IGN Review of Obscure: The Aftermath
The original Obscure was released almost three years ago and followed the unnerving adventures of a group of high school students fighting to survive against a campus full of mutants and monsters. While reactions to the title were mixed, its focus on cooperative play was indeed notable and separated it from the menagerie of other survival-horror titles available to gamers.
Now, Obscure: The Aftermath has arrived on the Wii. This next iteration in the Obscure franchise once again highlights co-op play and picks up a few years after the events of the original. The surviving characters have started college life but soon find that their tumultuous past has yet to fade away.
Aftermath, like its predecessor, is a very interesting title. First, the aforementioned co-op elements certainly make the experience unique, considering that the majority of similar titles in the genre are restricted to single-player modes. But perhaps more entertaining is the unusual combination of utter cheesiness with genuinely scary and well-executed horror elements, similar to the teen horror films that the series draws its inspiration from. I'll touch on the specifics later, but playing Aftermath was definitely an interesting experience for me.
The majority of the game is spent guiding two characters (from a group of around six, give or take) through small environments crawling with hostile creatures, riddles and the greatly loved ambiguous fog.
Controls for Aftermath are pretty solid, giving you a fair amount of freedom to move around and a little bit of freedom to angle the camera by pointing in different directions on the screen. Multiple weapons can be mapped to the d-pad, giving you some slack to fight the way you want. The Wii remote functionality has been implemented well, using a mix of motion controls and traditional controls to interact with the characters. Most actions use standard button inputs like pressing A to interact with objects and B to fire your weapon, but you shake the nunchuck to reload and wave the Wii remote to swing various melee weapons.
Aftermath does a number of things very well. Considering its somewhat low price point (though it's most expensive on the Wii at thirty dollars), the game looks shockingly nice with some excellent attention to detail. Several of the title's environments are highly atmospheric. The game's sound design is also admirable. Sound effects are generally great but Aftermath's soundtrack is where it truly shines. I was genuinely amazed that such a low-priced title sported such wonderful music. Beautiful orchestral arrangements are paired with stunning, hauntingly angelic choir singers to create some fantastic moments.
In fact, I might go so far as to say that the music -- as well as some of the great environments -- are my favorite elements contained within Aftermath. But again, the gameplay is especially enjoyable because of the co-op. I played pieces of the game with a coworker and also played alone and found both to be entertaining. But if you can work well together, co-op is likely the ideal play experience.
Each character has a particular ability to take advantage of, like decrypting images, picking a lock, moving heavy objects or possessing acrobatic skills. At one point in the game, you have to use a nimble character to jump up and grab the ledge of the second floor in a library. Once you're up there, a monster bursts onto the scene down below, and the character's girlfriend screams and yells for you to pick her up. Shaking the Wii remote will pull her to safety and prevent a nasty battle from taking place. As simple as this moment was, the integration of the cooperative element worked so nicely that it added to the scene's sense of urgency and heightened the overall experience.
But Obscure: The Aftermath has its fair share of problems. Although the voice acting may be intentionally bad to enhance the cheesy teen horror themes, it's still bad. The plot isn't too gripping, either. Although Aftermath is supposed to be a commentary on teen horror flicks, little is done to capitalize on this idea and the plot really fizzles out towards the end. It's a shame too, because the opening is really promising.
Combat can also be frustrating due to some select camera angles and an occasionally stupid AI partner. The Wii version definitely has the most problematic camera because taking out your weapon doesn't snap the perspective behind your character like it does in the other versions, making it harder to see the action. You generally have much less camera control in the Wii version, but the difference is tolerable.
Certain cutscenes can't be skipped, and dying can send you back quite a long ways, which completely wastes your time. Also frustrating is the fact that there is often no indication of which characters you need to use in order to proceed. This means that you'll progress through the environment only to find that there's a lock you need to pick and a certain character isn't with you, meaning you have to run all the way back and get him to follow you. Aftermath doesn't properly run in widescreen on the PC and PS2, but it at least seems to display in widescreen on the Wii (with a somewhat stretched image). Though I should mention that the Wii version gets an Extras menu to listen to the game's soundtrack and watch the (pretty awful) cutscenes, which is at least a nice thought for Wii owners.
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