A very wild west

By Bill Hanley

How does a Wild West gunslinger become a half-vampire? Simple, he robs a train and accidentally releases the evil Lazarus that bites him. That may not be a common occurrence in the days of cowboys, but that is exactly what happens to Jericho Cross in “Darkwatch.”

“Darkwatch” combines the classic genre of the undead with the rarely seen Wild West motif. The two themes blend together amazingly well, and put the player right in the middle of the American frontier, overrun with zombies and some seriously mean bloodsuckers.

The plot is easy enough to follow. After being bitten, Cross races to seek help from a secret organization know as Darkwatch. He hopes that Darkwatch can save what little humanity is left in him. Of course, this task is not so easily accomplished, and Cross must fight through every kind of undead to save himself and the world. It goes without saying that there are dire consequences if he fails.

The storyline sets up for some great game play in this first person shooter. Cross acquires a variety of brutal weapons to put down everything that opposes him. This ranges from a shotgun with an ax blade on the stock to a crossbow that fires exploding arrows. All of the weapons in this game are easy to use, and they can all be swung as a club for close range melee attacks with devastating consequences.

Cross can only carry two weapons at one time, and is continually forced to drop weapons in favor of new ones for peak effectiveness throughout the game. As the game progresses, the weapon’s attacks are supplemented by skills that Cross learns. Every time Cross encounters a mortal who has been bitten by the same evil that he was, Cross must make a decision. Cross can choose to either suck the evil out of the person, or to consume their soul.

When Cross chooses to be a nice guy or to drain someone’s blood, he gains new vampire powers. There are 2 distinct sets of powers that Cross can gain. One set of powers is good for saving people’s lives, and the other set is evil for sapping the life out of everything he comes across. Each set has its own advantages, but these vampire skills are rarely needed throughout the game and the choice between good and evil has no effect on the plot. The choice between good and evil is a great concept, but sadly “Darkwatch” fails to make it have an impact.

What “Darkwatch” does extremely well is use artificial intelligence. All of the enemies use different strategies and are smart. Zombies that shoot at you will hide behind cover when you fire back. Other enemies will swarm you in small groups and attack from behind. The entire game is filled with intelligent enemies that truly make winning challenging.

Another plus to “Darkwatch” is its graphics; they are just fun to watch. The motion is never slow or jerky, and the explosions that send bodies flying look good, too. The game’s designers put a lot of effort to create a certain look that is appropriate for running through abandoned mines and shooting up the undead.

Overall, “Darkwatch” is a good first person shooter. However, it does have a short single player mode, and a very limited multiplayer mode. Also, it probably will not receive as much attention as some of the bigger games out there. Still, I have never seen a game like this before. Maybe it is the fact that you play as an outlaw vampire, but I really got into this game.

“Darkwatch” has a unique feel to it that makes it too good to pass up. So go ahead and be a half vampire for a little while. You get to shoot barrels of dynamite and work with some beautiful women throughout the game. And if you are going to play video games, you might as well play one unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Bill Hanley is a senior in LAS. His column appears on Tuesdays. He can be reached at [email protected]