If you're looking for an intense shooter experience, Darkwatch will not disappoint.
- Satisfying run-and-gun action
- Sharp-looking graphics
- Varied single-player campaign
- Unique setting.
- Brief campaign
- Multiplayer is pedestrian.
Darkwatch, originally announced in 2004 by Sammy Studios, has had a development path as tumultuous as the journey in the game by its protagonist, Jericho Cross. The good news for those interested in Darkwatch's hybrid horror-Western theme is that the game seems no worse for the wear despite the behind-the-scenes chaos. If you're looking for an intense shooter experience, Darkwatch will not disappoint, offering crisp gameplay, an excellent presentation, and a varied campaign. It's also refreshing to have a shooter with a theme that isn't completely played out, and though a few primary aspects hold it back--including pedestrian multiplayer design and a brief campaign--Darkwatch is well worth checking out.
You'll take the role of Cross, a man of few words, who makes his living by robbing trains. You're out for one last score, but unfortunately, you pick the wrong train. Upon blowing open the safe, you end up releasing the soul of Satan's son, Lazarus, who curses you to become a vampire. He also unleashes hordes of undead to plague the Arizona desert. The only organization that can stop him is a secret army called the Darkwatch. Cassidy, one of the army's "regulators" (deputies), witnesses what you did on the train. You'll spend the beginning of the game by her side as she leads you back to the safety of Darkwatch. This is when you begin to understand the new powers you have as a vampire.
You'll of course have access to a variety of different weapons, ranging from standard pistols and rifles to more exotic ones, such as an exploding crossbow and a rocket launcher. Each gun offers different strengths and weaknesses, and each one is fun to use in its own way. Since the enemies in Darkwatch take location-based damage, it's possible to blow off the heads and limbs of most enemies with the more powerful guns. What's more, each gun also offers you a powerful melee attack, and the weaker enemies in the game will actually go down with just one satisfying strike from the butt of your shotgun or rifle. The power of these attacks and pacing of the gameplay make melee a viable option, particularly in caves or other close-quarters areas. You'll also have access to dynamite that you can throw, which serves the same role as a grenade. Stationary turrets are also sprinkled throughout the later levels. Cross can carry only two weapons at a time, so you'll often need to make important tactical decisions about which guns you want to pick up and drop as you make your way through each of the game's single-player missions. It all adds up to fast-paced, visceral gameplay that will keep you entertained throughout Darkwatch's single-player missions.
Even with such an impressive arsenal at your command, Cross will need to also rely on his vampire-related powers to stay alive. One power is the ability to double-jump and control your direction in midair, which is mainly useful for getting up on rooftops or jumping from ledge to ledge. Don't worry, though, as there isn't any real platforming to speak of in the game. Another vampire-related power is the blood shield, which acts more or less like the personal shield in Halo. You'll be able to take a bit of damage to your blood shield, and then get back behind cover and let it recharge before taking actual damage to your health. Blood vision is another useful skill that lets you see enemies and power-ups highlighted onscreen.
Many of the enemies will drop blood capsules, which replenish your health and also charge up a separate power meter, which then lets you unleash special vampire powers once it's filled. There are eight total powers in the game, four that are good and four that are evil, and they are more or less analogous to each other. These powers are unlocked as you play through the campaign. As you come across innocent victims who've also been hit with Lazarus' curse, you can choose to cleanse their souls or devour them. As you make these binary choices, you begin building a reputation as either good or evil. And the more factional your reputation is, the greater your powers will be, so you're encouraged to always stick with one side until you've maxed out your powers there. This aspect of the game probably sounds more interesting than it actually is, as the choices you make don't really affect the story, aside from one major choice you make toward the end that determines which one of the two different endings you'll see.