Darkwatch (Xbox & PlayStation 2)

Developer(s) – High Moon Studios

Publisher(s) – Capcom & Ubisoft

Director(s) – Chris Ulm, Emmanuel Valdez & Clifton Keith

Producer(s) – John Rowe, Brian Johnson & Steven B. Sergent

Developed as a late sixth generation title for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox by High Moon Studios, Darkwatch was an FPS released shortly after Halo helped to popularise the genre even further and take it to new heights. However, after playing this game, I found it to be much more enjoyable than I had previously expected. It has a multitude of different factors setting it apart from most other shooters released at the time, and despite it’s survival horror feel, the majority of emphasis is put into the gameplay, as opposed to story, which I find is an immediate worry of mine before I come to play a game like this.

Graphics – 9/10

The game is set in an extremely dark and gothic imagining of the old American west, featuring mythical creatures and enemies to encounter and battle, such as banshees, demons, vampires and bandits. There are even original monster creations to have to contend with throughout, providing an even greater level of conceptual design in the game, such as the reapers, the v. keggers and the oozers. The one gripe I have with the game’s visuals is that I think the developers didn’t handle lighting as well as they perhaps could, and consequently, it can be unnecessarily difficult to navigate through at times.

Gameplay – 8/10

Whilst it may not play out as intensely as either Halo or Doom 3, which were also prominent games at the time, there are a fair few segments throughout that put players under pressure by throwing enemy after enemy at them. But where this game stands out is that the variety in enemy types can make a difference, with players having to modify their tactics on order to dispatch them as quickly as possible. It’s not often that this level of strategy is incorporated in a first-person shooter, and the gameplay in Darkwatch is all the better for it.

Controls – 10/10

As 3D FPS games were starting to take prominence in the industry, it was perhaps more important then than ever before to make sure the developers were able to get the controls right; especially since Halo seemingly perfected the formula, and thus massively improving on the control scheme of another popular FPS released prior; Goldeneye 007. Not only did High Moon Studios manage to not mess up the general FPS control scheme in this game, but they also added to it, in the facility to use supernatural abilities during combat in addition to firearms, further emphasizing the game’s sense of uniqueness.

Lifespan – 6/10

The game only lasts around the average lifespan of a first-person shooter, clocking in at around 6 to 7 hours, which whilst isn’t as great as what many can expect to see in a first-person shooter released nowadays, it still doesn’t seem like a fleeting experience, and it is certainly worth more than one playthrough; if only to try and beat the game on a heightened difficulty level. The Xbox version of the game also has competitive multiplayer, which adds more to the longevity of one version of the game, so I would recommend the Xbox version over the PlayStation 2 version.

Storyline – 8/10

The story of Darkwatch centres on an outlaw named Jericho Cross, who is a member of an ancient vampire slaying order named the Darkwatch. After investigating a train heist, he unknowingly releases the order’s greatest enemy; a vampire named Lazarus Malkoth. After being bitten by Lazarus, Jericho realizes he will soon become a vampire, and depending on the player’s actions throughout the game, he will either struggle for his redemption or descent into darkness. Plot twists throughout this game also make for something particularly interesting and something unlike many other game stories seen prior. The voice acting also goes above and beyond, featuring industry icons, such as Jennifer Hale and one of my personal favourites, Michael Bell.

Originality – 9/10

The game is insanely unique for a vast number of reasons; especially for the time. Different abilities were available in addition to shooting; there was original conceptual design, a need for strategy, and morality mechanics manipulating the outcome of the game. All these things would go on to become industry standards throughout the next two generations of gaming, but it wasn’t often that first-person shooters stood out as much as this game did at the time. It is without a doubt one of the most silently innovative games I’ve ever played, and to me, it’s a shame that the planned sequel never saw the light of day, since if even more innovation was made, who knows what kind of game that could have been?

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In summation, Darkwatch is most definitely one of the better FPS games of the sixth generation, and far exceeded my own expectations that I had going into it. I was merely expecting a generic clone of Halo or Goldeneye 007, but what I got was a surprisingly revolutionary title that was an absolute joy to play.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

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