the start of the game, they are effectively useless. You have to carry out your numerous orders and to do so you'll have to avoid being detected by the Nightwalkers. Should they detect you it's virtually a guaranteed game over because they are on you in a flash. You'll notice the radar on the lower left of the screen displays the Nightwalkers and their vision cones so in theory you can see if they are looking at you. I say in theory because enemies even seem to spot you when you're outside of their vision and seeing as you're practically guaranteed to be killed if they spot you, it's particularly annoying. Just as annoying is the fact that the game is filled with artificial boundaries that do their best to prevent you from doing anything other than the game intends you to do. You might need to get inside a building and in your wisdom, having seen a Nightwalker disguised as a security guard at the front door; you'll decide to try your luck at the back door. You'll go to walk down the street that will take you to the rear of the building only to bump into this invisible boundary and be met with a 'Mission Boundary' warning. This makes the whole experience extremely limiting and prevents you from being able to play the game in the way you want to. In short it's a completely linear game with absolutely no replay value.
Not everyone who walks around in the West Coast city is a Nightwalker. Nightwalkers do appear to be human from a distance, however, you can use your Necrovision (when using Necrovision the nightwalkers have a red aura about them) to determine if the people you see are in fact Nightwalkers. There are a range of moves that Lloyd can perform too but most of these are context sensitive. As we've just mentioned, the weapons you have in the early part of the game are pretty pointless. Firing your weapons at the Nightwalkers at this stage of the game will get you nowhere. Even if you do manage to kill one there's usually another one that's been alerted and they will finish you off. This is kind of crazy as during the early stages of the game you're told that Lloyd managed to survive a Nightwalker attack without having any weapons and here he stands no chance with them. Of course as the game progresses you will gain weaponry that is effective against the Nightwalkers but you'll have to have the patience of a saint to make it that far and even then the ammunition is extremely limited, so you'll have to make every shot count.
I don't honestly know if Vampire Rain started life as an Xbox title but it certainly looks as though it did. In fact the graphics would simply be described as mediocre had the game arrived on the Xbox and not the Xbox 360. Within seconds of seeing the character you'll control, you instantly come to the conclusion that Artoon were going for the Splinter Cell look and John Lloyd certain looks like a Sam Fisher wannabe. The various environments you'll explore look rather drab and the texture quality on the numerous environmental objects in the game is poor. There are some clipping issues which again lowers the quality of the game's appearance. Still the load times are quite short and the frame rate is absolutely fine.
Vampire Rain does offer subtitles although they are disabled by default. The subtitles are displayed in a bold white font and are always easy on the eyes. The text doesn't have any character portraits or names placed alongside it, which means it's not always possible to know who is saying what but that's not really much of a problem here. All tutorial messages are shown in text. Whilst this would normally mean you'll have no problem in learning how to play the game, the tutorial is woefully inadequate for preparing you for the tormenting experience that lies ahead. The vision cones of your enemies that are shown on your radar should also be a rather useful inclusion but again seeing as enemies often come after you, even when you should be unsighted; it means they aren't very useful at all.
Vampire Rain could have been an enjoyable stealth-horror title but unfortunately it does its level best to make you want to pull your hair out. The game is simply too frustrating in the first few hours of play and I can't see many wanting to persevere to the point when the game starts to become slightly enjoyable. We haven't talked about the online modes that are in the game such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, a couple of Capture the Flag variants and a mode called Death or Nightwalkers because whilst they are fairly enjoyable, it's unlikely anybody will simply buy the game for its multiplayer content alone. The single-player game is what gamers are going to want to enjoy and in truth enjoyment is hard to find in Vampire Rain. Those who don't have the patience of a saint should definitely avoid this game.
It's easy to see how Vampire Rain could have been an enjoyable stealth-horror title. Unfortunately the game has been designed to frustrate gamers, particularly in the early stages, and as such it's questionable whether many will have the patience to play through more than the first hour or two.