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Dark (Xbox360) Review

“I awoke to a world of pain.”

Eric Bane is having a really bad day. After waking up in a nightclub with no memory, he soon finds that his life has been changed forever. It seems he has been turned into a vampire, but his troubles don’t stop there. He is newly turned, and he isn’t a full fledged vampire just yet. To become one, he must drink the blood of the one who turned him – you know, the badass vampire that killed him. The only problem is, Eric doesn’t remember who that is, and failing to follow through will cause his brain to slowly deteriorate, eventually resulting with him as an animalistic ghoul – not a pretty picture. Thankfully, the nightclub Eric woke up in is filled with helpful vampires willing to give the new guy lessons in his vampire abilities. Rose, the nightclub owner, suggests that the blood of an ancient vampire *might* be able to substitute for that of his creator, and so Eric Bane sets off on his mission, beginning with a museum just filled with guys trying to kill him. This won’t be an easy lunch.

The basic gameplay is at first glance pretty basic stealth game stuff. Even though your character is a badass vampire who can shadow leap, see through walls, and regenerate, he just wants to sneak around quietly and not be heard. The game rewards your actions with power points that can be used to upgrade your vampire abilities in whatever way you like – increase speed, decrease noise, etc. – and it both rewards super stealthy kills and penalizes for those that raise alarms. Jumping out and grabbing the guy by the throat may be more fun, but sneaking up behind him like the boogie man is ultimately more effective. You’ll need to combine cool vampire shadow leaps that make noise with good old fashioned sneaking to get the best results.

All that sounds fine, and if everything worked as it should you’d have a decent stealth game that wouldn’t win any awards for originality, but would offer a passably good time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t all work that great, which just leads to frustration. First off, the visuals. In the words of my husband when he first saw me playing the game, “2005 called. It wants its 3D animation back.” The game just looks bad in so many ways. The lip/voice sync is awful, resulting in conversations that look like a badly dubbed kung fu film (which was at least amusing). Being a vampire, Eric naturally must feed on his enemies at times (either that or pop over to the club for a quick Bloody Mary), but the feeding animation is just hideous. Bright red droplets of blood splatter out willy-nilly (although none of it manages to touch Eric’s cool threads), and it is accompanied by a truly awful slurping sound that sounds like a cross between someone hiccuping and vomiting at the same time – I’m wincing now just thinking about it.

Truly one of my biggest gripes with Dark are the stealth aspects – and that’s a big deal, considering it makes up most of the gameplay. The AI characters are either awful and present no challenge, or ridiculously hard – no in between. You are actually told that “some enemies just stand there and look in one direction” – WTH? This is supposed to be a game that challenges your sneaking abilities, and it tells you they aren’t going to look around? Speaking of discrepancies, when Eric first discovers he is a vampire, the bloodsuckers at the club prove it to him by shooting at him. And yet, all those bad guys running around have guns that very much kill you. Weird.

The very worst part is the dragging mechanic. Since you’re trying to be all stealthy, you must hide the bodies of your victims so they won’t be discovered. What should be a simple button push and drag just does not work like it should. You have to be standing in just the right spot, and even then it drops the body over and over as you drag. This is a big deal, since enemies discovering the corpses results in an alarm, which you want to avoid at all costs. I must admit though, I was mildly entertained by watching the bodies flop around in odd contortions seemingly on their own, seeing as how for some reason the dragging mechanic switches to first person view and doesn’t so much as show Eric’s hand pulling the body. It’s just bad.

Dark is just…a disappointment. Granted, it isn’t a game that set out to have a spectacular story, but there are a lot of elements that could lead to a bloody good time. Instead, you have cool vampire abilities that get tripped up by bad mechanics, with terrible graphics to match. Put simply, it sucked (see what I did there?)

About Amy

U.S. Senior Editor/Deputy EIC at BrutalGamer, mother of 5, gamer, reader, wife to @MacAnthony, and all-around bad-ass (no, not really)

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