Rise of Nightmares (XBOX 360 - Kinect)
A couple of months ago we tested and reviewed one of Kinect's first "adult" games... a title that didn't rely on cartoon graphics, cute animals and party gameplay. That game was Child of Eden and we were impressed by the overall experience; as a tech demo of Kinect it was particularly impressive. At that time we also noted that the controller needed a key title to really push it forward for serious gamers and one potential candidate is the upcoming Star Wars game, after all who doesn't want to jump about pretending to be a Jedi?
Making it to market before Star Wars is an alternative option of the more mature gamer in the form of Rise of Nightmares, a game from the team responsible for House of the Dead titles. Published by SEGA Rise of Nightmares is a fully interactive (Kinect) title which is as much survival horror as it is hack and slash... which of course we get to do a lot of through Kinect, along with plenty of other full body movement and gestures.
While some games allow us to play with a controller or Kinect Rise of Nightmares very much pushes us down the latter route, Kinect is a requirement and everything within the game relies on it including the menu's and loading screen interactivity. Upon selecting our difficulty level we are thrown into a mini-tutorial mission based around two characters with terrible French accents. This mission fills us in nicely on the control method and sets the scene well for what we can expect from the game.
In terms of controls the Kinect sensor is used well by Rise of Nightmares, in fact it is one of the most impressive uses we have seen so far. By turning our upper body left or right the view moves in the same direction, put a foot forward and we walk, the reverse is true for backing off to. Putting our foot further forward increases speed and a kick results in our character doing the same. Arm movements play a key part in this game, not just for fighting but for most interaction. To interact with objects we push our hand forward, bringing up an on screen representation, we then grab the item to pick it up or can perform actions such as swiping to the side to open doors (which there are a lot of). Raising our hands in front of our face blocks and moving to a boxing style stance opens up combat. In combat mode we have full control over weapons we have picked up along the way so can swing up/down, side to side with the game auto-locking on the nearest enemy.
So far the game is off to a decent start in terms of controls but the developers haven't stopped there, instead choosing to add in some nice touches. Early on in the game we have to splash our face with water from a sink, mimicking the gesture in real life. Then shortly after falling in a murky pool we swim out using an arm swinging action, running on the spot is also required as is the need to brush creatures off our arms, bat them away or push/kick nearby enemies via the same action in real life. The final key control aspect is the use of "auto". By raising our right arm we can tell the game to walk on its own to the next point of interest, something that is useful in getting us on the right track again and minimising movement required over long distances.
So what of the overall plot and game style? Well overall it seems the developers, who have previously worked on survival horror titles, have been watching some classic horror movies and playing various key games in the genre too. There are aspects throughout the game which will seem familiar to those who have watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original), Saw and Hostel. It is also very reminiscent in style to Left 4 Dead (Spitters) and the original Resident Evil in some ways, Rise of Nightmares even harks back to even older survival horror such as Dark Seed on the Amiga.
Those similarities even go down to the almost point and click feel that is present in Rise of Nightmares due to the object interaction and of course the famous doors from Resident Evil... though in this game they don't mask loading.
Really though the key gaming aspect is us walking through an almost on rails environment, battling monsters (mostly zombie like) as we play through the plot, working out what is going on in an attempt to find and rescue our wife who disappeared just before the train crash which stranded us in our nightmare scenario... deepest darkest Romania with a bunch of crazed locals for company. Along the way we meet variations on monsters, all intent on causing us damage and for the most part we can do the same to them. Swing a knife at an enemy and a limb might get cut off. Get a decent shot in with a larger object and its decapitation time, which doesn't necessarily disable the foe. These battles are of course accompanied by huge levels of gore as blood spurts from the place a head once was.
In summary... walk, fight, watch the blood spill, rinse and repeat with ever increasingly fun weapons.
Graphics and Audio
There is something decidedly low res about Rise of Nightmares, not in the way some games are where there is decent content ruined by the odd low quality texture, instead it seems an almost conscious decision by the developers to stick with a less realistic, less lifelike appearance. There are a few nice touches here and there such as rain running down our screen like it would a camera lens but on the whole this is not going to wow many players graphically. That said the game does offer a decent atmosphere, creating a dark, dank Romanian forest and house/castle well, something which lets the blood really stand out when it starts to flow.
On the audio front Rise of Nightmares offers a decent horror soundtrack, much the same as we would expect from a movie of the same genre. The score fits in well and there are plenty of hacking and slashing sounds to accompany the squelch or pouring of blood. There are also some key sound events which heighten scares and create un-nerving sections in the game which is always a bonus. On the down side, those looking for quality voice acting will be very disappointed.
Looking at the screenshots and game description on their own it would be easy to write off Rise of Nightmares as a low budget, basic horror game with little value but that is actually part of the charm when playing. Essentially what we have here is a game which takes some of the best aspects of modern(ish) horror and mixes them into an up to date control method that allows us to act out a part in a low budget, b-movie type horror.
It's not a long game, though does have replay value through difficulty levels and achievements. The graphics are average at best, though serve their purpose well. The audio is more important, adding atmosphere where required and the voice acting as cheesy as we have seen in a while. The script is very generic too and there are not a lot of original ideas but the over the top nature of the gore and weapons, especially when power tools come into play make for a fun, tongue in cheek experience.
This is enhanced by one of the best implementations of Kinect controls we have seen yet and that rescues the game from mediocrity. It's fun to have to physically run, swim, stab, kick push, swipe and stab our way through the hordes of un-dead and the game responds well to our movements which is good to see.
Overall Rise of Nightmares will be a decent rental for those with Kinect and an a worthwhile purchase for horror fans. It offers some genuine scares (more than FEAR3 without doubt) and loads of gore and over the top action. It is also a nice demonstration of what is possible on Microsoft's device and we look forward to seeing what SEGA can do with this style of game in the future.
||At its core, very repetitive but rescued by a great control system and the fact that it is a lot of fun to play.
||Not great on the visual front but the score and game effects work well even if the voice acting is incredibly cheesy.
||A few difficulty levels and the usual set of achievements add some reason to replay but the game is short (around 10 levels) and does suffer from over achievement-itis... 5G points just for starting the game??? But it is cheap at around £25 in some stores.
(Not an Average)
||Fans of low budget horror will enjoy Rise of Nightmares which succeeds because of its thoughtfully implemented controls. A fun Kinect experience for the horror movie aficionado.