It’s been a long time since I’ve experienced shit of this level. To be up front I actually bought and own the PC version of this game in my Steam collection, but when my brothers showed interest in playing this game together, I opened up the Xbox version I had gotten for free thanks to them buying me Xbox Gold for a birthday gift. They never joined me, and I don’t blame them. This game is an absolute heap of shit and one of three games in total now that even though a game ending bug did not occur, I did not and have no intention of finishing.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not quite as bad as the other two titles to have this fate with me. Had I been allowed, I would have finished this game just to say it was over. However, before I could finish, my subscription to Xbox LIVE GOLD ran out taking away this and every other game I had downloaded for free in return for using the service. Thank you Microsoft, for this early escape.
Story: Trouble is brewing in Borgova, and they need help. To get help, they sent a letter to your father, the famous Van Helsing of legend, but he’s since stopped going out on adventures like this. So, rather then leave the capital to it’s fate, you and Katarina, a ghostly servant of the family, set off to go to Borgova, figure out the problem, and take down whatever evil force brought you there.
The trip was long and filled with peril, but our story does not truly begin until the last leg of it. Young Van Helsing and Katarina finally make their way to the country of Borgovia by carriage when an explosion sends a rock slide raining down on top of them with the men who tried to kill the two of them approaching.
From this point forward, you will find yourself pushing through quests of a local village who’s guidance will get you to the city of Borgova and once there finding out what the real problem our heroes were summoned for. Sadly, this story does not remain particularly exciting, as it doesn’t take long before you find out a mad scientist is behind everything and he’s the one you are going to have to defeat. Before anyone complains, this is not much of a spoiler as your very first real boss (a super-beefed up werewolf) will spill the beans about this, leaving the rest of the game between getting to the capital city and helping the vampire who sent the note to summon you in the first place once you arrive. There are no real twists and turns outside of the seemingly random schemes this mad scientist seems to be running with no real relationship between any of them. From Mind control fog to a robotic doomsday device, this game will keep your immediate goals varied, but it’s about as cliché as it gets.
Nor can I say the ending is anything to build up to. Rather, it’s yet another “to be continued” ending that expected it’s players to buy the next title in the trilogy which maybe takes 30-45 seconds to tell you that is what’s going on with a cliffhanger ending.
Graphics: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an isometric game in which you will wander the world the game brings to live. And for all the faults this game has, graphics are not much of one. From the fixed difference and angle the camera takes, this game looks pretty damn good. The world itself is rendered as a 3D world that is lovingly detailed and exceedingly varied. You will wander from fields, to swamps, to forests, or even old battlefields and, of course a city, the sewers beneath them, and everything that goes with it, all of it looking very well detailed and fitting together beautifully.
Nor are enemies to be outdone by this. While not quite as varied as the worlds, every map has a selection of monsters that will only appear there (like man-spider monsters in the cave entrance to Borgova or the rat people within itself). Yes the game does use some clones with different color pallets, but these are few and far between, and there is not a mob-monster in the game that was designed without attention to detail, as the developers knew you would be spending a lot of time looking at these monsters.
Sadly, I can not say as much for all the bosses. Most look good enough, but later in the game you will face off with one or two that clearly were made to just look different then the rest of the hoard.
Nor can I be as generous for to Van Helsing and Katarina. The latter is a fairly generic Victorian looking lady who when in combat transforms into a generic monstrosity which herself into battle. Van Helsing, on the other hand, takes a generic adventurer look with a handful of various weapons and armor that shows the kind and color on the character. Neither of them look bad by any means. They just don’t stand out.
Sound: You won’t have much to remember about the music shortly after you turn off the game. It suits the title as a moody orchestra piece and does a good job setting the tone for whatever section of the game you are in, but it is also very typical “video game music” in just how purely generic it is. Seriously, I know a lot of my reviews say the music to the game is often forgettable or designed for the background, but this just might be the apitemy of that. Not kidding around, I couldn't even remember the main menu track shortly after my last session with this title.
Sound effects, however, fair a bit better. You have your standard swings and gunshots, but the world itself has some specific events that sound as epic as they are supposed to look, like the one boss in this game that was actually a puzzle or the bridge blown up to try to prevent your progress early in the game. These things actually leave an impression.
But this game really has it’s best shining moments in the voice acting. Do not get me wrong, most of the main story stuff is actually more generic crap to move the plot along, but as you play, Katarina and Van Helsing themselves banter back and forth, sometimes because Katarina took notice of something, sometimes a little sarcastic humor between the two of them, and sometimes even to make fun of the tropes this genre of game is known for. But the point is, these two actors had chemistry in their delivery and they are actually a complete delight to listen to. They are actually the bright point of everything you hear, and one of the highlights of the game.
Gameplay: And here is where the game completely falls apart. While I played, I never actually enjoyed myself. It felt clunky, the monsters were either beatable by holding a button down and waiting or required you to basically be chased through the entire map since they killed off Katarina and you could never gain enough distance to shoot without being wasted by the hoard running the same speed as you (often making it more frustrating by pulling MORE enemies into the crowd) and melee just didn’t do enough damage to make it worth anything in these situations. Be glad you get a ton of cash in the game, because you will likely spend a lot to not respawn in town.
It all felt wrong… and now that I’ve had the time to walk away and review, I can see why, and we will start with combat. Simply put, it’s awful. You stand dead still to attack anything without the ability to maneuver effectively, making you a sitting duck when you retaliate against the hoard. It also shows the same level of shiftiness with how stiffly this game moved between targets, requiring you to highlight a target to aim with a ranged attack rather then do what sticks do best and aim in a direction. With a mouse this might work better since you could choose a monster to march up to and swing/shoot by clicking on them or even pick a place to go to for strategic points, but this game has none of that. In fact, I get a strong vibe here of a control scheme made for the mouse first and just pushed to controller “well enough” to work. And then we can get to the serious balance issues.
Rather then do the intelligent thing like Diablo does where the number of players increases or decreases the difficulty of the monsters, this title basically leaves everything like they expect 4 players, resulting in huge mobs with obnoxious amounts of health and the main reason for the balance complaints. No point makes this more apparent then the woods where you have to turn off the generator guarded by the first robots you see, since the hoards here are bigger then anything in the last map and the map itself is unclear where you can go, getting you easily cornered by some piece of debris it looks like you should have been able to step over.
Nor does this stiffness limit itself to the most important place it could, combat. The item category menu is an absolute chore to navigate as the same stiff controls allow you to move around the wheel of catagories till you pick the one you want to look over. It’s also not the most obvious thing to see which item in the list you have equipped. The top spot is where your equipped item will be, but that slot is still filled if you have nothing equipped at all. Instead the only absolute answer you get is an asterisk next to the name.
Add to this exceedingly slow load times between maps and this is just a terrible experience in just about every way.
Bugs: Nor did this game run without hitting bugs and at least one that seriously caused problems in one of the bosses:
- Glitchy graphics: While the game looked nice overall, there are certain maps that while in them you could assure at least once you were going to lose the screen for a half-second to a white mess of what looks like static on an old TV. It didnt last long, however, and never came with other side effects, so this is a fairly minor issue.
- The music dies: Those load times would be better with at least a music tone to set the mood while you wait. So of course this game can’t let you have that, as often during those loading times, the music itself will pause, making you wonder if the whole game froze.
- The door is actually 5 ft to the left: While the above are more annoying then anything else, this bug when it hits (as it did for me when fighting the drill-worm) is absolutely brutal. Things you are supposed to interact with on the map will not line up with the spots you need to be to do it. As a result, you will be mashing the left trigger hoping to get it when you are allowed to actually use what you are trying to. In this particular boss fight you have to hit a series of switches to charge an orb with current and fling it at the worm so you can go beat the tar out of it before it wakes up. Between this and the ever-spawning hoards of spiders in the room, this became one of the easiest and yet most infuriating at the same time fights I have ever been in while playing a game. Even the doorway afterwards was effected as I had to back away before it would let me go through and open the next map.
Overall: I feel sorry for anyone who bought this game in the Xbox store. Seriously, I do. This game just feels like it was spit out with minimal effort to draw attention for the main release on PC at the time (part three of this trilogy). It’s buggy, it’s way to stiff to play, the game does not understand how to balance for anything else but 4 players, and it makes you wait forever to get into the map and experience that special kind of Hell. This game is absolutely abysmal, and the developer should be ashamed of what the released for this audience.
Source: Xbox Store