Kinect goes utterly psychoticballs.
Now, this is more like it. Remember when Kinect was first announced? Back in the days of Project Natal the hardcore were crying out for something to get their teeth stuck into. Something that we can show off to those Wii users that it’s us that has the serious motion control, it’s here to stay and you’re never gonna pick up a Remote ever again. You don’t need it, why would you? From now we’re gonna be wielding guns and swords with our hands, not controllers. Buttons? I don’t need em thanks, ‘Halo Natal’ is gonna rule the world. SIT DOWN MOTION CONTROL.
Um…yeah. Cut to a year later and we’re watching Microsoft’s E3 presentation of Natal, now called Kinect. ‘Kinect Adventures’, ‘Kinectimals’, ‘Kinect Joy Ride’, ‘Carnival Games’. Ooohhh I see, Microsoft. You don’t want to prove to Nintendo how to do it, you want to JOIN them. I see. *facepalm*
See, as much fun as you can have with ‘Kinect Adventures’ (River Rapid FTW), you can’t really assume the core Xbox fanbase are going to pick up Kinect for these games. Kinect had an incredible start in sales, but the software was seriously lacking in deep, dark, imaginative adventures and genuinely unique uses of the incredible technology Kinect can really offer. Well, here we go. Welcome ‘Rise of Nightmares’ – the funnest Kinect game to date, which isn’t really saying much. Let me explain.
Quite simply, there is nothing else like ‘Rise of Nightmares’ available on Kinect. From the visceral presentation to it’s action adventure / horror experience, you just can’t compare it to anything else. From your initial opening sequence – awaking in a jail cell with a woman, attempting to escape the horde (or 4) of the undead, only to be crushed between two enclosing walls surrounding you. Blood and guts pour across the floor as the words ‘Rise of Nightmares’ descend onto your screen. ‘Kinectimals’ this ain’t.
You’re playing as Josh, who you first encounter on a train with his wife, Kate. Josh is a recovering alcoholic who is trying to get sober, seemingly this has made the marriage rather strenuous as you get a right earful when a flask falls from your jacket onto the floor infront of her. This becomes null and void however when the train derails and Kate is missing. Working your way through the carriages (easier said than done) you will eventually arrive at a carriage covered in blood and bodies and you discover Kate has been captured by a mad scientist and his very own Frankenstein, carrying Kate over his shoulder.
During this sequence, you clumsily get used to the unique Kinect controls, certainly the most interactive of all the games so far released for the device. No controller required here, so all movements are with their respective body parts (pun intended). Wanna move forward? Place your foot in front of you, the speed you walk is determined on how close you move your foot towards Kinect. To move backwards, place your foot behind you. Left and right, turn your shoulders left or right respectively. It sounds a little complicated, and at first it certainly does take a huge amount of getting used too. Luckily, this sequence provides you with enough time to familiarise yourself with the controls and what they do.
It seems to take forever but once you finally come face to face with the enemies it’s sadly quite underwhelming. You have a varied choice of weapons, spread across the dungeons on the floors and tables, just a case of reaching out your hand to pick them up, which is nice. What’s not so nice is attempting to pick them up and getting surrounded by zombies at the same time, of course you can only really target a single enemy at once so picking up a weapon seems rather pointless, although they do get more exciting as the game progresses. Nothing really beats tearing a chainsaw through the face of the undead. The gore is naturally pretty substantial in ‘Rise of Nightmares’, the red stuff is everywhere you look, flying at your face (along with disturbingly accurate vomit, hitting your screen to shun your vision for an annoyingly long amount of time) and running down the walls, suffice to say this is a game for the hardcore Kinect player. Do it live up to that expectation?
Yes, kind of. Action, violence, swearing and booze? Check. All available at your mercy should you choose to divulge. A gripping story? Original levels, layout and design? Well, no. As you may have guessed from the description of your character, the story is really nothing more than saving your wife from the clutches of a mad scientist while tearing zombies apart with chainsaws and machetes. The design of the dungeons isn’t awful, but it’s not that great either, if you are really having trouble with the movement controls you can raise your right hand and have the game navigate for you, which will automatically take you to your next objective, with your hand still up in the air (only while walking though – when you reach an obstacle it’s up to you and your body to pass it) It’s at this point you notice that really the design is just A-B, save one or two particular areas. Reaching ‘B’ is usually just a prompt on the screen to interact with a door, a gate, a button or a lever. Just hold your hand out to interact, when done so another prompt will appear telling you to interact with what is in front of you the same way you would in real life. For example if you see a lever, move your hand onto the lever and pull down. Need to climb underneath something? Crouch! Weirdly, the only time Josh is able to do this is when prompted, something I found rather odd. There are plenty of obstacles though such as a hallway sequence featuring huge big ass guillotine blades hanging above you, which is all the more difficult when you realise Josh can’t look up, only left or right. No matter how hard you try to gaze is fixed at one line, annoying considering timing is essential in this particular section. It’s not all that difficult, save the final blade that won’t come down until you get right up next to it, which caught me out a couple of times. You can also forget about running, the fastest speed you’ll go is pretty much ‘brisk walk’, no matter how far you place your foot in front of you. It sadly becomes a little guesswork, and comes as quite a shock as its the first moment in the game you’re mentally tested, its only once the game is over you realise that was more or less the only time it happens.
Should I score this game down because it’s utterly brainless? Isn’t its inspired use of Kinect enough of a challenge to get your head around? Well yeah, but it shouldn’t be like this. If Kinect is to genuinely replace the controller as the standard for gaming, it has to weave into the game as seamlessly and as naturally as picking up a controller. Yes we’re very early in the conception of this technology, there is so much more to learn about how it really works and what it can do. SEGA are certainly moving in the right direction with the full body control, but it’s not even close to complete motion control. The controls work, they do. Every move you make is mimicked on screen, but that’s it. An argument for ‘on-rails’ is lightly sprung up here, but does that take away the point of Kinect altogether? The atmosphere of ‘Rise of Nightmares’ is without question its biggest draw. You have no idea whats around the corner, the lighting and the audio is second to none, the best we’ve seen Kinect provide so far. However none of this really matters when you’re stuck in front of a wall going around and around in circles, trying to move out of its way.
It’s not all bad though. A few reviews I’ve read has mentioned this particular section but I’m going to comment on it anyway, such is its devine genius.
Eventually you’ll meet Ernst, a nasty beast bigger than anything you care to imagine. Any movement or noise is his Achilles heel, so in response you have to stay completely still and utterly silent to avoid him noticing or attacking you. It’s a genuinely terrifying moment, and gets the blood racing and keeps you utterly engrossed. Surviving this section, breathe the biggest sigh you can muster, you’re going to need too. Definitely the game highlight.
‘Rise of Nightmares’ is such a mixed bag. I’ve been trying to explain the game to people, and how I perplexed myself on whether or not I enjoyed it. Truth is, there is fun to be had here. All you need is an immense amount of patience and you should get exactly what is expected from a game like this. It’s not exactly solid, but it’s by no means the worst game of the year. If you’re a fan of horror, get your body into it, you’ll have a great time. If you’re not, there isn’t much for you to see here.