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Xbox 360 Review: Vampire Rain

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Published by Microsoft and Developed by Artoon, the Xbox 360 exclusive Vampire Rain pits you, the leader of a small squad of commandos, against a legion of urban vampire changelings. Get ready for terror! More like get ready for a terror-ible game.

The premise of Vampire Rain is a sort of stealth/horror hybrid. Owing less to the ultra popular and ever-evolving Resident Evil series than to Splinter Cell and its many sequels, for a survival horror/stealth hybrid, Vampire Rain has a long way to go to achieve the sort of wild success that either of those franchises has secured. Vampire Rain lacks the morbid sense of humor and the sandbox environment of a game like Dead Rising or the blind-corner thrill and constant action of Gears of War – two superior third-person action games available on the 360.

The problem with Vampire Rain – and most games in the so-called survival horror genre in general – is the perception that you can just throw monsters in a game, make it marginally scary, give the main character guns and people should want to play it. If anything, these are only the very basic elements to creating a next-gen survival horror game with any sort of lasting impact. Each progressive title should incorporate and exploit subtle or blatant differences, such as – I don’t know – story, design and basic game play elements. When one throws a title like Vampire Rain in the 360, one isn’t looking for something similar to a pre-existing, more successful and original title. One is looking for a new experience, worthy of the hefty price laid down in order to purchase said game ($59.99 suggested retail price.)

As John Lloyd, you and your Anti-Nightwalker Mission team are dropped into a rain-soaked urban cityscape absolutely riddled with Nightwalkers. It is your task to run around with your team, completing certain tasks, avoiding and/or eliminating the Nightwalkers as you go. You find yourself climbing ladders, shimmying along ledges, hiding behind cars, etc., all to avoid the wrath of the deadly Nightwalkers. And they are deadly. The problem is, the Nightwalkers are extremely strong, and if they attack you, then you’re dead. No chance of survival. You are dead. The transformation from citizen to Nightwalker is as instantaneous and anti-climactic as your death. I don’t understand the appeal of a game where the object is to avoid combat entirely, lest your participation of said game be cut prematurely short due to your characters untimely demise. After all, this is an “action” game. Additionally, for all their strength, the Nightwalker A.I. isn’t all that stunning, either. The human-form Nightwalkers grunt a warning that they have detected you, but will often times stand there staring at you instead of charging and engaging you. Most of the time, if you are in shadows and are standing still, they continue on whatever pattern they have been programmed with and you can carry on. Other times, you will round a blind corner and be instantly attacked. If it weren’t so maddening, it might be kind of fun. But, sadly, it isn’t.

It’s easy to imagine how frustrating it is to play a game where you are armed with weapons that are pretty much useless. A Nightwalker can be killed with the help of your squad members, but as John Lloyd, you are initially incapable of killing a Nightwalker without being killed or taking heavy damage yourself. Instead, most of the early missions are based on stealthily avoiding detection, which grows tiresome rather quickly. By the time you are learning the ins and outs of the game play, you really don’t heed the Nightwalkers’ burped warnings, favoring instead to just let them chase you and quickly kill you in the hopes that the act of doing so will allow you to see more of the area and reveal the secret as to how to solve whatever task it is that you’ve been charged with at the time. Did I mention that I’m writing this in regard to the irritating and far-from-illuminating tutorial? That’s the problem: even in the tutorial, it’s rarely clear how to go about completing your objective. When your desire to continue playing the game is sapped before the tutorial is even over, you’re in trouble.

Vampire Rain has not thus far proven a very popular game. Perhaps for this reason, there is already additional material available for free download on Xbox Live, which includes two new missions you can play as peripheral characters.

Most of the single player mode achievements are based around completing stages, but the majority of the achievements come from online multiplayer play. In fact, Vampire Rain seems like it’s one of those games designed for multiplayer online play, with the single player aspect a mere second thought and for that reason, I found this game really hard to like. Not that the lack of emphasis on the single player mode is the only reason not to like it.

Overall, Vampire Rain is bizarrely un-fun and just frustrating enough to annoy one into not wanting to play it. I scarcely think it’s worth the money to rent, not to mention the price to own. There is another Vampire Rain title in development for the Playstation 3. It will be interesting to see what kind of modifications, if any, are made to that game to improve its appeal. Maybe Artoon will learn from its mistakes and tweak the game to make it more immersive, and more enjoyable.

Do yourself a favor and skip Vampire Rain. You’re better off replaying Dead Rising or Gears of War.

Vampire Rain is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore and Intense Violence.

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