One of the lesser known titles that made it for the launch of the Xbox was Blood Wake. This water based shooter that boasted unbelievable water effects as well as real water physics received very little attention compared to the likes of the celebrated Halo and PGR.
Set in the far East, that resembles a kind of Chinese environment, the game is based around the Dragon Sea. The time of peace has passed and the once mighty Colonial Empires have been replaced by 3 factions who do not intend to get along with each other. These factions are the Jade Kingdom, the Shadow Clan and the Iron Empire. Playing as Shao Kai you are part of the Shadow Clan. Disturbances have become more and more common with attacks being made to protect territory that each faction perceives as their own. The leader of the Shadow Clan, Ped Zeng, has ordered you to attack any Jade Kingdom boats that encroach on his territory but he is aware that the Iron Empire possess mighty boats and usually have a policy of sink the opposition first and ask questions later so therefore you have permission from him to flee from them if you wish.
The game is a mission based, water based, shoot 'em up. The kind of missions you receive are usually based around either sinking enemy boats and gun towers, destroying enemy reserves, collecting items and/or protecting friendly boats. The game has three difficulty setting but even on the easiest of these the game is anything but easy and you will find yourself doing each mission a couple of times. To make matters worse you can't save the game mid-mission so if your boat is blown up, you'll have to do it all again. This will aggravate a fair amount of gamers and it would have been better if an alternate system could have been found.
As you progress through the game more boats become available. There are ten altogether and these include boats such as the Sampan, Catamaran, Speedboat and Gun Boat. A variety of weapons are available on the boats. The crazy thing is that you can't choose your boat or weapons as they are set for the mission. Control of the boats can also seem a bit fiddly when you first start playing. The main bone of contention is that it is awkward to perform a quick turn. Of course the realistic wave physics could be what causes this awkwardness. I mean think about it, how many boats in real life can turn on a sixpence? not many.
Graphically Blood Wake is a mixed bag. The water/wave effects are very good but generally speaking the game does nothing to suggest it is fully utilising the power of the Xbox. The boat models are good but again not as brilliant as you would expect given the detail in many other Xbox launch titles.
As far as suitability for deaf gamers is concerned, Blood Wake is quite good but still falls short of complete text feedback. Before each mission there is a verbal account of the story and this is not subtitled. You do receive a brief summary in text telling you of your objectives. Another positive is that during a mission you receive verbal comments that point you in the right direction and remind you of what you should be doing. This information is all given in text and remains on screen long enough for you to comfortably read it.
Overall Game Rating: 7.4/10 Blood Wake isn't a bad game by any means. The trouble is, most missions will have to be played at least a couple of times because of the high difficulty, even on the easy setting. In all fairness though once you get into the game it is does grip you and a positive side of the difficulty is that you won't finish the game any time soon.
Deaf Gamers comment: Apart from the hiccup in missing out the subtitles for the story elements that proceed the missions the game has plenty of text feedback.