If anyone knows how to make horror games it’s Sega (and to some extent Konami and Capcom I suppose). House of the Dead in the past has attempted to immerse gamers by letting them shoot at zombies and monsters on rails in the arcades and on consoles and the Condemned games have shown that melee combat from a first-person is possible and if you do things right, you really can give people the willes. The first one really did scare me and make me jump in places.
So far we’ve only really seen family games mostly for kids on the Kinect and this is the first core game I’ve played on the Kinect and it gives me mixed emotions when I’m playing it. The game begins with a prologue where two people wake up in a dungeon and promptly die. During this section you learn the controls and I had the urge to switch the thing off when the title screen came up. However, I persevered because I like horror and found it strangely playable despite the control method. You see, I’m not a massive fan of standing up whilst playing games. I prefer to chill out on the sofa with a joypad. Here of course, you have to stand up and act out movements to move yourself through the story and fight and escape the nasties confronting you. By rotating shoulders left and right you move the camera left and right to ‘steer’ your character. If you want to move forwards you step forwards with one foot and put the same foot backwards to reverse. At first you’ll begin lurching left and right like a drunk driver but eventually you get used to the subtle movements needed and most of the time it works. When moving between set pieces you can also lift your arm the game will automatically move you to the next area. This latter way may help you if you can’t control yourself but will give you arm ache and ultimately removes the immersion somewhat.
Combat is clunkier I’m afraid. You put your arm forward to move your cursor to an icon to pick up weapons and interact with items and then adopt a fighting stance to lock onto your nearest enemy. It’s then a case of waving your arms about in order to hit your enemies but the speed in which you punch has no effect on how hard you hit your enemies. There are some fun weapons though, including chainsaws, knives and exploding test tubes. The game also has you mime actions such as washing your face, swatting away flies, crouching under objects, swimming and turning wheels. It’s all quite fun actually despite the fact that controlling a game in this manner using your whole body just isn’t as accurate as using a controller.
So what’s the story actually about? After the two characters at the beginning meet their doom, you then embark as a new guy on a train journey with his girlfriend. She promptly gets kidnapped by a mysterious figure in a metal mask, the train derails and you end up in a dungeon in what appears to be Romania. It’s a bit like the movie Hostel mixed with Saw and what could turn into a blue movie at any moment thanks to the raunchy European girls you meet at the start and along the way. Scenes where the main bad guy called Viktor tortures his victims are grisly and will please horror fans no end. Voice acting is pretty poor but funny in a cartoon-like way and the grainy look of the game really gives it that low-fi horror look which I like.
There’s something quite immersive about the whole game which I like. If it didn’t use Kinect it would be a very bad game but somehow acting out what you’re doing actually gets you in the moment more. It’s just a shame that for a horror game, you can’t play it with the lights off because the Kinect won’t be able to track your movements. It’s a good try from Sega so it gets a good 6 out of 10.