Hands-onVampire Night

We take a head-on look at Wow Entertainment and Namco's joint venture.

Namco has allowed us a new look at Vampire Night, the light-gun game that the company joint-developed with Wow Entertainment. For those new to the light-gun world, Wow Entertainment is known for the House of the Dead series, which has blessed both arcade halls and Dreamcast consoles with its solid point-and-shoot gameplay, not to mention its brilliantly horrid narrative presentation.

Vampire Night is essentially a spiritual successor to the House of the Dead series. It carries the series' cheeseball themes to a T, right down to the laughably earnest in-game cutscenes. As the story goes, you take the role of a brave vampire hunter who must save the inhabitants of a picturesque European town from an undead menace.

In game terms, this translates to much pointing and shooting. The enemies, this time around, aren't very much like the slow, lumbering zombies you've come to associate with Wow's games. Rather, they're lighting-fast, and they strike with a quickness quite appropriate to vampires. If the three-level demo we got to play is any indication, you'll encounter a whole bunch of excitingly designed enemies, everything from phlegm-spitting hunchbacks and swift, sword-wielding vampires, to tunneling beast men and flying bat men. The parasites that are possessing the townsfolk, though, are probably the most interesting enemies you'll see. You'll encounter them on the bodies of actual villagers, and they look like dirty, evil octopuslike creatures. They're small, too, which makes them hard to hit, and if you miss them (and hit the innocent humans they're riding), they'll fully possess their victims. Hit the parasites successfully, however, and you'll knock them off their victims, thus saving them. The pace, over all, feels very frenetic when compared to the House of the Dead games, and this is largely due to the zippy enemies you're up against. The boss battles are also pretty exciting; they're usually multitiered affairs, and the actual creatures change form several times, allowing for some pretty drawn-out encounters. It's also in the boss battles where some of the game's cooler graphical effects are showcased.

Vampire Night is no graphical slouch. Sharp visuals permeate every stage, and no aspect seems to have been seriously neglected. The first stage, for instance, takes place on the outskirts of the infected town, and one of its sequences has you running on the surface of a fully environment-mapped lake. Particle effects and motion blurs are also used well, especially during the game's boss battles. One example of particular note is a flying boss you'll encounter about midway through; he's constantly swathed in an aura of pinkish particles, which react to his spastic flight patterns. His primary attacks use light to great effect, too.

Sadly, the build of the game that we got to play wasn't compatible with the prototype GunCon 2 we recently received. Thus, we had to play the game with the standard PS2 controller, which, as you might expect, lessens the experience quite a bit. Still, imagining what the game would be like with the GunCon 2 isn't that difficult, and we're eager to play it in its ideal state.

We'll have more information on Vampire Night for you very soon.

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