Vampire Rainby Jake Reardon
June 26, 2007
Already released in Japan, Microsoft and developer Artoon are bringing an interesting take on the horror/stealth/survival third person shooter to North America this July in the form of "Vampire Rain". The stars of the show are a new breed of Vampires known as Nightwalkers. They hunger for your blood and if they see you walking around not paying attention your reward is a guaranteed trip to the morgue. This vampire infestation is not your typical fare though -- as Nightwalkers are a grotesque and highly evolved form still not understood by mankind. Fortunately, you take on the role of an American Information Bureau (AIB) black ops team member, whose top secret mission is to eliminate all of the Nightwalkers within the span of a single night. Sounds easy right? Well not so fast there Mr Sam Fisher look alike... despite possessing all the firepower and technology of a small army, just like a modern day version of Rock-Paper-Scissors (lets call it Vampire - Gun - Smokes), Vampire always beats Gun.
The main single player mode revolves around hunting down and eliminating the mysterious breed of Vampires who have infested and taken over your city. Surviving the threat is as important as finding out the mystery behind the menace. The problem is that Nightwalkers look just like regular citizens when not "alert" to your presence. Thankfully on top of weapons, you have Necrovision goggles that can be used to weed out the bad guys from the good guys.
At its heart, Vampire Rain is a stealth shooter. The word shooter can be used loosely though as a majority of your time will be spent hiding in the shadows and the cover of rain, and climbing up and around buildings to avoid being detected. The reason for the stealth is that a direct encounter with just one Nightwalker almost always leads to death. They are just too quick, fast, and powerful to take out with traditional fire arms. If you are spotted or come within a Nightwalkers' cone of vision, prepare to go back to your last checkpoint. The constant rain acts as a buffer and dulls the Nightwalkers senses a bit, but the best plan of attack is to avoid encounters at all costs. There are ways to kill Nightwalkers though; it just needs to be very deliberate and planned out. You can sneak up on them with a UV knife, stab them in the back and watch them melt. Later on in the game when you acquire a shot gun nothing beats a close range blast to the back. Well, nothing except a head shot from the sniper rifle.
The pace of the game feels very slow and deliberate, with bits of action sprinkled on top. Based on the enemy behavior when not alert to your presence, there is one fact you should take away from "Vampire Rain" -- Vampires love to stand outside in the rain and smoke cigarettes. It may sound odd, but a majority of the enemies you face just stand around staring blankly into space puffing on smokes. So that’s why they have such bad skin!
The mission structure takes you from point to point as you investigate what happened to your advance tactical team, and try to learn what can be done to stop the Nightwalker menace. The main mechanic at play is getting from Point A to Point B type of stuff; all while taking great care to avoid any enemy contact. There is an end goal in place and that is to eliminate the "Main” walker - the enemy who spawned all others. Sprinkled throughout these rooftop hide and seek missions are a few sniper levels. The main goal in these levels is to snipe the slow moving walkers with head shots in a one kill one hit yawn fest. Miss a shot even by an inch, and don't be surprised to see an enemy leap 3 stories up to find and kill you.
There is a lot of blood and gore to be seen, so fans of either should be satisfied. Some of the more extreme instances included 3 victims literally impaled on traffic signs and a guy strung upside down from the roof with one leg left attached. Yet another victim had a giant air conditioner unit dropped on his head. You never get to see any of this actually happen, but coming across these scenes of horror adds to the atmosphere and fear factor the game is going for.
Overall, it really is hard to define exactly what type of game Vampire Rain is and predict how North American gamers will take to it. Broken down into simple elements, each level feels like either a stealth puzzle, a sniping mini game, or a budget "find the item" type mission. There are some interesting concepts explored via the characters and story though, which should keep fans of the genre at least partially interested in finishing the battle.