Vampire Rain (Xbox 360) review
"For five years, Vampire Rain had me spooked, and not because of the experience I had with it. In fact, I never even played this release until 2012."
For five years, Vampire Rain had me spooked, and not because of the experience I had with it. In fact, I never even played this release until 2012. Actually, the reason I was spooked is due to the amazing backlash Vampire Rain got when it first came out, and continues to get, on and off, to this day, with some claiming it to be one of the worst games ever. Whether it'd be in passing in chat rooms, on message boards, professional or user reviews, the supposed consensus was so against the game, you'd think any positive remarks that eventually came to light were just that of people joking around. Even when the title's price was severely cut to under $20 for new copies, I really had trouble purchasing it for kicks. That's just how much the negativity had an impact on my perception of a game I never touched.
Until now, of course. I was expecting bad things to happen, to encounter enemy AI that sees through walls, and to be frustrated for hours on end. However, after spending a day completing the first five or so stages of this stealth title, involving a US black ops group sent to rid a city of a secret vampire populous problem, I was left with a confused state of mind. Confused about the terrible quality of Vampire Rain? No, I was puzzled by the very lack of badness the game inhibited. While in no way a hidden gem for the ages, it's still a commendably decent video game that approaches its mechanics in a very basic, but still playable, manner. Using a mix of elements that you've seen in the genre's more famous releases, Metal Gear and Splinter Cell, you control one of the group's four soldiers, and for most of Vampire Rain, travel from Point A to Point B while avoiding the detection of Nightwalkers, the game's other term for vampires.
Since these vampires have super human strength that can kill your character in two hits, plus having a limited set of weapons that are only useful for opening locks and scaring away noisy birds, stealth plays a very dominating role. This means you have to find and observe the best course of action in each linear stage (invisible barriers are only seen on radar when you're up against them), spotting alleyways, drain pipes, ladders, and tight ropes, in and around buildings, and on rooftops. There's another aspect to contend with, as well: vampires and civilians look exactly alike. An additional obstacle latched on to that is how no one shows up on your radar, at least not at first. One of Vampire Rain's more interesting features is how you can "tag" people by turning on your Necrovision, a device that distinguishes the two and have them show on radar, including their cone vision. There are setbacks, like a low battery life and having to detect the person's full figure for the tag to take affect, so there's no half-assing here. It's with all these elements and strict stealth mechanics that the game has more in common with a puzzle title than other stealth releases that give more leverage, and can kinda get absorbing when you view it that way.
That's not to say Vampire Rain is 100% stealth, since some form of variation is tossed in every now and then. Stage four, as one example, introduces the sniper rifle, and you're given the opportunity to headshot Nightwalkers throughout. Though, ammo becomes scarce in later stages when you stumble upon it, as well for other weapons that eventually crop up. For a fun diversion, too, is getting a chance to blow away an apartment complex full of vampires once the shotgun is discovered. There's also a bomb-finding mission thrown in for good measure, and even a part where you must find your way through a warehouse maze of stacked crates and shelves while being haunted by a spandex-wearing vampire. But I gotta question the inclusion of straight-forward, valve-turning sections in two stages; there's variety, and then there's filler.
Amazingly, even with all these elements and mechanics in place, Vampire Rain still successfully manages to be very atypical about the whole thing, preventing the game from being better than it currently is. I feel the developers didn't take full, or even half, advantage of the vampire gimmick: there's one instance late in where you can use a search light to paralyze a fast Nightwalker, but other than that, weaknesses associated with vampires show up sparsely. You can easily switch them out for almost any random threat, like, say, giant killer mushrooms, and you'd still have the same, workable template underneath. The setting, a city at night, as well as the plot and characters that really don't grip you, also add to the basic feel of the game. When someone "important" dies, all you'll think is, "Oh, he's dead." The devs also attempt some jump scares when you're about to move sneakily into a new location, which works for the first three-ish levels, but once you figure out how the game script functions, it becomes somewhat predictable. Oh, there's also an obligatory little girl stalker that appears sometimes. Yeah...
With these issues present, the game still doesn't come close to being one of the worst games ever, not even a bad one, at that. When I think of bad games, I reminisce of NES-era titles that were badly coded. When I think of bad games with horrible design, I remember stuff like Blue Stinger's asinine way of progressing the plot with absurd and time-wasting side jobs. When I think of bad stealth games, I hark back to my experience with the Lupin the 3rd PlayStation 2 release, and how it has an annoying button setup and nasty enemy AI that sees through your disguises in a heartbeat. Vampire Rain can't be lumped into these three styles of bad, and shouldn't be.
Now, I make it a rule not to read up on other people's opinions of a game I'm about to review, so I can maintain a fresh perspective, and I make it a bigger rule not to drag other's opinions, at least to this detailed extent, into my own review. But in this case, it can't be helped due to the very bizarre circumstance regarding the hate for Vampire Rain. Judging by what I've read concerning the reaction the game received once it was released, gamers automatically assumed this was going to be an action-oriented title. I've come to this conclusion thanks to Vampire Rain being oddly compared to, as bad versions of, the following: Blade, Resident Evil 4, Rainbow Six, BioShock, Panzer Dragoon Orta, and my personal favorite, The Legend of Zelda. Incidentally, the same people that wanted it to be an action game also declared it a very difficult title, since they kept dying while shooting vampires. Go figure. It's one thing to be disappointed with a release that doesn't live up to expectations within its genre, but it's completely childish to spew venom towards a game just because it doesn't live up to expectations of being in an entirely different genre that it never touted itself to be in the first place...
Vampire Rain didn't deserve this.
Community review by pickhut (October 13, 2012)
Pick any sci-fi game from the 1980s and you're likely to spot an Alien reference.
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