Occasionally I go into a game review and I have no idea what to expect, those are the times when I usually have a tough time doing a review. Honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect from Sega’s Kinect only offering, Rise Of Nightmares. When I first bought my Kinect I was very excited, I had dreams of first person shooters and virtual tea bagging. What I got was an influx of dance, fitness and party games. Now I’ve enjoyed those types of games immensely, but I wanted a story driven, cinematic experience with Kinect. There were lots of people who said games like Rise Of Nightmares couldn’t even be done on Kinect, I like many was skeptical about Kinect’s ability to run a game that wasn’t on rails. I felt a little better about the prospect of a true gaming experience when I used Avatar Kinect, seeing as how it can read your eyebrow movements, I again let my imagination run wild. The possibilities are truly limitless, we can get caught up sometimes in the fact that Kinect hasn’t really offered a full cinematic game, that we can often forget that Kinect is still in its infancy. Remember, Kinect hasn’t even been on the market for a full year yet, not until November 4th, 2011.
Rise Of Nightmares took me back to when I was a kid and played Resident Evil for the first time, you get that general eerie feel from the game. The actual gameplay gives off a House Of The Dead, Condemned mixture of play. Which is a very good thing if you’re a fan of either of those series. The graphics aren’t top-notch by any means, they are actually on par or slightly better than Condemned, which was a release date offering from Sega when the Xbox 360 launched back in 2005. The textures are better, as is the lighting and the game is actually longer then the original Condemned as well. If you were like me, you played Condemned and only used melee weapons, if that was what you did, you’ll feel right at home with Rise Of Nightmares.
The plot of Rise Of Nightmares is nothing spectacular, your a husband in search of your wife who has been kidnapped. It’s a plot that has worked for games for over twenty years. So while it’s not the most intricate plot, it definitely gets the job done. You start off the game on a train, which has a monster on board, eventually the train gets derailed, the monster and accomplice both escape leaving you and a few survivors stranded on an ominous shore. Whats that in the distance? why it’s a giant, creepy looking mansion…you should definitely go check it out! As I said, the game’s plot isn’t exactly Shakespeare, but it does a good job of keeping you interested throughout the game.
The controls are probably the biggest surprise, they work and work really well. I’ve seen some videos out there where they have someone who doesn’t know anything about Kinect and they just start flailing about and move too far forward or out of the Kinect’s range and then it makes for a humorous video and people will say the controls look clunky. In actuality, when you play it at home and adjust to the control scheme, it’s very simple and effective. It took me about five minutes to learn the controls and probably about twenty minutes to master them. Since the game is not on rails, you simply place one foot in front of the other to move forward, the further you place it in front of the other, the faster you walk. There is no run option, just a fast paced walk that adds to the allure of the game as a whole. If you want to move the camera you turn your shoulders slightly to the left or right and the camera responds fairly quickly, holding one of those positions you can perform a full three hundred sixty degree turn.
There is a tutorial level that helps you understand the controls better, honestly they are pretty straight forward and the idea to play a first person horror game without a controller is genius. People talk a lot about video games and immersion into video games and I think this might be the first time I actually got completely immersed and lost in a world of horror. There is no controller to get in the way of the action and you actually feel like the star of the show. I had all the lights off and it was just me and my big screen HDTV, the feel the game gives off is genuine. Rise Of Nightmares isn’t a party game and it’s definitely not for kids. The gore and violence are both substantial and at times over the top, things can and do jump out at you, which can be very unsettling at times.
There are a wide array of weapons to use in the game, sadly there are no firearms, but I think guns would actually detract from the atmosphere that the game achieves with the hand to hand and melee combat. You can’t just aim and shoot your enemies, you have to get face to face and stab, punch and backhand your way through the game. You bring your hands up like a boxer and this allows you to block the enemies attacks. My personal favorite weapon in the game is the chainsaw, which allows for maximum monster killing. Throughout the game you can interact and pick up weapons that are either sharp in nature or blunt in nature, some enemies are susceptible to either, but then there are those enemies that are really only effected by a blunt weapon. One nice feature for Rise Of Nightmares is that you can be either right or left handed and the game lets you pick up the weapon of your choice in either hand. Sharp weapons actually let you cut off enemy limbs, which makes them easier to kill in the end. You cant duel wield weapons, but you can strike with your left fist and still use your knife or other weapon in your right hand. These combos make the game feel all the more realistic.
The boss battles can be a little tiring at times, you can also get a bit work out when a hoard of zombies or monsters attack you all at once, in which case you can actually kick back the monsters to get them off of you. The game also gives you the opportunity to use counter attacks. Every weapon that you find and use in Rise Of Nightmares is breakable, so you’ll often find yourself in a frantic search for new weapons. Luckily there is always a weapon to be found somewhere in or around the mansion, but when your weapon first breaks on you and your surrounded by monsters, it can be a little disconcerting to say the least.
Overall the game offers a one of a kind experience, there will be people who would hope that a game like this would also offer an experience with a standard controller. I’ll say that this game would not be the same experience with anything other than Kinect. If you’re wanting to play a game like this with a controller, then I suggest picking up a classic House Of The Dead game or Condemned Criminal Origins, as those are in the same vein as Rise Of Nightmares. I think Rise Of Nightmares would be a lackluster game or even an average game if it were released to use a standard controller, the fact that you can use Kinect and get that full body immersion is what sets this title apart. There is absolutely nothing like this on the market, if you have a big screen television and a Kinect then you are in for a one of a kind experience.
Rise Of Nightmares is far from perfect, the voice acting is a little suspect and the graphics aren’t spectacular, but as an overall survival horror experience it gets the job done. I was a little weary of the controls at first as well, but after playing through the game my fears were put to bed, Sega has done a masterful job at bringing us a game that truly immerses you in a world of monsters, zombies and ghouls. You don’t need to use exaggerated movements to play this game, it recognizes every little thing you do. This is one of those Kinect titles where you will most likely want to play the game in a larger area, I played it in my living room so I knew I’d have enough room to play the game correctly. If you own a Kinect and your of the proper age to buy this game then I fully suggest you do so. Even though I don’t like to put labels on games or gamer’s, I can safely say this is the first “core” experience on Kinect and it’s done in a way that makes you forget all about a controller…at least for a little while. My hope is that other developers see this game and try to implement the movements and controls for their own Kinect titles. I will always want to use a standard controller for the majority of my gaming, but this proves core games, that aren’t on rails for Kinect can and do work.