Van Helsing First Look

We get a look at Vivendi Universal's action game based on the upcoming film.

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Van Helsing is a game currently in development for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox by veteran studio Saffire and publisher Vivendi Universal. It's based on the upcoming movie of the same name, which stars Hugh Jackman as the titular main character. Both the game and film follow the adventures of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, a fictional character found in Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula. However, given Van Helsing's advanced age in the novel, the stories of his adventures have seen some tweaking to make the narrative more action-oriented--like any good fantasy film--and less like an episode of Matlock. We recently had the chance to take a look at an early version of the PlayStation 2 game to better get a feel for what to expect from it. While many elements were pretty embryonic, there appears to be quite a bit of potential on hand.

Van Helsing's story will weave in and out of the movie's narrative by fleshing out story elements touched on in the film. While the exact details of the movie's plot are being kept under wraps, we know a bit of what to expect. The core tale will follow Van Helsing as he's summoned to a mysterious Eastern European village to look into some strange goings-on. Upon arriving, he proceeds to cut a swath of death across the land and slaughters beloved childhood icons Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman and some other assorted representatives of the forces of evil. Granted, it's pretty much what he's been asked to do, but still.

The aforementioned carnage will take place across roughly 13 multipart levels that will send you on a scenic route of death across the land. In addition to the marquee monsters mentioned, you'll find plenty of lesser known creatures who represent the forces of evil. The game will throw more than 20 monsters at you while you try to make it through the adventure alive. As you work your way through the game, you'll tangle with boss characters who will definitely keep you on your toes.

Van Helsing's gameplay follows a linear mission-based structure that relies heavily on well-known third-person action elements, such as those found in Capcom's original Devil May Cry. Now, although the game is set during the 19th century, some dramatic license has been taken with regard to the weapons you'll have at your disposal to help keep the action moving along at a speedy clip. At the moment, it appears that you'll have access to nine weapons that range from hand blades for melee combat to dual pistols and a souped-up crossbow for sending wooden stakes where they'll do the most good. In addition to traditional weapons, you'll also have access to a grappling hook that comes in pretty handy. You'll come across the game's various weapons during the course of your adventuring, and you'll have the opportunity to gain upgraded ammo for them as well. Outside of his arsenal, Van Helsing cuts an impressive swath on the screen, thanks to a fairly robust set of acrobatic moves that come in handy when you're being attacked from all angles.

The graphics in the version of the game we saw are still coming together but show off a clean design that's heavy on atmosphere, thanks to the locales the levels are set in. We got a brief tour of some of the game's environments, which included both interior and exterior settings, and were satisfied with the variety we saw. You can expect to travel through the interiors of spooky castles as well as outdoor areas that include effects, like snow, to sell the whole experience. The level of detail in the game is looking solid enough, but the most work has obviously gone into Van Helsing's model, which mirrors his "Vampire Hunter D anime look" from the film very well. The environments are still coming together and show off a reasonable amount of detail and weather effects, even at this early stage in development. The expected rough spots--frame rate and camera--were on hand, although they're elements the development team is working to improve.

From what we've seen so far, Van Helsing has a decent amount of potential. While the game doesn't do anything revolutionary in terms of its gameplay or graphics, its movie ties give it some appeal. If Vivendi can manage to tighten up the gameplay and graphical spots, the game may offer just the right mix of action and story. Van Helsing is currently slated to ship for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox this May. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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