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Game Profile
Xbox 360
Artoon Studios
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1-8
July 03, 2007
Vampire Rain: Altered Species

 Written by Troy Matsumiya  on September 11, 2008

Reviews: These vampires suck.

I love stealth games. If it has ?Thief? or ?Splinter Cell? in the title, I'll buy it and enjoy every second. So I was very interested when I heard about Vampire Rain, which combined stealth gameplay with vampires. Imagine how cool it would be to sneak around killing vampires!

Well, keep imagining because the only thing cool about Vampire Rain is the disk's temperature when you turn it into a drink coaster.

Created by Japanese developer Artoon, Vampire Rain shows ambition but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. By their nature, stealth games require patience, careful tactics and avoiding conflict, but if you make a mistake and are spotted, you can usually correct that mistake through evasion or fighting the troublemaker.

This doesn't happen in Vampire Rain. If you are spotted, you are dead ? no ifs, ands or buts about it. This is because the vampires (called Nightwalkers) are so ridiculously overpowered you have absolutely no chance of survival. It takes at least a full clip of ammo from your wimpy assault rifle to kill one, but they are so fast and aiming is so slow, you'll never take one down. And when they attack, you are dead in TWO hits. You can also forget about evading them because they will instantly home in on you no matter where you go.

Further unbalancing the game is the fact that the Nightwalkers are extremely sensitive. According to the story, rain suppresses their senses; if so, I'd hate to see how they react in clear weather. Take one step a little too fast while sneaking behind one and they'll hear you and kill you. Try to sneak beyond their cone of vision (which shows up on your radar) and they will still see you and kill you.

The level design also works against you; despite appearing to be wide open with several alternate routes to your objective, the levels are bordered by cheesy invisible walls that you only discover once you try to cross them, at which point the game will admonish you in a very irritating manner. The dull, similar-looking levels are strictly linear with only one pathway, and finding that pathway usually involves a lot of trial and error ? which means being spotted and killed over and over.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that every time you are killed, you must endure the same cutscene of a Nightwalker chomping on your neck followed by a cheap-looking blood-splatter effect on the ?Game Over? screen. Since you can't skip over this cutscene it becomes just another aggravating annoyance to an already irritating game.

This extremely unforgiving gameplay is so punishing, even veteran stealth gamers will want to throw their controllers through the screen. What's worse is the fact that at certain scripted moments, you are forced to fight the Nightwalkers ? at which time your weapons magically become a lot more powerful. For example, about mid-way through the game you get the powerful shotgun, which is a one-shot kill if you catch a Nightwalker by surprise, but requires several shots if he is alerted. However, in the scripted shooting sequences, you can kill alerted Nightwalkers with just a single shot. This inconsistency is confusing and frustrating since you can't rely on your weapon to act the same each time you use it. And enjoy using the powerful weapons while you can because they disappear every time you start a new level, leaving you with the same crappy assault rifle and pistol (which is absolutely useless). You can only use the more powerful weapons after finding them at pre-determined points on the map, which conveniently means it's time for a scripted shooting sequence.

Also inconsistent is the enemy AI. Despite being extremely sensitive to the presence of your character, they're pretty freakin' stupid in all other respects. Snipe an enemy standing face-to-face with another, and his buddy will have absolutely no reaction at all. None. He will just stand there stupidly oblivious to the fact that the person right in front of him just had his head blown off. One time I had to escape from a building while toting a shotgun conveniently placed on the map. Despite retaining the ability to hear my footsteps, enemies completely ignored the huge booming blasts of my shotgun going off in the next room.

The shooting sequences at least give you some satisfaction of killing the almost invincible Nightwalkers but aiming is very slow and awkward. Later in the game you will encounter Nightwalkers with weapons and deadly accurate aim, making gun battles equally as (if not more) frustrating as the stealth portions.

You will occasionally have friendly squadmates fight by your side but again, inconsistency will drive you up the wall. Sometimes they are invincible while other times they can die and fail the mission, and there's no way to tell if they are vulnerable or not until it's too late.

Oh, and if you get so irritated that you want to quit mid-way through a level, think again ? the check point saves are only temporary and will not save if you exit. Leaving a level before it ends means having to start all over from the beginning the next time you play (assuming you want to keep playing, that is), adding yet another layer of annoyance.

Graphically, the game is average at best. The rain effects are simple grey lines that streak down the screen and the uninspired maps all look the same ? in fact, some of them are the same since you revisit several maps. Your character, John Lloyd, looks and moves decently enough; in fact, he looks like a bastard love child between Sam Fisher and Solid Snake. He even copies Sam's moves like shimmying up pipes, clinging hand-over-hand along ledges and flying down zip lines. Enemies do not receive the same graphical treatment however, as they both look and move bad with stiff jerky animation that would be comical if it wasn't so terrible.

Audio effects are basically limited to rainfall since the weapons are all silenced (resulting in barely audible puffs) and the Nightwalkers are also mysteriously silent with a complete absence of any chilling howls or angry snarls. Repetitive NPC conversations that loop continuously also grate on your nerves.

So is there anything good about this game? Well, the opening cutscene is actually quite creepy, and the story unfolds through a ton of cinematic pre-rendered cutscenes. Unfortunately, the story is predictable (special military team dispatched to kill vampires, ?shocking? twist occurs, your character saves the day) and the voice acting is average at best.

The game offers online multiplayer matches for eight people with the usual gamemodes, including one where one player is a Nightwalker. Unfortunately, he has the same ridiculous speed and seemingly bulletproof skin as the single player variety so it's really just a way to share your single player frustrations with other people.

Bottom Line
Vampire Rain had the concept right ? stealth action against vampires ? and even showed ambition with the generous amount of cinematic cutscenes. But the punishing gameplay ? frustrating even for veteran stealth gamers ? inconsistent AI and shooting mechanics, bland and linear level design, and uninspired multiplayer make this a game to avoid. There are a lot better stealth games out there so there is no reason to waste your time and money on this mess.

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