Hello all! I’m back! Two weeks ago, I wrote about a remake of a legendary shooter, and hey, it’s really good. Who’d a thunk it.
Today brings us a Western—sort of. Technically it’s a Western? Anyway. Here’s Darkwatch.
Darkwatch is a pretty cool FPS developed by High Moon Studios, who would go on to create games like The Bourne Conspiracy and Transformers: War for Cybertron, two great games (I really like that Bourne game for whatever reason). Taking place in the late 19th century, Darkwatch casts you as Jericho Cross, an outlaw who inadvertently releases an ancient vampire named Lazarus, who immediately bites Jericho. Jericho is slowly turning into a vampire himself, so a vampire hunting organization known as Darkwatch recruits him, seeing as how he’s got cool vampiric powers now. Shenanegans involving leather-clad women and monsters ensue in a pretty standard but fitting plot.
Darkwatch is a mostly straightforward shooter with superpowers; you take damage and heal in a manner similar to the first Halo, you’ve got a healthy if light assortment of weapons, and you have some powers to choose from. You also have to watch out for sunlight; as a half vampire, daylight takes away your powers and shield, making you...well, normal. There’s also a couple of horseback-riding segments and turret sequences. It’s all very basic; there’s an added wrinkle in the form of a morality system that determines what kind of powers you get, and there’s a binary choice at the end, but that’s really it. On the surface level, there’s not much going on here.
But, like a lot of games I write about here, it’s not about the separate parts. It’s about how they all come together. Like any great game, Darkwatch is more than the sum of its parts. It’s “just a shooter,” but it controls wonderfully. It only has a few guns, but they’re all fun to use and have nice audiovisual feedback. Your powers are typical (more damage, shields, enemy clearing, etc.), but they, too, are fun to use. As everyone knows, a game consists of a variety of moving parts that need to operate in sync, otherwise it can fall apart at the seams.
Darkwatch also benefits from its setting and aesthetic. It’s a paranormal Wild West setting combined with a 90's comic-ish art style. It’s...there’s an air of cheese here, but it’s fun simply because Darkwatch runs with it. It fully commits to this story of cowboy vampires, and I like stories with that. For a recent example of this idea: the similarly-titled Overwatch does the same thing—Overwatch is corny, but it commits so much to the characters and world that you’re smiling instead of rolling your eyes. Darkwatch doesn’t exactly have the same charm, but it’s not really supposed to. It’s a fun aesthetic regardless, and it makes me feel like a teenager reading so-bad-they’re-great comics from, like, Image or something.
There’s not much else to say about Darkwatch; it’s pretty straightforward and brief, and like a lot of the games I write about, it’s one of those games you’d typically pass by on your way to buy something perceived as better. I mean, I got it at Blockbuster ages ago for ten bucks; it was something I just played over a weekend. Like a cheesy action movie, I played it, liked it, and moved on. Revisiting it today was a lot of fun; seeing as how I’m older and (hopefully) wiser now, I can examine it as a game rather than a throwaway weekend shooter. And it holds up great! That’s probably because it’s, as I said, basic, but maybe it’s a less-is-more approach that keeps games like this fresh.
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Next week brings us a side scrolling indie roguelike with a cool SNES aesthetic and incresingly challenging gameplay. It never seems to actually rain, though.