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Darkwatch
  PS2Shooter_3DNA  
  opened by paleface at 02:16:19 08/23/05  
  last modified by paleface at 15:32:24 12/11/05  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Shooter_3D; loc=NA]
           
I like Westerns. And I like games where you fight zombies. So, a zombie Western? Brilliant!
 
It is yet another first-person shooter, but it puts you through such quick, action-packed stages, that, even though their action has been done before, you've got too much adrenaline going to worry about that until later. If things continue to rattle along at this rate, I don't see how the game can possibly last very long, but at least it'll be fun the whole way through. There's also supposed to be split-screen co-op in this PS2 version (but not in the Xbox version?), so I have that to look forward to.
 
Fitting the zombie theme, the weapons all have a sort of neo-gothic theme, and kick appropriate amounts of booty--so far the explosive-arrow-launching crossbow is probably the most fun.
 
The game is yet another to use the newer RenderWare, and it looks good and runs smooth, with night atmos so thick you could slice it with the blade on the butt of your gothic shotgun. The sound effects are quite sharp, too, with all the screams and snarls of zombies, right down to the jingle of your spurs on the hard, cold floor of a haunted crypt. Good stuff. The sorta Western music sounds promising, but only shows up in very brief spurts. Oh, and good voice acting--a little overblown, perhaps, but memorably rendered; same for the cinematics. They also included some fancy physics with the Havok physics engine, and though I've yet to see them actually affect gameplay in a major way, things like accurately swinging slabs of beef in a grisly meatlocker traincar actually do help add to the atmosphere, and even alter your lines of fire.
 
Heck, even the AI does pretty well: the zombies evade, charge, and duck out of the way, and your spunky female sidekick (Ka-ching! said the publishers) blasts things pretty convincingly, even if she is running on a script (I think).
 
In short, although I suspect the game is short, so far it is rocking my gothic zombie britches.
 
  paleface 02:42:11 08/28/05
           
The PS2 version has some kind of two-player split-screen deathmatch mode; haven't tried it yet.
 
In split-screen co-op, you both play the main character, and friendly fire is active--though for the most part, since the weapons are hitscan, and fairly precise, "team kills" won't be much of a problem. Co-op, in fact, works pretty well on the whole, although the framerate tends to get a bit choppy in a few spots. Also, in co-op the textures are kept very low-res, so everything looks really blurry. Shame.
 
Later levels sometimes have switch hunts, spawning in endless snipers and things while you're bumbling around looking for x number of switches to hit. This isn't particularly fun. Others introduce a big life meter, representing not a single character but the cumulative life of many enemies who will spawn in staggered succession; you have to take them all down before the story will progress. That works fairly well.
 
Boss fights, on the other hand, have so far been largely absent. There were a couple you could sort of call boss fights, I guess, except that they were either really easy, or the character then got re-used as a normal character in later levels, sort of spoiling the "boss" effect.
 
  paleface 03:24:52 11/17/05
           
Okay, co-op mode is going downhill as the game progresses. It seems like less and less polish was given to later phases of the game, as we are now running into constant annoyances with one player hitting a cinematic trigger while another is in the middle of a firefight. And the cinematics themselves are getting a lot sketchier--heck, many of them just don't really make sense, and awkward camera shots are increasing.
 
Worse yet, the game is relying more and more on the old "lock the character in an arena-like area, spawn x badguys, advance player to next area after badguys are killed, repeat" cycle, and giving out less and less ammo. Blah.
 
  paleface 15:32:24 12/11/05
           
Finally finished co-op, and boy, it was like pulling teeth. Their idea of escalating difficulty seemed to consist of spawning in more and more waves of the same badguy types over and over, and making them take more hits to kill--so you get to the point where the basic skeletal enemy takes ten bullets or so to put down, and the weapons all feel weak. Blah.
 
Sometimes you get a big life meterish thingy at the top of the screen, but this almost never denotes a real boss fight: usually you just have to kill all the spawning enemies of a certain type, most frequently these flying banshee chicks that get really annoying.
 
Level design is not really suited to co-op in most cases, with narrow pathways abounding. It's almost always very dark, and nearly impossible to see the enemies. Their favorite trick is to spawn in "keggers"--kamikazes carrying explosive barrels--that you can't see coming in the dark, crowded levels, and which kill you in one blast.
 
The less said about the "dune buggy" stage, the better. But in co-op, the framerate can get pretty darn bad; throw that on top of keggers charging you in the darkness while turrets and snipers that you can't really see shoot at you from above, and you've got a not very fun experience.
 
As I mentioned earlier, the story goes to hell about a third of the way through. At one point, in fact, you're just doing a series of disconnected missions--these would be called "side" missions in many games, but you have to do them in linear fashion to proceed here. Characters and events appear in cinematics and cut-scenes with no real build-up or introduction, silly names are used to describe the same stupid "spawn a magical badguy-spawning tree here and have the player shoot the spawning enemies for a while" gameplay, and in general you just lose track of what the point of the story is, and why you should care.
 
And it isn't just the cut-scenes; the pacing throughout the last two-thirds of the game feels very rough and unpolished. The game tries to cram way too much stuff, mostly repetitive and/or nonsensical, down your first-person throat at once, and we just got sick of it. Your ghostly narrator/guide woman is always interrupting the action to tell you the same annoying things over and over ("Keggers!" or "You've got to get to that switch!"). It seems to go on forever, too; for the last four or six hours, we were just hoping that it would end. What started off as a very promising, quirky shooter just went straight to hell.
    
downloads:
· 01_wimmen.gif
· 02_train.gif
· 03_fireballs.gif
· 04_graveyard.gif
· 05_vampvision.gif
· 06_crossbow.gif
· 07_shotgun.gif
· 08_wimmen2.gif
· pistol.mpg

 
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