From Dusk Till Dawn
Preview - vampire slaying action from the creator of Alone in the Dark
It's five years now since Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino unleashed their cult horror movie From Dusk Till Dawn on an unsuspecting public. But with a DVD edition of the film on its way here in Europe, French publisher Cryo is hoping to cash-in on the renewed interest with a vampire-slaying action game based on the movie. We grabbed an array of sharp wooden implements and moved in to investigate a preview version of the game...
From Dusk 'Til Dawn is a sequel to the movie rather than a straight remake, and instead of setting the game in the confines of the Titty Twister, lead designer Hubert Chardot has put George Clooney's character Seth Gecko on death row in a prison barge called the Rising Sun.
As if having only 72 hours left to live wasn't bad enough for Seth, he now has to face a ship full of blood-sucking creatures of the night after a group of vampires tried to spring one of his fellow inmates from the barge. Aided by the prison chaplain and a handful of other survivors you meet along the way, Seth must get everyone up to the top deck and hold off the vampires until dawn.
The result is a fast-paced and gory third person shooter set in the confines of the prison barge, with a range of different types of vampire to dispatch. Disappointingly there's no stake-driving involved; instead you merely blast away at the vampires until they dissolve into dust. But with the ability to blow arms, legs and heads off your undead opponents with gleeful abandon, you won't be short of claret. There are also some nice boss encounters, including a tricky battle with an invisible vampire which you can only locate from the muzzle flash of her gun and the splashing of her feet on the damp tiled floor.
A variety of weapons are available to you throughout the game, starting with a tazer which delivers a powerful electric shock to your enemies at close range. Not particularly effective, but it can zap a number of closely packed undead at once, and you don't have to worry about running out of ammunition.
Moving on up through the armoury you will find the usual array of pistols, shotguns and assault rifles, as well as a flamethrower which will turn your enemies from steak tartare to bien cuit. There are also some more unusual weapons like a holy water pistol, heart-piercing crossbow and the bizarre CD launcher, which uses razer-sharp Britney Spears albums to slice people open. Probably.
You won't be alone either. In several of the missions you will get aid from prison warders, mechanics, marines and other survivors as you try to get them to the surface in one piece, and sometimes you will be called on to escort a character, fighting off hordes of blood-suckers along the way. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.
Nice But Dim
The game is spread across twenty one levels, taking in everything from the mess hall and kitchens to staff quarters and offices. We found some of the earlier levels a little monotonous at times, with a succession of similar looking corridors to battle your way through, but as the game progresses it opens up and the settings become more imaginative. There's even a mall and cinema on one deck, which seems a little odd for a prison ship but does at least add some variety to the proceedings.
The vampires are also a mixed bunch, from snake-headed monsters which spit venom at you to relatively human-looking undead in tattered prison uniforms or overalls. Some can crawl along the ceilings, others will hop over fences and drop down from walkways high above your head to take you by surprise. There are even some with bat-like wings, although they look a little goofy trying to fly in a confined space.
The action itself starts off fairly subdued, with weapons and ammunition in short supply and vampires startling you by hiding in dark corners or swooping down from the ceiling. Things soon heat up though, and at times you will have a dozen or more undead enemies charging brainlessly towards you at once while your assault rifle peppers them with lead. AI was not one of the strongpoints of the four week old beta code we were given, although hopefully things have improved somewhat since then.
Graphics on the other hand are generally very good, with a heavily modified version of the THEO engine which powered Devil Inside doing an excellent job of rendering the prison barge's interior, complete with mutilated corpses, dripping blood and billowing clouds of steam escaping from shattered pipes.
The character models are a bit on the blocky side, which is a shame given the number of close-up in-game cutscenes used to push the plot along, but what the game lacks in polygons it usually makes up for in atmosphere. The vampires' attack on the Rising Sun has left the place looking like an earthquake has hit, with much of the barge now in ruins and mangled bodies lying around all over the place, not all of them dead. Throw in some moody lighting, billowing flames, scattered debris and pools of blood and the place begins to feel like home.
While Gamesquad's last effort, The Devil Inside, singularly failed to set the gaming world on fire, From Dusk Till Dawn is looking far more promising at this stage. It's stylish, violent and a lot of fun at times. If the developers had enough time to polish the game before it went gold last week, they might be on to a winner. Look for a full review when the game is released in early September!