Despite it's weaknesses, this game is oh so cool!
Set in the old west, the story behind the game is fairly weak. A group called the Darkwatch is out to protect the world against evil. One of their accomplishments was to capture Lazarus. He's supposed to be the son of the Devil, or some vampire Lord; that was never really clear to me. Lazarus was being held prisoner on a train, until your attempt to rob it set him loose. When you did he turned you into a vampire.
Now you turn to the Darkwatch for help, because, they can cure you… or something. Maybe it was because you felt guilty (as train robbers do). I found that was never really explained well either. But you help them track down and stop Lazarus anyway. Not that they need your help really; they caught him once already didn't they?
On your voyage to stopping the evil one you fight creatures like skeletons and zombies. How many horror movies did the developers want to pull from anyway? The only thing you don't fight is the Wolf-man. But all these undead creatures make for some great atmosphere as you venture through old mines, abandoned towns in the middle of nowhere, and of course graveyards.
Because each stage is linear, a big part of any strategy to be had in the game comes from the weapons you choose. You can only carry two main weapons at a time, with dynamite or grenades available on your secondary fire button. Primary firearms are comprised of revolvers, rifles, and even a crossbow that shoots explosive arrows. Each weapon also has bladed handles to perform vicious melee attacks. Heavy stationary machine guns are located at strategic locations in some levels, allowing you to jump behind them and mow down an oncoming horde of baddies. Every once and a while you'll come across a rocket launcher as well.
That's another odd thing about the game; some items feel out of place with the environment and time period. Rocket launchers with magazines don't seem like a popular thing to come by in the old west. There's also a level where it goes into 3rd person mode as you jump into a dune-buggy-like vehicle with machine guns mounted on the top. I suppose if it was steam powered, it would make perfect sense... right? It doesn't matter though, because it all adds to the fun. And it is a lot of fun.
Riding around in armed ATVs isn't the only break from the 1st Person perspective you'll get. There's also a few missions where you'll have to mount a horse while shooting other riders off of their steeds and attackers off of a train before jumping onto it.
On top of all of the projectile weapons you'll be exposed to, you'll also get special vampire powers. There are two sets of powers to build up: good and evil. There's 4 powers on each side. These include increasing ammo damage, improving melee damage, creating fear, turning enemies against each other, and increasing how much damage you can take. The last power to collect on the side of good lets you shoots lighting bolts (you didn't know vampires could shoot lighting bolts did you?) and the final power on the side of evil is a sort of super-combination of extra damage and protection. It doesn't really matter which side you pick for the powers as far as the outcome of the game is concerned, but it would be wise once you pick a side to stick with it until it's maxed out.
You earn these powers by either freeing or condemning souls that have been tainted by the evil you're fighting. Some of the victims are presented openly to you, and some are tucked away and require a more detailed search of an area to find.
All of the powers I've mentioned will last for only a short period of time. Then they require you to collect energy from fallen adversaries to build up your power bar so you can use them again. The only exceptions is your high-jump (which can be very tricky to control) and your Blood Vision. Blood Vision makes enemies, important items, and key targets glow making them easier to see in what is generally dark settings. But it also narrows your field of vision so you don't see as much of the area at once; it's a pretty fair trade-off. These last two powers both fall out of the good and evil set; you simply get them early in the game. Kind of a welcome-to-undead-ranks on-boarding gift.
There's a decent selection of adversaries you'll use all these weapons and powers against. Most of the character models look really good. The women in the game are a little disproportionate however (on par I suppose for video game vixens). The other exception is the lead character, who's lankiness I suspect was to make him look creepy, but just comes off as goofy to me.
Once you complete a stage in the game you can go back and play it again at any time, on any difficulty setting. This becomes incredibly handy at the end of the game. A couple stages before the final level you have to choose to take on an ultimate role of good or evil. One of the options you have when replaying a stage is which side you've chosen. This makes the alternate ending easily available to you, which I appreciated a great deal.
The action in Darkwatch maybe delivered at a basic level, but it's still crazy, fast-paced, and very entertaining. It will likely only last you about 5 hours the first time though but for a hard hitting adrenaline rush, I didn't need it to go on much longer. A great carnage filled quick-fix for FPS fans.