CRISPIN: Fear not that the armies of the underworld are idle and wasting away. They’re gainfully employed—thousands upon thousands of them—in Darkwatch, a gritty Old West shooter with an extra-crypty flavor. As an outlaw hero turned high-plains bloodsucker after a vampire curse, you’ll face skeletal gunslingers, ax-hurling skeleton Indians, scythe-wielding skeletons—even the ghosts of skeletons you’ve blasted. Oh, you gun down a few other enemies, too—including witchy barmaids and morbidly obese, projectile-vomiting zombies—but mostly the game blends into one blah battle against the undead, with a few horse-riding, turret-manning, and vehicle-driving sections thrown in.
But that’s not the only bone I have to pick here. Darkwatch often feels so...so-so, with Halo-inspired play mechanics (a regenerating shield and two-weapon limit). The pacing goes giddy-up toward the end, and you can make moral choices that affect your vampire powers, which wilt if you wander into sunlight—a cool but underused gameplay quirk. Playing good or evil has little effect on the loopy story; although the game kept me entertained, I didn’t feel the need to replay for the alternate ending.
MARK: For the first few hours Darkwatch feels like a job on the skeleton disassembly line as you blast one mindless, bony cowpoke after another. But a funny thing happens once all hell literally breaks loose halfway through the game—Darkwatch gets good. The increased difficulty and enemy variety force you to take advantage of your vampiric powers and the strengths of your different weapons. Sadly, the game never sheds its bad-80s-heavy-metal-album-cover design or silly plot, but along with the unbalanced-but-fun online modes (exclusive to Xbox, though PS2 offers offline co-op), the second half of this undead shooter brings it back to life.
OFFICIAL PS MAG—GIANCARLO: Darkwatch is the very definition of average when it comes to first-person shooters. While just about every aspect of the game is sound in terms of design, none of the individual elements truly shines or does anything to really set the game apart. Sure, the theme of the game is kind of cool (who doesn’t love cowboys that also happen to be vampires?), and the vampire powers idea is alluring, but the in-game story just isn’t all that deep, and the vamp powers turn out to be pretty similar to typical first-person shooter power-ups. Multiplayer is fun when you’re first getting a feel for the layout of each level, but beyond that, it won’t do much to hold your attention.
Good: Atmospheric visuals, fun physics
Bad: Repetitive enemies make for blah battles
See Villainess Tala Butt-Naked in: The October 2004 Playboy
Players: PS2 1-2, XB 1-4
THE VERDICTS (OUT OF 10)
PS2 REVIEW SCORES
XBOX REVIEW SCORES
Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.