Review by nhl80

Reviewed: 08/22/05

Pretty Good Game

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. 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.

Xbox Live features online modes that accommodate up to 16 players. If you're not satisfied with the single-player mode then this will definitely make things up to you. The framerate is solid, even at maximum capacity. Modes include Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Soul Hunter.

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.

Rating: 8

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