I'm a science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writer by trade, but aside from writing, video games are my biggest passion. I also write over at Gamer Limit.
The first console my brothers and I ever got was an SNES for Christmas one year. Since then, we've owned an N64, Playstation, PS2, and an Xbox 360. I got a Gameboy Color one year for Christmas, but my brothers are more into handheld gaming than me. Every time they upgrade to the latest system I get their hand-me-downs. That's how I obtained my GBA and my two DS's. Handheld gaming for some reason doesn't interest me even though I know there are great games out there. The first console I've ever been the exclusive owner of is my PS3. The first games I ever played were Super Mario World, F-Zero, 7th Saga (which I've written about), and Out of This World.
My favorite genres are RPGs (Western or Japanese), FPS, action/adventure, and RTS (even though I suck at them).
On this week’s edition of Under the Radar I want to once again venture back in time to 2005. However we’re moving away from the action RPG genre and into the Wild Wild West of FPS games. Combining the Wild West, vampires before they were cliché, and FPS action, Darkwatch is a game that slipped under the radar for me. Of course, the question remains: was it worth my time to play it?
Title:Darkwatch Developer: High Moon Studios
Release Date & Platforms: August, 2005 (PS2 played, Xbox)
Disclaimer: I wasn’t able to finish Darkwatch because the game kept freezing at the end of the eighth chapter, “Baptism of Fire.” It froze during the loading screen between chapters eight and nine. Then it froze again every time I tried to load my saved game. Still I got a little less than halfway through the story, so I feel like I got a pretty good grasp on what the game had to offer.
Darkwatch is a FPS game set in the 1870’s and has the player step into the spurs of outlaw Jericho Cross. The first mission has Jericho robbing what he believes is a treasure train. Instead of finding gold inside the vault, he inadvertently frees an evil vampire named Lazarus and unleashes him upon the West. However instead of killing Jericho, Lazarus decides to bite him. We all know where this is going; Jericho starts to turn into a vampire and develops some interesting powers as well as an affinity for blood. Jericho joins the Darkwatch, a centuries old organization that protects humanity from vampires and the like, in order to help take down Lazarus.
When viewed from 2011, it looks like Darkwatch is full of every horror movie/novel cliché out there. But at the same time, it came out in 2005, long before things like Twilight (both the novels and movies) and True Blood made vampires un-cool. So taking that into consideration I just had to roll with the game’s campiness, and strangely it works for the most part. I mean Undead Nightmare wouldn’t have worked if people didn’t have some desire to shoot zombies in the head while on horseback.
The game is available on PS2 and Xbox, and while I haven’t played the Xbox version, I doubt there’s a big difference between the two versions in terms of graphics. Darkwatch looks like a pretty high end PS2 game, not on the same level as say Final Fantasy X but not terrible either.
The controls were among the biggest issues I had with the game. I found the default setting, 5, to be way too sensitive. I ended up turning it down to 2, but I never felt like I truly got a handle on the aiming. I’m not a FPS noob or anything. I went into the game expecting to be able to handle myself without too much effort.
The button configurations were strange too. I messed around with the control schemes, but couldn’t find one I was completely satisfied with. One had reload in a weird spot while another would move melee to somewhere inconvenient. The original Halo came out in 2001, and I have to think that it helped codify a somewhat “standard” set of FPS button configurations. Why a game in 2005 wouldn’t offer something resembling a “standard” set is kind of strange.
The other biggest issue I had (aside from the freezing and not loading my saves) was the characters themselves. Jericho never speaks, but I dug it. He’s supposed to be the stoic gunslinger type character. But the rest were just a walking mess of clichés. Your partner Tala is hilarious with how stereotypical she is. Apparently she’s Native American so she wore a feather in her hair. Plus I knew she’d end up evil; no “good” character is able to pull off that “leather and tits” look quite right. Shameless is the perfect word for her character design. (Don’t even get me started on the Playboy spread.)
I didn’t attempt the competitive multiplayer because I figured that a) the service wouldn’t be available, or b) nobody would be playing it anymore. The game does have a co-op mode too, but I didn’t have anybody to test it out with. My girlfriend isn’t very big on FPS games.
I can’t help but walk away from Darkwatch feeling unfulfilled. The game is serviceable, and if you’re looking for a quick PS2 era run and gun shooter you could do a lot worse. Darkwatch also did the whole undead West thing before Undead Nightmare so it gets some points there. However the weird controls and constant use of arena sections where you have to fight off waves of enemies really slowed down the game’s flow and sapped its energy. I can’t say I’m truly sad that Darkwatch flew under the radar for me.
Next up on Under the Radar: I had to scratch Dead Space off my list because I wasn’t enjoying it. It felt like a chore to play. C’est la vie right? Instead I’ve been playing Pokémon HeartGold and I got some things to say about it. Stay tuned!