This week’s forecast: Stay indoors.
Do you like Blade 2? Black-ops vampire warfare on the streets? Slinging silver through sinister bloodsuckers, then watching them burn up like a cigarette?
[image1]Well, Vampire Rain is here, and it has everything you liked… except it doesn’t have Blade, or samurai swords, or motorcycles, or a lot of action scenes. Actually the only things it has in common are those padded black-ops outfits, and the cigarette-burning effect. While it does have a terrible Hollywood script; it’s missing a lot of the essentials. Like fun. A little fun would have been good in a game like Vampire Rain.
It’s raining vampire-men on the West Coast, ultra-vampires called Nightstalkers, in fact. Except tonight’s rain is dulling the vampires’ senses, so I guess it doesn’t matter how ultra-vampiric they may be. You are Sam Fisher John Lloyd, a tough-guy operative in the only vampire-hunting unit that doesn’t wear neck armor. With your teammates Baird, Cole and Tough-Guy Woman, you wage a rainy war against vampires and loitering.
Vampire Rain really wants to be the Prince of Persia of vampire games: you crawl up three or four walls, see an enemy, walk past it, and continue. This formula works great for the Prince, the epic acrobatics and flashy stealth kills are captivating. John Lloyd’s mortal escapades up storm drains and over footwalls, in comparison, are a silly, dull affair.
Most of the “game” (if we can call it that) is about walking a very tight, strict path through every nook and cranny of the street. Forget about stealth game AI, the vampires sit in place like scarecrows on the side of the path. If you wander too far, vampires usually punish you with immediate death and a free trip to the start of the level, plus you lose any items or hidden medals you’ve picked up. Hey, all you have to do is retrace your steps right?
[image2]Once every three levels or so (seriously), John gets a practical weapon and a chance to actually kill some vampires. These short hunting segments feel better than any other part of the game, but they also reveal the sloppy, ridiculous truth about Vampire Rain: your normal weapons are nearly useless, so the “AI” seems very dangerous, until you have one of the good weapons and then the AI suddenly becomes a simplistic and unsatisfying opponent.
While the game is a wearisome compilation of walking tours, Vampire Rain’s story is like an encyclopedia of bad screenwriting. I mean, seriously painful… you will have headaches for days if you mistakenly allow the dialogue to get in your ears. I thought I heard Star Trek’s Michael Dorn playing one character, but the script is so bad that the voice actors can only crank up the camp. Cut scenes pop up frequently, as if to remind you that "hey, we’ve got bad writing" every time you turn a corner. Many of the cut scene events would have worked as well or better if I they happened in-game and I was a participant.
Redundancies in the text and dialogue are well-intended, even as they bludgeon you over the head with instructions. The developer wants to make sure you understand that to secure your command vehicle, you have to find the vehicle, then secure it. That’s when the vehicle is secured! Artoon also wants to remind you that the pistol on your screen is your “Weapon,” and the photo inset that pops up is an “Image.” Maybe Vampire Rain wants to be the Mature-rated game that the whole family can follow, even little mentally challenged Billy.
However, you probably don’t want your whole family to see the handful of extremely gory cut scenes. And while the in-game graphics are mediocre, they are effective. Lots of camera zooms kept me informed of my targets, while spot-on models and textures communicated the story long before the dialogue kicked in. It’s actually too good, you find a gruesome, blood-splattered truck for example, and then your genius teammate says “something bad happened here.” The models are a little unimpressive and the game seemed to forget rain for certain levels, unless that was just my eyes blurring up after seeing the Game Over screen so many times.
[image3]The majority of the 1000 Achievement points are awarded for multiplayer matches – capture the flag, destroy the target object, and regular deathmatches. Up to eight players can lock and load as agents, or transform into vampires for some modes. Unfortunately, the slow running and inflexible action buttons make the multiplayer experience less than smooth.
I am admittedly a little spoiled by recent hits like Gears of War, where a contextual A button does all the work. Vampire Rain splits basic game functions across multiple buttons – It’s overkill, and worst of all the buttons don’t blend their functions – I have to stop moving to jump off a ladder or ledge, for example. It feels awkwardly terrible, and it can become a fatal mess during multiplayer.
Vampire Rain feels like the raw prototype of a fleeting idea. Extra modes and collectibles are all accounted for, and the game isn’t broken, but such a bare, simple title it isn’t worth all the frustration. Weak downloadable content like the “collect all ammo” mission won’t fix the game, and now I hear a PS3 version is on the way?