A guest review by Barnes
Well, another day another cash in movie game franchise, it seems now that if you bring out a Hollywood film that's expected to become a success then there also follows the standard tie in deals, merchandise, action figures, bed clothes, wallpaper, and the pre-requisite computer game.
So this year's big Hollywood action movie is Van Helsing and accompanying the film is a game of the movie onto a good console near you, having said that I'm going to have to admit to being pleasantly surprised... It's not all that bad!
It's rare these days for a game that is inspired by a TV show or film to be any good, I do however have to point to the fantastic Lord of The Rings trilogy of games to show how it should be done but failed attempts at film inspired games are all too obvious today. Van Helsing is (whilst not the most intense, engrossing, longwinded game) not that bad, it draws many similarities to games such as Devil May Cry with a hint of Silent Hill thrown in for good measure, but it doesn't really stand alone as a great game, it borrows on the others success, but lets get through the important details first.
Van Helsing the game follows the same plot and story as the film, its not a prequel or sequel to the film, so there's no extra development to the character, it also doesn't include any full motion video from the film either, it does feature re-enacted cut scenes using the games 3D engine and the voice talents of Hugh Jackman (Van Helsing himself) so it's a story well told however if you've seen the film then there are no shocks in store for you!
Van Helsing has a fairly standard control system you have your stick for movement, your jump button, your two attack buttons, one for you melee attack (rotating blades, swords etc) and another for your projectile weapons (pistol, shotgun, crossbow etc)
There are also special moves, grappling moves with your grapple gun and lots of little things that are explained to you in the tutorial, the emphasis in the game is on action but there is a small degree of puzzle solving to be undertaken to advance around the levels, as you get into combat the melee attacks become very impressive as you begin to pull off longer and longer combo's that can begin on the ground, in mid air, and can use both melee weapons and your firearms too. My particular favourite at the moment is that you can use the grappling gun to grab enemies some distance away, pull them into you and then begin your huge attacking combo.
Along the way you collect Glyph's that can be used as money to buy life regeneration, extra combo's and other such items from the Vatican armory, all good fun!
The levels are broken down into a general exploration around the area (be it town, wood, sewer, castle) interspersed with fights with foot soldiers, the odd puzzle to be solved then after a steady progression you get to a boss fight. All in all it's a fairly consistent progression through the game; the Boss fights are interesting and are undertaken with some pretty cool and memorable characters from the film such as Dr Jekyll, Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolf Man as well as Dracula himself.
the graphics are not as strong as they could have been, Van Helsing himself is well animated, he looks like Hugh Jackman and his combo moves and general movement are pretty good, however the opponents are very samey and seem to be a little rushed, it is a personal bugbear of mine that when fighting hordes and hordes of enemies, its nice to see a little variation in looks, animation and general appearance.
Levels are very murky, a little gloomy and quite repetitive, it would be very easy to get lost or confused if they were not so linear! In a quick reference back to the gameplay, the design of the levels is very much run from A to B, killing C along the way before your boss fight against D.
Having said that you are encouraged to have a look behind crates, obstacles and other objects to find secrets and cheat items but they are not helped by the camera angle!
The camera is one of the worst elements to the game, it's a fixed point camera that will change position as you advance, again very similar to Devil May Cry however you find yourself getting stuck out of sight behind foreground objects and are unable to see any glyph's that may be around, all in all it can make your progression very awkward and stalled.
As mentioned before, Van Helsing is voiced by the star of the film Hugh Jackman so its nice to see that you get the feel of the character as you would like him to be, the other voice talent in the game is good and adds to the atmosphere well, the atmosphere sounds and background music is very good and helps the gothic feel of the game but can have a habit of ending really abruptly when combat finishes.
The AI is really nothing to write home about! In fact its frustratingly easy and really lets down the game in certain areas, when caught in a brawl between Van Helsing and at least a dozen enemies, it becomes all too painfully clear that the game suffers from the Bruce Lee syndrome, you know, the lone man outnumbered 12 to 1 but while you stand and attack one enemy, the other 11 will simply circle and look a bit mean, when the one falls another takes its place..
Again I have to point back to LOTR Return of the King for an excellent example of how a game should manage enemy AI
So overall Van Helsing is not a bad game, it's a fair portrayal of a movie transferred into a game franchise, whilst not being the greatest game ever produced, its certainly not bad!
I don't think they'll be much replay value in the game its fairly linear and lacks the depth to warrant a replay, however I'd say that there's about 10 hours gaming in it if you take your time and explore everything available to you. So if you have a weekend free and need a pick up and play game then Van Helsing is definitely worth looking at.