Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Rise of Nightmares

Kinect owners have been calling for games aimed at the hardcore since its launch. Most have had their fill of cutesy animal simulators, fitness trainers or dancing titles and want something to breathe live into the dust-covered camera that lies largely dormant beneath the TV. SEGA is among the first to pick up that gauntlet and accept the challenge of producing a game that doesn’t feature your avatar and isn’t aimed exclusively at children. Kudos to SEGA for trying something different…

As an adult rated title, Rise of Nightmares (RoN) rehashes a multitude of tried and tested elements from the survival horror genre – and for the most part is a fairly good effort. Right from the start, RoN positions itself as a classic take on the Hammer House of Horror movies – dodgy voice acting, stereotypically-scary environments and plenty of shuffling monsters all baying for blood.

You play as Josh, a tourist taking a train trip across Eastern Europe with wife Kate. An argument ensues and leads to her storming off in a huff. When Josh eventually goes to track her down and apologize, he sees her being carried off by a hulk of a man just before the train suddenly derails. Amid the train wreckage our hapless hero is left with only a few survivors to traipse through woodland, a swamp, cemetery and dungeons as he attempts to track down his beloved – before it’s too late.

Put the cheesy plot to one side and the way the game makes use of Kinect’s unique control method is probably the factor that will intrigue the most.

Forums are awash with doubters who suggest “proper” games can’t make use of motion control or that games involving movement around an arena can’t adequately be played without the traditional joypad. SEGA’s valiant efforts prove that there is more to this camera technology than we’ve seen already. Sure, it’s not perfect and can get tricky and frustrating at times but Kinect's application opens up a wealth of possibilities for the future. Perhaps a Call of Duty-style FPS is but a pipedream right now but there is certainly potential.

Controlling your character in RoN is deceptively simple – albeit not always effective. To move, simply place your foot forward or back and hold it there. Job done. A turn and twist of the body will change your perspective and send you off in another direction. Raise your hands in a boxing stance and fists appear on screen, ready to attack. Although Kinect recognises your movement pretty well, it’s not always easy to make your onscreen persona go exactly where you want it to and I’ll wager you’ll often find yourself walking into walls or getting stuck on scenery.

Fortunately, SEGA makes your life a little easier by including an automated walk option for the majority of the game; simply raise your arm like you want to ask a question or need permission to go to the toilet and the game takes control, steering you in the direction of your next objective without having to carefully position your feet or contort your frame. However, if you’ve ever tried holding your arm extended for any period of time, you’ll be aware how uncomfortable it gets. It’s not a major gripe but, like all motion control games, regular breaks may be necessary for some.

Otherwise, running on the spot, swimming actions, climbing, crouching and kicking are all required at certain stages of the game too and do add somewhat to the feeling of immersion. Gesturing to open doors, turn keys and pull levers adds to your repertoire. For anyone that remembers back a few decades, think cult TV show Knightmare and you’ll get the idea.

Largely though, RoN is all about melee combat and dotted about the gloomy environs are a plethora of tools and weapons that can be wielded or, in some case, flung to fend off the zombie hordes. Anything from lead pipes and rusty knives to electric prods and ice saws can be found, making light work of anything that stands in your way. There are two grievances here though… firstly, only one weapon can be carried at a time and second, like all games of this ilk, they degrade rapidly and disappear – often leaving you in the lurch when surrounded by the undead. Fists just don’t seem to have the same effect as blades and are largely ineffective much of the time.

Graphically, it's not the greatest looking game - in fact the water and vomit effects that splash onto your screen every now and again are arguably the best looking bits. Nevertheless, it does the job; the dungeons look dark and foreboding, and the bad guys suitably nasty.

Ultimately, Rise of Nightmares is fairly engrossing once you master the slightly weird controls. It's very short but tracking down a mad scientist, roaming corridors, solving puzzles and cutting off monsters' limbs is a nice change for Kinect after countless cutesy kids games. RoN is not particularly scary so perhaps fails to live up to its billing in that respect, but it's a fun game for a rental if for no other reason than to see the potential of Kinect.

*Reviewed on Xbox 360


Interesting! I can not wait to play it!!!!!!!!!