Jeremy Jastrzab
17 Nov, 2005

Darkwatch Review

PS2 Review | A Vampirc Western FPS. Did that get your attention?
Originality is something of a double-edge sword in gaming. Sure, that there will be a group of gamers that are likely to salivate over any original prospect but will it be at the expense of the appeal to the mass market? Something of a solution is to take a popular genre and doing something with it that’s never been done before. Enter Darkwatch, the latest in a long line of FPS titles for current generation consoles. However, this one has a twist. You actually play the game under a vampiric curse, in a Western setting. Is this enough to pull the game out of the bowels of mediocrity?

You start the game as veteran train robber, Jericho Cross. On the night of your last hit before retirement, you come across an intricate train blazing through a desert night. Unfortunately, you pop onto the train to find that instead of treasures and tribulations, you’re surrounded by rotting corpses and hanging carcasses. After hacking/shooting your way through the back end of the train, surely there has to be something behind that skull-shaped vault? No treasure, just a centuries-old Vampire named Lazarus. Upon release, he places you under the vampire’s curse, hence turning Jericho, into a Vampire as well.

From there, you team up with Cassidy, the feisty young leader of a crew known as the Darkwatch. These guys happen to protect the innocent folk of the world from the evils of Lazarus and his minions. To try and make up for your mistake as well as keep your soul remotely clean, you’re coaxed into joining the Darkwatch. It’s a bit of an odd story. The introduction is heavily drawn out, the body isn’t very long and the ending is somewhat drawn out as well. It leaves a feeling that there’s a general lack of substance and by the end there are a few plot points that are unclear. While the game lacks anything “Western” about the story, it makes for a decent Vampire flick, with almost everything that you’d expect and few little twists here are there.

Something that must be said from the outset, as an FPS, the game feels very formulaic. Probably because it derives virtually everything from the most successful shooter of the generation, Halo. From everything, we mean from the difficulty select screen, to check points, the vehicle mission and even the ghost of Cassidy that helps you in the game, which is a blatant rip-off of Cortana. Still, there are a few new things.

Why isn't someone being shot?

Why isn't someone being shot?
The main additions that set this game apart are the Vampire abilities. They come in a few different forms. Once you’re cursed, you’ll get a few enhancements from the offset. You’ve got a blood shield (read: energy shield), an anti-gravity double jump and the blood-vision. The blood-vision is the most substantial, as you’ll go into a red-filtered vision that very clearly shows friends, enemies as well as other items.

Your health is controlled by the amount of blood you collect, but you’ve also got a blood meter that will allow you to utilise even more powers. There are eight in all and they’re divided into good and evil. The good powers consist of silver bullets, auras and chain lightning while the evil powers consist of frenzies, possessions and dark mists. They can be useful in situations but they are hardly imperative to the way that the game is played. In fact, they feel more gimmicky and sometimes in the way, then anything else.

The game throws in a few good/evil decision choices. Some of them are major, where a possessed person crosses your path and you can choose to free them or consume them. Other encounters are trapped souls that you face the same choice with. Each choice will build up a meter and when it fills, you’ve got a new ability. We found that it’s best to concentrate on one side and that there is only one circumstantial choice towards the end that will determine the final ending.

OK, so the vampire powers don’t really add anything revolutionary to the way you play your FPS, but that counts for nil if the grounding isn’t any good. Darkwatch is heavily built off Halo, where Halo provides some tactical combat, Darkwatch is more intense and on-your-toes. When you aren’t trekking down a linear path, chances are you’ll be hauled up in a stop fending off hoards of undead soldiers or picking off numerous snipers from the roofs. There’s nothing tactical here, other than knowing when the use the melee but it is very intense.

TNT! The solution to all zombie problems

TNT! The solution to all zombie problems
That’s the main redeeming factor of the game. It can get very intense and you genuinely need to worry about your hide. Then apart from a couple of boss fights, the game takes way too much off Halo and not enough Darkwatch. There are too many hop-in-a-turret, other Darkwatch members littered around levels helping you and the one level where you ride a vehicle is blatant warthog rip-off. When you get levels that make it interesting, like the one where the sun is out and your powers are diminished, are too few. You may not think that’s too bad, but who remembers Brute Force?

The weapons are marginally fun to use and this where the Western element comes in. You’ve got a small array but they consist of the usual suspect. Some can be particularly handy, like the shotgun that doubles as an axe or the dual pistols that can be used in rapid fire. Of course, you’ve got healthy doses of dynamite and TNT. Then you’ve got a trusty but demonic stead, which allows you to take part in a few horseback missions. For the record, they’re a good diversion.

There are a few different types of enemies, but for each different type, they look exactly the same. While enemies without guns will recklessly charge at you, it’s disturbing as to how accurate the enemies with guns can be. They are way too good a predicting jumps and subtle direction changes. It doesn’t help that the game’s controls aren’t as tight as you’d like them. The game’s reticule isn’t too good either, often flashing red only to find that you’ll be missing by a matter of digital millimetres. It’s not too bad but it gets annoying when you’re missing enemies from point blank, in the later levels of the game. The chicken-heart AI is worth mentioning as well, but it can get very annoying as well.

The single player mode has its moments. If it weren’t for the intensity, it would boil down to nothing but a watered down Halo clone. The story isn’t particularly balanced and the vampire powers don’t add as much as you may like. However, despite being almost completely run-and-gun, Darkwatch manages to retain some challenge and satisfaction in its eight to ten hour quest. Too bad that that’s pretty much all there is to the game. The multiplayer is totally ordinary, with only a few little maps and standard options. You can collect temporary powers as tokens but with some of the other offerings available to games, there is little incentive to stick around here.

You and me will never see eye-to-eye

You and me will never see eye-to-eye
Graphically, the game is solid but because it’s so dark and most environments consist of deserts or caverns, there isn’t much to see. The Western feel takes something a back seat in most instances, but at least it isn’t shoved in your face in an over the top manner. Enemies are nicely made but there are too many of the same model. Environmental physics are pretty good as well, with plenty of destruction and mayhem possible. The art style looks like it borrows a bit from Oddworld, especially with Jericho. There is some slowdown in busy sequences. Sound-wise, the voicing is decent but the attempt to mix a Dark theme and Western theme with the music fails abysmally.

Overall, Darkwatch is a solid and intense shooter with a conceptually unique twist. The vampire aspect doesn’t really add anything other than occasional convenience and story vehicle. It blatantly copies way too much from Halo and all originality is lost to this. The multiplayer is nothing compared to other offerings. Still, there is some run-and-gun fun to be had as long as you can get past any of the games creative shortcomings. There isn’t enough here to warrant a full-price purchase but it’s not a bad rental.
The Score
Darkwatch gives vampires, undead, cowboys and plenty of bullets to fire. But that's about it. Otherwise, Darkwatch is a fairly standard affair that's worth a rental for anyone wondering wanting to check it out.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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8 years ago
so... best thing to come from this game is the Playboy shoot was it?
8 years ago
8 years ago
Cassidy was one of the game girls Playboy featured back whenever it was. Linky.

i was just commenting like this because the game doesn't sound that good. it had potential though, IMO.
8 years ago
Oh, so that's what you meant. And no, transparent digital nudity isn't really my go.
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