We’re going to get straight to the point: Vampire’s Rain is a wretched game. It hates you, it insults you as a gamer and it plain doesn’t want you to enjoy playing your 360. Forget any twinge of excitement you may have felt from the trailer, or the whiff of promise that wafts out of the Splinter Cell-meets-Dracula concept - this is a game to avoid like Marmite-flavored herpes.
Why so bad? It’s tough to know where to start. The horrible, unrelenting grayness of it all is the most immediate problem. This game is bland from the dull city-street environments, right through to the waxy characters. Even the horror is painfully plain. Shoot a Nightwalker in the head with a sniper rifle and they’ll just stumble around before dissolving quietly into a puddle of green gunk. Discover a trio of your own men impaled on road signs, and instead of getting a quick fright you’ll be dumbstruck at how appalling the gore looks. If, that is, you still have the willpower to muster an emotion as complex as “dumbstruck.”
Even if you’re not the kind of graphics whore who won’t touch a 360 game that looks sub-Xbox, you’ll still be left cold. The plot is the kind of clichéd nonsense we’ve been bored of for years. The Nightwalkers are taking over the world, and your squad is sent in as back-up for a team whose mission was (because predictably, they’re dead by the time you arrive) to kill one of the vamp leaders. Your name is Lloyd, your brother was killed by the Nightwalkers; you’re out for revenge, blah de blah. Japanese developer Artoon skimmed the Big Book of Western Gaming circa 1994 and produced something so insipid that native gamers in the East will ignore it, and Western gamers will feel thoroughly insulted by it.
Once you actually break into the action, it becomes even more obvious that the developer just doesn’t get it. Essentially, it’s a knock-off of Splinter Cell. Climb drain-pipes, sneak round corners, use night-vision. Even the controls are strikingly similar. But our hero Lloyd is infinitely more wooden than Sam Fisher, and he’s short of a few moves. We’re not just talking about split-jumps and SWAT turns here (although you can’t do either of those); we’re talking about the fundamentals, like the ability to walk over pipes without pressing A, or the not-so-ancient art of shooting downwards when you’re crouching on a roof.
Believe it. Not that this basic ability would achieve much anyway. Get into a firefight with a vamp, and chances are, you’re going to come in second. Once these creatures start charging you, pointy-teeth first, it takes a whole clip from any weapon to stop them, and if they catch you it’s game over. No, really. Lloyd dies if a Nightwalker gets a couple of hits in on his fleshy body, and as these vamps always use two-strike combos, that means death and a restart are pretty much guaranteed.
So, the moral of the story here is to avoid confrontation. Fair enough, Rain is technically a stealth game. However, the small snag in this plan is that the sneaking is so mind-numbingly linear that it will bore you rigid in minutes. Initially, you’re placed in a large (ish) city block and it looks like you’ll be granted the freedom to complete your objective any way you want. Not so. It’s bad enough that missions are broken down into simple chunks that require you to get from one rooftop to another over and over again, but matters are made worse by the fact that you have to follow one, pre-set route.
Try to get down a non-regulation alleyway and you’ll hit an invisible wall and get a weary message from your commander telling you that you’re going “off-mission.” Even if it makes sense to move down one particular street, if the game has other ideas, you’ll just have to fumble through the vamp-infested route that’s been chosen for you. Like we said earlier, it’s as if Vampire’s Rain actually wants you to have a bad time, desperately crushing any inkling of curiosity or creativity you may fancy displaying as you progress.
Thankfully, right now, Vampire’s Rain is only available on import, but it won’t stay that way for long. Microsoft has picked it up here. We could slam a few final kicks into the game’s already inert body by pointing out the atrocious English dialogue, which is so wooden it practically leaves splinters in your ears, or the lack of extras and unlockables, but that kind of stuff might - just might - change when MS bring across this weary piece of shit. But we doubt it. Truly, truly woeful.