Review by LordShibas
Welcome to......Xbox is Jericho!!!!
This review will be based on the single player portion of Darkwatch.
Darkwatch is a tough game for me to review. Darkwatch is one of those games that really doesnt do anything wrong, but it doesnt really do anything new and exciting. Its a well made game, but most of it has been done before.
Darkwatch is a dark themed fps game that puts you in control of Jericho Cross, a well known train robber in the old West. The beginning of the game has Jericho storming a train, and when Jericho opens what appears to be the spoils, he unleashes the dark being Lazarus unto the world. Lazarus strikes Jericho with a curse, and turns him into a half vampire. Now Jericho much hunt down Lazarus to stop the curse and save the world.
The story is not bad for an fps game and it keeps things interesting. It gives some purpose to the mindless blasting, despite some of the cut scenes seeming kind of random.
Darkwatch incorporates the majority of the Halo control scheme, so its an easy game to pick up and play. In fact, the controls are very fluid, and one of the best parts of the game.
Darkwatch is more of an action fps game. Dont expect to solve in-depth puzzles, or have to figure out how to open doors, just be ready to blast wave after wave of enemies and thats pretty much it. There are some slight variations to the formula throughout the game, but combat is the majority of the game.
Aside from standard fps weapons, you will have access to special Vampire Powers later in the game. Which powers you obtain will be determined by what you do with wandering souls you come across. If you choose to save them and be good, you will get light powers, if you choose to feast on them, you will acquire dark powers. I went the Light route, and found the powers to be not that helpful at first, but very helpful later on.
Enemy variety in Darkwatch was one of my biggest issues with the game. There just isnt enough different types of enemies to shoot at. Id say theres about 7 or so different enemies in the game, so be ready to shoot them and use your familiar strategies to defeat them. In the games defense, the enemies designs are pretty cool, and some are pretty creepy for an fps game.
Darkwatch seemed to be a rollercoaster ride of good and bad things for me. There were times when I really liked it, and there were times where it felt repetitive and boring. However, its a fairly short game, and I found it worth my while to play it. Lets look at a more in-depth breakdown of the game.
Darkwatch is really average in the graphics department. I might be somewhat impressed if this were a PS2 game, but the Xbox can do much better than this. In fact, the PS2 version and Xbox version of this game look identical. No extra effort was put into the additional power of the Xbox. So that means no progressive scan as well. The visuals are pretty dark for the most part, but you will still be able to make everything out okay. No flashlight is needed. Jerichos character model looks pretty bad. He looks like a deformed guy to some degree. I dont now what they were going for when they designed him, but it didnt work. Luckily its an fps game and I dont have to look at the ugly character model.
The enemies on the other hand look pretty good. Despite not having a huge variety of enemies, they are very detailed and it looks like extra special care was given to their design. You will fight standard Reapers which are just undead with scythes that will try to melee you, all the way to giant, grotesque, vomit spewing, fat, sword wielding Oozers. There are a few other types you will run into, and most of them have a unique strategy to take them out, often making for some exciting gameplay.
The graphics on the cut scenes are mediocre as well, in fact I may even put them below average. There are lots of cut scenes in this game, but only 1 or 2 impressed me.
Despite the mediocre graphics, the game runs smooth as silk. I didnt notice a single graphical glitch the entire game, nor did I notice any frame rate drops when lots of enemies were on the screen and I was fighting in a burning village with 40 foot flames in the air. So Darkwatch gets points in the graphical department for its stability.
The developers obviously wanted the story to be a huge driving force in the game. Its apparent with all the cut scenes and constant yammering from the people helping you, however, I actually found it to be pretty cliche, and too one dimensional to be of any long term interest.
Most fps games show you a cut scene before and after every level, however, Darkwatch seems to throw a cut scene at you every loading screen. So you will see maybe 4-5 cut scenes per level. Its not so bad in between levels, but it breaks up the run and gun action of the game, which is the core of the game. So in actuality the story actually brings the game down IMO. Quite honestly Id prefer a game like Serious Sam where theres really no rhyme or reason to what you are doing, its just really fun and intense (Okay Serious Sam has a story but its paper thin).
Just to let you younger players out there know, there is indeed a sex-scene in the game during one of the cut scenes, but its only about 20 seconds long.
So the story is okay for an fps game, and may keep you playing, but I found the solid and fun gameplay was the factor that pushed me forward in Darkwatch, not so much the story.
Music and Sounds 8/10
No doubt one of the best parts of Darkwatch is the sounds. Im not the kind of gamer that sits up and takes notice to music and sounds in games unless its very well done. The music was not really a factor, so Ill focus on the sound effects.
Everything in the game, from firing your guns, to pistol whipping your enemies, to hearing the screams of the Banshees all sounds great. Lit sticks of dynamite even sizzle as you toss them at you enemies. Often you can tell which enemies are around the corner by waiting to hear them. This is also helpful when you step into an open field for a huge battle, and can instantly tell what you are up against, so you can plan accordingly.
The sound effects also help to make for a creepy atmosphere as well. Often you will hear growls and noises that make you think that enemies are right upon you. So you will go into defensive mode and scope the area around you, only to find nothing. Its not frequent enough to get annoying, and I found it to be a nice touch.
I found the gameplay in Darkwatch to be really good, but it looses some points for the repetitive scenarios and lack of anything new and exciting.
Ill start with the good here. First off, the controls are great. As I said before, very Halo-like, and super fluid. You will have no trouble picking up this game and knowing what you are doing. Darkwatch also lacks any really in-depth strategies, so that makes it even easier to pick up and play.
The variety of weapons at your disposal all have their own purpose, and you will quickly learn which to use on which enemies. Its not really necessary though, since any weapon can take down any enemy with a little effort. Speaking of the weapons, you can only carry two at one time, so you will need to choose which to take, and which to leave behind. It usually doesnt matter much though. I usually wound up taking whatever guns had the most ammo, just to make sure I didnt run out. Ammo conservation is not usually an issue in Darkwatch, but it can be a hassle during one boss fight in particular.
Speaking of boss fights, how are they in Darkwatch? Pretty much non-existent. There are 2 total and thats it. I found them both pretty intense and challenging when I finally got to them, and they were VERY welcome when I got to them. (Something new)
The actual gameplay in Darkwatch is run and gun fps shooting, and if you like that style of game, you will enjoy it quite a bit. Un-listed objectives usually consist of clearing an area of enemies, or depleting a meter at the top of the screen that goes down every time you kill an enemy. Just for variety, you will often come across Marks of Evil, which are trees that sprout up from the ground and produce an endless supply of enemies until it is destroyed. This adds a little bit of an urgency factor to the gameplay, but they can usually be taken down pretty quickly and then you can move on.
Enemies often take quite a bit of ammo to drop. There is good hit detection, so enemies can be be-headed for a quick kill, and arms can be hacked off, leaving enemies helpless until you dispose of them.
As you can see theres a lot for any fps fan to like in Darkwatch. Its really a great presentation overall. However, there are some things that drag it down.
A few bad things about the gameplay. First off, the constant shooting and moving on to the next are to kill more enemies can get repetitive. The fact that there are only a handful of enemy types will start to weigh on you, and you will get sick of fighting the same enemies over and over. Its a nice change when you finally run into a new enemy type, but these changes are too far between and I really see no excuse for this.
The jumping controls are pretty awkward. You can do a double jump to get to high places since you are half vampire, but it feels weird jumping around and I often found myself missing my mark, getting stuck on objects, or shooting myself way over my target.
I ran into some issues with getting stuck on objects in the environment. It was sometimes hard to hug walls and get off quick shots since it seemed like I was sticking to them. I even got myself completely stuck one time on the outside level, looking for shade, and I had to reset the game.
The enemy AI is pretty sad too. Most enemies just charge you. Snipers will keep their distance and shoot at you, but once you shoot them, they often just stand there and wait to be put out of their misery. Enemies will attack you in packs though, so you need to be ready when that happens, but overall, the enemy AI is not that great.
Length and Re-playability 7/10
Darkwatch is a fairly short game, it can be finished in a few hour long sittings, but quite honestly I would not want this game to be much longer. Not because I didnt like it, but it would just be more repetition, and would drag it down even more IMO.
The intense run and gun gameplay is more than enough to get you to come back for more after you have beaten the game. Theres also a light and dark path which you can explore, and some hidden goodies from the main menu which can be un-locked. There are also 4 difficulty levels to play through.
Darkwatch is pretty mediocre fps stuff, so you may not want to bother with it again when you could be playing something like Halo, but its something that you can throw in and finish in a weekend. So its not really a long term commitment game, which is nice.
So who should play Darkwatch? If you like run and gun action fps games then pick this game up, you can get it cheap now. Its a quick journey and it doesnt really break any new ground, but its a solid game and does lots of things right. Whether you like it or not will depend on your personal tastes.
My review score 7/10
Product Release: Darkwatch (US, 08/16/05)
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