Hippo Manchester
September 22, 2005


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by Glenn Given

Darkwatch (XBOX/PS2)


0 stars

Vampires! The Wild West! Two great tastes that taste blah together. Into the creaking, aged first-person-shooter genre limps Darkwatch, a game about a totally-kick-ass-rocket-launcher-toting vampire who is stalking supernatural evil in the gothic-tinged (read: everying is dark) backdrop of spaghetti westerns. Actually, it’s not even that cool. It’s the kind of concept that an ADD addled Hot Topic tween would pitch.

“Yeah, Vampires!  Like you’re a vampire with an evil horse and you’re, like, helped by a hot chick with dynamite crossbows and killing skeletons who pop up with guns and crap! Sweet!”

I can see the dollars flashing in Capcom execs’ eyes. After all, how could you go wrong with that?  Vampires are cool. Westerns are bad-ass. Skeletons with guns are scary. Hot chicks with dynamite crossbows are dangerous ... ly awesome! And, yet, Darkwatch fails on nearly every level.

It’s a poor first-person shooter with a limited selection of all the weapons we’ve seen before. It shoehorns standard powerups (sniper scopes, thermal sight, body armor) into the mix by calling them Blood Vision and Blood Shields and other such nonsense.

It actually angers me to reminisce about the sheer laziness of Darkwatch. They don’t even play the one angle they have (the gothic-themed west) that well and the one truly western element (horseback gunfighting) is an on-rails affair that feels stilted and slow.

And the plot! Zounds! Sweet Mary Tyler Moore Show on TNT reruns!

O.K., you don’t buy an FPS title in hopes of an interesting story. But it’s certainly pleasing when there is one, best exampled by Deus Ex or Half-Life. On the other hand, sometimes the “story” can force itself onto your screen and scrub raw what little enjoyment the mindless twitch, twitch, bang, bang of a by-the-numbers FPS can muster. Get this, you’re Jericho, a wild west train robber but this train, my friend, contains pure evil in the form of uber-vampire Lazarus (a back from the dead character called Lazarus! Who’d have thought?). Unwittingly you release this evil upon the land and in the process get all turned into a vampire, too. Now you must blast your way across the west until you send Lazarus’ foul corpse back to the nether world. Pardon me is there a Pulitzer prize for hackneyed gothic horror plots combined with revenge westerns? No?  Well that’s a darn shame.

Darkwatch does have a solid 16-person multiplayer mode with a vaguely interesting “Soul Hunter” game where players race around collecting souls to fill up an on-screen meter. But it is hardly worth my $50.

Listen, people. There’s this game, called Halo 2, which does everything you need in a first-person shooter. Darkwatch is the 98-pound weakling that Halo 2 pushes into the sand. Except here, Darkwatch will never, ever, ever ever, benefit from Charles Atlas’ Dynamic-Tension program and return to avenge his humiliation. Nope, sorry Darkwatch, Halo 2 took your lady friend, and they’re off making babies.