The Kinect hasn’t offered much in the way of a hardcore, Mature-rated, motion-controlled experience, as of yet. However, Sega’s new first-person horror game, Rise of Nightmares, aims to give Kinect owners another reason to get up off their couch other than to pet tigers or dance along to Britney Spears. Does it succeed, or does the Kinect functionality just hinder the horror?
In Rise of Nightmares, players will step into the shoes of Josh, a loving husband, alcoholic and father-to-be, who’s travelling through Eastern Europe with his wife. While traveling by train through an oh-so-spooky forest, Josh’s wife Kate is kidnapped by a hulking monster wearing a yellow trench coat and metal facemask. The train derails outside the sanctuary of the mad scientist Victor to cover the monster’s escape, leaving it up to Josh to jump, duck, dodge, hack, slash and kick his way through a medieval castle to find Kate and a means of escape. Josh soon finds that the evil scientist has been conducting experiments on corpses, replacing their limbs with mechanical prosthetics and bringing them back from the dead.
For the most part, the story doesn’t ever do much more than present one horror cliché after another and gets rather convoluted and flat-out weird at the latter portions. There are a few likable twists that change up the gameplay for a level or two, giving Josh the power to blast enemies with a fireball from an energy glove and giving the player a chance to control the trench coat wearing behemoth, but those sections are short lived. The story and atmosphere never live up to the game’s horror classification. The story forgoes any suspense buildup for hacking and slashing, and the game’s environments feature some of the most well-lit dungeons we’ve ever seen.
The gameplay in Rise of Nightmares comes in two parts – flailing and frustration. The game pits players against the walking undead without the traditionally trusted zombie repellant found in the cartridges of a 12-gauge shotgun. Instead, items like metal pipes, hatchets, knives, and even chainsaws can be picked up and used to dismember and decapitate Victor’s unfortunate victims. Weapons have different characteristics, with blade weapons being most effective against the fleshy parts of the zombies, while blunted weapons being best at breaking off mechanical parts. However, these bonuses have little effect in actual gameplay, as swinging any weapon back and forth will easily best almost any bad guy coming your way. Boss fights consist of gesture-based quick-time events with more hacking and slashing and are easily conquered.
Chopping up the horde of zombies can be fun for a short period of time, but zombies are pretty much the only enemies players will encounter. There are several types of zombies, like exploding, spitting, and singing zombies (players must cover their ears to avoid damage), but there aren’t any other kinds of mutated lab experiments one might expect to find in a mad scientist’s castle.
Rise of Nightmares boasts about being a first-person Kinect game that’s not on rails, but it probably should have been. The controls are clunky and far from intuitive. Movement is controlled via body gestures: Put one foot forward or behind, and Josh will move in the respective direction; turn a shoulder, and Josh pivots. Sound easy? Well, not so much. The walking gesture often didn’t register correctly, either causing Josh to walk at a snail’s pace or move in the wrong direction entirely. The shoulder-based pivoting gesture was awkward through the entire game, making it difficult to walk without running into walls constantly.
Trying to manage these unintuitive controls becomes infuriating, especially in the heat of battle. Moving about the world fares no better, making exploration not worth the effort. The one saving grace is the auto-move feature, activated by raising up the right hand. Once activated, it automatically takes players along the critical path, putting the game on the “rails” and giving a much-needed break from the terror of having to constantly perform lunges.
Rise of Nightmares could have been a passable romp through a zombie-infested castle of terror, but the frustrating controls, lack of horror elements, and sub-par presentation make it a game that’s difficult to recommend, especially for the mature audience it’s meant for. There are plenty of F-bombs dropped and lots of blood and gore, but anyone looking for a mature story, strong presentation, and innovative controls should look elsewhere.
Sep 6, 2011