U.C. here, horror videogame player at large! When first we decided to start tackling genre related games we figured that since this is a horror website, it might be beneficial to take a different approach than most reviewers. We’re not going to get very in-depth about play mechanics, etc. Instead, we’re going to give you the straight dope from a Horror Fan’s point of view.
For the past several days I’ve had the opportunity to troll around Transylvanian landscapes and ward off the denizens of the night in the new Van Helsing videogame out now from Vivendi Universal for Xbox, GameBoy Advance(version not reviewed) and Playstation 2.
First off, let’s briefly discuss Van Helsing the movie. It was non-stop action and more action with basically zero substance — essentially just dumb fun. A popcorn thrill ride of a movie. It’s lack of content and context did not appeal to most horror lovers, as was made painfully obvious by the horrendous reviews it received. However, non-stop action DOES appeal to the gamer, and this game delivers the goodies!
More often than not, movie adaptation games suck. We’ve all sat through a laundry list of bad games hoping to get an interactive glimmer of the goodness that made us like some of our favorite movies. I was shocked and appalled by subpart offerings like the recent T3 and Enter The Matrix games. Not so with Van Helsing. Things that were out of place in the film are very much at home in the videogame. Playing through Van Helsing the game is akin to watching the movie in the sense that all of the images and booming sound effects are still there, but now you’re presented with the daunting task of playing our monster-hunting hero. The visuals and sound work in this game are on par with some of the better action titles out there, and the game play is reminiscent of the great side scrolling beat ’em up games of yesteryear, although Van Helsing seems to owe more to recent classics like Devil May Cry and Castlevania: Lament of Innocence.
Truth be told, as a horror fan, something magical in me ignites when I know that within the game I’m going to be faced with the creatures I grew up with. Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman — The horrific horde is all here! The kid in me runs rampant whenever these creatures take center stage in the game. They’re not the only attractions though; there are more monsters in this game than you can shake a stake at, and they come in waves. Some have very distinct fighting styles while others do not, but there is a fine balance of both. Plus we have the classic and ever-so-spooky Transylvania setting! For the horror fan boy (or girl), all of these things add up to a simply horrifically good experience.
The terrain is pretty compelling too as there are multiple paths from which to choose. I also loved the little touches like hearing the now trademark Universal angry villagers bickering inside of their homes. It really sucks you into the scenario.
Another area where the game benefits is in the voice acting and score department. Using lines and music from the film really adds to the cinematic feeling of the game, and the results make you feel like you are playing through a small screen epic.
If the game does have a downfall, it’s that once it is done, it is done. Other than some cheats that you can pick up and use along the way, there’s not exactly a bevy of unlockables that would add to the replay value of the game. An added multiplayer feature and maybe a boss battle mode really would have helped to extend Van Helsing’s afterlife. Still, though, for a wonderful horror romp through some of Universal’s greatest lands and creatures, you can’t do much better than Van Helsing.
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