Last year, Vampire Rain was released on the Xbox 360. It didn't do so well -- in fact, it's netting a 3.7 press average over on GameStats.
Now, more than 13 months after its debut on the console that Gates built, Vampire Rain: Altered Species has arrived on the PlayStation 3.
Don't let the name fool you; this is a port of the 360 version with a few bells and whistles tacked on. Vampire Rain still stinks.
Vampire Rain casts you as John Lloyd, a member of a super-special combat unit under the control of the American Information Bureau. Seems in this reality, the millions of people who disappear into thin air are actually either being eaten up by Nightwalkers -- the official term for the bloodsuckers you're dealing with -- or becoming them. The Nightwalker population is getting way too high and you need to swoop in and thin out the ranks a bit. Joining you on this task is Hank Harrison (stereotypical squad leader), Claire Kelly (the stereotypical femme fatale), and Duane Hanson (the stereotypical tech man). In the midst of a rainstorm, your team of four is set loose on a town full of Nightwalkers in an attempt to find a lost AIB unit that hasn't been heard from and take out the Prime Nightwalker, which will kill all the other Nightwalkers under his control. Because these creatures are so powerful, you're mission is one of stealth where fighting should be the last option.
I don't know about you, but that actually all sounds pretty cool. Rain is pouring down during this mission, and stalking around the city in my Solid Snake/Sam Fischer body suit seems like it would be a blast.
Vampire Rain screws up a lot of things -- and I'll tell you about all of them -- but chief among the problems is that it misses the most basic point of a stealth game and gives you just one way to go. Whereas other games in the genre allow you to create your own path or toss something one way to get an enemy to go investigate, Vampire Rain levels are setup so that one path is the only way to victory. You can try to go up on a dumpster, jump over a fence, or sneak away from a Nightwalker, but the truth is that the developers made one enemy-lined path through every level and you have no choice but to follow it. When you try to get creative and take the most direct route to the flashing arrow on your radar, you're usually reprimanded for leaving the mission area and pushed back to the empty, empty city streets.
Now, although these streets are pretty much abandoned -- and so lifeless with their flat surfaces, straight lines, and paintings for windows that they look like they were ripped from a PlayStation 2 game -- you will find the occasional Nightwalker on them. Now, the rain that's pouring from the heavens is said to dull the senses of the Nightwalkers, but that really can't mask the fact that these enemies are borderline retarded. These tools will just sit there and stare straight ahead for hours on end. If they see you, a set of eyes will flash on the screen and give you ample time to run from their line of sight. If you get out of the way quick enough, the Nightwalkers forget that they just saw a commando in the middle of an alley and go back to staring at nothing. If you don't get out of the way in time, the Nightwalker sheds its human form for that of a grotesque zombie-like appearance and charges you.
Nine times out of ten, this means you're dead. See, the Nightwalkers kill you in two blows. The first knocks you to the floor, and the second brings the blood and a laughable death groan.
Now, you're a special forces type, so you are packing a handgun and machine gun from the start of the game, but these weapons are pretty much useless. Sure, if you engage the monster with the machine gun from far enough away, the vamp will be dead before it gets to you, but the handgun is worthless no matter how far you stand back and the machine gun won't help you in close quarters. You'll play the first eight or so chapters like this -- knowing you're screwed if a creature sees you -- but eventually you'll get a UV knife for stealth kills and a shotgun for one-hit kills. Of course, the shotgun is taken away pretty much as soon as you get it with the game only giving it back to you when it sees fit.
Why would they want you to have fun, right?
The game only gets crazier in a bad way from there. Although these Nightwalkers stumble around like zombies when they're in their vampire form, when they're in their human forms they seem to hold down regular jobs and even talk about TV. Although the rain is supposedly dampening the senses of the creatures, when I was making my assault on the Prime Nightwalker inside his hideout (i.e. out of the rain), I found several beasts just standing in corners and staring at walls. When I fought the Prime Walker -- the mack daddy of these Nightwalkers -- his shotgun blasts barely hurt me and it was easy to drain his life bar.
So, his minions can wax me in two hits, but the big guy can't touch me and has a guttural laugh/cry that sounds like it was stolen from Streets of Rage?
If the AI doesn't float your boat, Vampire Rain packs an online mode for you to delve into and play with up to seven additional PS3 owners who got duped into picking up this game. Online packs the traditional modes such as Deathmatch, TDM, and CTF; but there's also Death or Nightwalkers -- a gameplay type that casts some folks as Nightwalkers and some as soldiers. I've tried to play online several times, but the results haven't been all that great. Most of the time no one is on, but shortly after midnight last night I found two games in Japan and one in the U.S. Every time I'd try to join the Japanese games, I'd get kicked back to the online menu and told the games were no longer available even though I could see that they were. When I tried to join the U.S. game, I just sat in the match's lobby. The host never selected that he was ready. I assume he came home from buying Vampire Rain: Altered Species, played some single-player, quit after getting killed by some Nightwalkers, created a multiplayer room, sat there staring at the screen for hours, and then drank whatever he had under his sink to dull the pain of spending $40 on this.
If he could've just held on another few hours, he would've seen that I shared his pain.
As this train wreck comes to a close, I'd like to go on a bit of a rant if you'll indulge me. Although the majority of people disliked Vampire Rain the first time it hit store shelves, I did see more than a few folks defending the game on message boards and claiming that it was just too hard and too stealthy for some people.
I'd like to go on record as saying Vampire Rain is not hard; it's dumb.
Sure, getting killed on sight by Nightwalkers sucks, but seeing as how there's one path and the creatures rarely move, you always know what you're up against and where it is. You can even click over to Necrovision on your fancy goggles and have the device ID Nightwalkers and place their cones of vision on your radar so you can just walk around their sightlines. This means that this game is simply trial and error. At no point did I feel challenged while playing this game -- if I died, I just knew how to address the situation differently the next time I ran into it. This thing is on rails and doesn't even come close to being a true stealth title.
"Linear" is the adjective people need to start using to describe this title. Not "hard" -- although "bad" is also acceptable.
Oh, and this game takes 25 minutes to install.
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