IGN Review of Vampire Rain
The premise of Vampire Rain seemed promising enough--a dark, brooding city caught in a literal torrential downpour with blood-sucking undead roaming the streets; hungry, and eager to increase their ranks. The intro provided high hopes as well, featuring a pert blonde waitress on her way home late at night. Footsteps crunch atop broken glass and pavement behind her, causing our busy victim to duck into an alleyway and huddle in fear. Too late, she looks up to see an undead clinging to the wall of a nearby building. His fangs glisten, he strikes... and that's where the intro ends. That's also, unfortunately, the last time I remember enjoying the time I spent playing this horrible, horrible game.''''Vampire Rain tells the story of Lloyd, the only member of a group of operatives that has been unfortunate enough to have a run-in with the Nightwalkers before. Lloyd was certainly in better hands than mine during this past experience, as surviving an encounter with Vampire Rain's brand of undead is a rare experience indeed--but I digress. The first thing players will doubtless notice about their in-game avatar is that his aesthetics are a hybrid born from video game legends Solid Snake and Sam Fisher. The body suit reminds me of Snake's first Metal Gear Solid adventure, while the goggles are reminiscent of Sam Fisher's headgear. The use of notable gaming icons might have convinced developer Artoon that they were creating a character destined to be known as renowned, but instead comes off as what it is--an uninspired rip-off.''''Combined with "boring," "laughable," and "poorly acted," "uninspired" seems the perfect way to describe Vampire Rain's attempt at a storyline. The in-game cinematics are well rendered and gripping for the most part, but the dialogue and voice-acting completely shatter any attempt at suspension of disbelief. Too often, the dialogue attempts to overwhelm the player with hand-holding and useless information. Instead of slowly leading into what's happening with characters and the game universe itself, the player is treated with riveting conversations akin to:''''ASSISTANT: Sir, is it true that if the outbreak isn't stopped, the world will be overrun with undead in 908 days?''COMMANDER: [Pounds fist on desk] Where'd you hear that?''ASSISTANT: One of the lab boys, sir.''COMMANDER: You see? This is why you shouldn't allow pencil pushers to run a country! [Assumes grim, determined pose and facial countenance]''ASSISTANT: I'm sorry about your family, sir.''COMMANDER: So am I, son. So am I.''''This sort of trite, worse-than-B-movie dialogue comprises most of Vampire Rain and makes the game painful to watch, let alone painful to actually play. "908 days"? That's rather specific, not to mention the generic tone of the dialogue is both boring and poorly voice-acted.''''Another example comes from a discussion held by Lloyd's strike team concerning his past. One team members asks, "Isn't it true that Lloyd was the only survivor of such-and-such an incident?" The reply is something along the lines of, "Yes, and he was horrifically traumatized after the event." That sort of conversation is completely unnecessary, as Lloyd's past should be and is, in fact, well known among all members of his strike team. Not only was it terribly acted, as is every other story segment, but it was a sloppy way to give the player a bit of background info, and could have been handled much more cleanly by way of some sort of in-game event.''''But that's okay, right? A bad story in a videogame is forgivable if the gameplay is good. True, but unfortunately, Vampire Rain's gameplay is far worse than its story, a feat not easily achieved. Vampire Rain is, first and foremost, a stealth game. Players should expect to conduct quite a bit of sneaking around, taking time to learn patrol routes, watching and learning enemy patterns. In this, the stealth aspect of a stealth game, Vampire Rain fails horrifically. According to the game's pseudo-epic storyline, the constant rainstorm featured in Rain's environments dulls the senses of the undead, which should allow operatives to conduct their espionage without too much interference. In reality, the use of rain seems to be a cover-up for Rain's monumentally stupid artificial intelligence.''''Firstly, before the player does any sort of sneaking and poking around, NPCs must be identified as either harmless or potential threats by way of Necrovision, one of the goggle types our poor man's Sam Fisher uses during his adventures. Undead will glow a murky red when examined through Necrovision, and will subsequently appear on the game's radar screen. Until identified as enemies, they will not appear on the game's radar, which means that the player has to constantly scan every NPC walking around the game world, since vampires are human-esque in appearance. This wouldn't be so bad, except that the goggles have a very low battery life that lasts for no longer than roughly ten seconds. Because of this annoying gameplay quirk, players will find themselves repeating an irritating pattern of moving forward, scanning, moving forward, scanning, moving forward... It's slow, cumbersome, and just plain unnecessary, as the enemies should just be viewable on the radar from the start.''''Not that avoiding the enemies is that difficult. Their cone of vision, a common feature to many stealth games, is usually quite small, and even if the player is seen, enemies typically have to see the player within their cone for as long as 3 to 5 seconds before they decide to come over and attack. It boggles the mind to wonder why, as in other popular games in this genre, an enemy would at least attempt to investigate suspicious activity. Instead, Rain's undead simply stare hard in the player's direction, as if they know that something mischievous is under way--but they just don't care to look unless they can be absolutely sure.''''Vampire Rain's biggest, most glaring flaw lies in the repercussions of actually being seen by a Nightwalker. The enemy rushes over to Lloyd's position, fangs and claws unsheathed, an aura radiating from their rotting bodies like a heat mirage in the desert. I remember clearly the first time I was accosted by a vampire. I whipped out my rapid-fire gun and took aim. The cursor turned red as I squeezed the trigger, pumping round after round of silver bullets--yes, I'm aware that those are used on werewolves, but silver bullets are used here nonetheless--into my oncoming foe. A few seconds later, my clip was empty, the Nightwalker had just over half of his life meter intact--and I was dead after two hits. Two.''''Vampires might as well be invincible in Vampire Rain, because the only time I've ever killed one was with the help of my squad mates, and that was part of a scripted event, so I don't think it counts. I've tried attacking up-close, I've tried attacking from afar, and I've tried everything in-between. Either I suck, or the game is completely unbalanced; not to brag or anything, but I'm rather certain the latter option is the case.''''Hard-to-kill enemies are nothing new to videogames, but it is Vampire Rain's refusal to allow players any chance to fight back that is this scenario's most aggravating feature. The first time a Nightwalker strikes Lloyd, he goes down, stunned. Worse than stunned, actually, as I've seen poor Lloyd get caught in midair, clip through walls, and fall through the ground. But the point is, he's stunned, unable to fight back in any capacity, making him easy prey for the undead's second blow--which always kills the player. It would be nice to be given a chance, even a small one, to attempt escape, since retaliation never seems to work.''''But that's okay, right? After all, if the vampires are stupid to the point that they'll hardly see the players snooping about, there's no need to worry about confrontations, anyway. So everything's fine. Wrong. While most of the environments tend to be large, the paths from start to finish are extremely linear. There's usually one path to get to any certain area, and in this modern age of stealth games where user choice is king, this adds yet another fatal flaw to Vampire Rain's impressive rogues' gallery of bad game design. Because of the game's prolific linearity, trial-and-error gameplay rears its ugly head all too often, making for lots of frustrating continues and restarts.''''One instance placed me in an alleyway, sandwiched between a fence too high to jump and a large building. Proceeding forward, a Nightwalker exited the building, immediately saw me, and killed me before I could futilely draw a gun and fire. Trying again, I took a long route around the building, skipping the alleyway entirely, crept past two undead, and began to spring through an empty parking lot to a street--only to hit an invisible wall with an onscreen message informing me that I was trying to move past the level's parameters. Okay. I then returned to the alleyway, sprinted past the Nightwalker as he exited the building onto the street, only to again smack into an invisible barrier. I finally tried climbing on top of a dumpster next to the door from which the vampire emerges then scaling higher until I got to the roof. It took way too long, and again, the lack of user choice sucked what little fun the game actually contained.''''Many such instances wouldn't be nearly as frustrating if the controls would actually respond occasionally. Aiming with a gun is downright sluggish, though really, trying to attack enemies is a waste of time. My biggest gripe comes with attempting to sidle along walls, a necessary tactic in any stealth game. The appropriate button, the L bumper, seemed to be shut off in some instances, as even when I all but humped a flat surface, Lloyd wouldn't flatten against it.''''Multiplayer continues Vampire Rain's trend of mediocrity and imbalance. Typical modes such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flame--a flame instead of a flag; get it?--are available, as is Death or Nightwalker, a game mode in which one player gets to become an undead after being fragged. Of course, the undead player then has access to the over-balancing which makes the single-player portion of Vampire Rain so frustrating. Certain undead statistics such as movement speed and power can be modified, but the latter can only be lowered to the point where humans are killed in three hits instead of two. A team-based version of Death or Nightwalker is available as well, but just as with any other portion of the game, why even bother? None of the available modes feature anything that isn't available in any other shooter ever made, and almost any other game probably executes tried and true modes such as Deathmatch better than Vampire Rain ever could.''
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