PS2 REVIEW: DARKWATCH

It's not too often that I resort to "hip" words or phrases but after playing Darkwatch the one word that comes to mind which pretty much sums up the entire experience is "cool."

Just about every aspect of Darkwatch is cool. The environments are cool, the weapons are cool, the characters are cool and while the gameplay is not unique it's definitely one of the best first-person shooters on the Xbox and PS2. The controls alone are worth the price of admission. They are so smooth, accurate and user-friendly that they rival the ease of those of a PC and mouse.

Darkwatch blends gothic horror and the Old West in an unholy union between good and evil - which isn't always easy to distinguish between. Jericho Cross is the undead star of the show. He's an outlaw gunslinger that has been recruited by the Darkwatch, an ancient consortium that has protected humans from the ravages of evil since the beginning of time. Using period-specific weapons, with the ability to upgrade them to Darkwatch stature, Jericho hunts down vampires, skeletons, banshees, ghosts and other monsters and in turn lays such unspeakable horrors on them that they beg to be sent to Hell.

Pistols, shotguns, rocket launchers and dynamite are the basic weapons of choice. Upgrades will be required to fight off different kinds of enemies. Although you don't level-up the way you would in a RPG you do amass supernatural powers and more powerful weapons. A morality system lets you choose the path of good or evil. The powers that you gain on the path of good will be more flexible and ultimately more powerful than those of the evil path. Regardless of what path you choose, it's worth playing the game again to explore the other path.

Physical skills such as double jumps are an excellent feature that you will use almost as much as the weapons themselves. The ability to jump into the stratosphere is inherited from vampires. You almost have the ability to fly as you take to the air over rooftops and to the peaks of canyons. While in the air you can float and take part in some aerial combat. It gives you that kind of experience you usually only encounter in your dreams.

Incorporating some of the best elements of games such as Half Life and Halo, Darkwatch seems more straightforward and easier to get into. It's non-linear and chock full of cutscenes. There are so many cutscenes that's it's almost impossible to follow the story since there is so much dialog - and such little attention span to process it. The do break up the momentum of the gameplay and it does get a little annoying when you sit through them and not much has been revealed in terms of plot.

The AI is well programmed. When combating an enemy you won't be able to predict its patter as it actually reacts to your actions. If you shoot it will dodge your projectiles. If you're slow on the draw it will take the opportunity to attack. Other enemies will hunt in packs and try to surround you. The Banshees are a particularly frightening bunch that attempt to tear you apart with their relentless, blood curdling screams.

Darkwatch has a consistent, artistic look to it. It reminds me of the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton, in terms of creating a mood with the visuals. The voiceacting is also good but I could have done with a lot less cutscenes overall. The sound effects are well timed and reproduced loud and clear. Even though the music is minimal it adds to the ambient eeriness.

Darkwatch is instantly compelling and will appeal to all gamers that want to experience something cool during this hot summer.

Preview By Chris

Sammy Studios continues to show off some cool looking titles they are working on. Darkwatch is another interesting FPS title with some added things not normally found in this genre. The game will have gamers playing the role of Jericho one bad dude. Of course every screen shot I looked at that showed Jericho had the face hidden. Of course Sammy Studios did this on purpose since it is not known if Jericho is a dead man walking so to speak or a vampire just like the ones he faces in the game. It's not uncommon for a game company to keep details until closer to the release date. I have to admit I do not even know if Jericho is his first name, his last name or if he is just known as Jericho! </P>

What I can tell you about this one so far is that it sure looks interesting. The early demo and the screen shots show an old west backdrop and the story seems to happen in the time period. Of course the game will have a few twists and surprises for fans of FPS games. It is the little things that are getting attention on this one. Take Jericho's main weapons, his six shooters. When he shoots, you will see his other hand fanning the trigger. This is something I have not seen in a long time in any game. Of course while he battles the evil vampires and other undead enemies he will use a variety of weapons including a crossbow and spells and powers he gets from the undead he destroys. The game, while offering some unique settings, also seems to borrow from a few other games. This is not a knock since most FPS titles use proven things from other popular games. Take the fact Jericho can absorb the floating blood clouds from those he destroys to absorb life or powers. It's been done before. Also, as Jericho wields a blood shield one can't help but think of Master Chiefs Shield.

Sammy has also not stated if there would be any online features yet. It looks like it may not be an option. While the game does borrow from a bit, there are some things that will be a first in this game. There is one area where Jericho has to chase down a train while riding his horse which happens to have glowing eyes. At first the whole action scene is in the third person mode. It then switches to an awesome first person view. This is just one of the neat things this one is going to offer gamers.

From early reports the demo had some real badass enemies. In fact there was one battle where Jericho finds all the enemies are armed with the very same weapon he is using. Graphically, the game so far is looking great with a dark and eerie look to the whole game. From the screen shots you can see lightning fill the screen and it looks pretty awesome. While I wish I could give all the details, take a look at the screen shots. Vaughn has told me a picture is worth a thousand words. Hey he is my boss so I have not bothered to try and prove the truth behind the saying I will just take his word on it. Expect more screen shots and game details as soon as we can get them. The game will be released for both the Xbox and the PS2 early next year.

Features:

Their newest and deadliest agent is Jericho Cross, an outlaw gunslinger pulled into their ranks by an unfortunate close encounter with a vampire lord. To save the West, and his own soul from damnation, Jericho must hunt the vampire through an American frontier now overrun by his evil minions. Along the way he relies on his deadly gunfighting skills and advanced weapons and vehicles put at his disposal by the Darkwatch, as well as a few surprises afforded him as a half-vampire; superhuman abilities and a trusty undead steed.

  • Blast through a frightening re-imagination of the Wild West, with explosive FPS action framed by a cinematic storyline, and exceptional art and design work inspired by both Vampire-Horror and Western genres
  • Unique weapons, powerful assault vehicles, horse-mounted gunfighting and special vampire abilities bring new depth to FPS gameplay in both single and multiplayer
  • Take the “un” out of “undead” in a variety of ways with a wide assortment of "Darkwatch-enhanced" weapons, including pistols, rifles, shotguns, rocket-launchers, dynamite and even weapon-specific melee attacks
  • Experience a “living west” with massive seamless worlds, non-linear missions and dynamic enemy and NPC A.I. driven by a reputation and experience system
  • Location-specific damage brings precision to gunplay – tear the undead to pieces, or taunt the pesky living by shooting off hats or making them dance to your bullets
  • Online multiplayer capability with unique maps and original game modes
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System: Xbox (Shown), PS2
Dev: High Noon
Pub: Sammy Studios
Release: Aug 2005
Players: 1 - 8
Review by Fenix
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
5.0
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
4.5