Darkwatch Xbox Review

It's almost impossible to make your first-person shooter stand out on gameplay alone any more. There are not a lot of directions left to take the genre, but Capcom can try all they want if they end up like Darkwatch. Brilliantly combining adult themes, humor, brutal violence, and eerie style, this is one of Capcom's best in years.

It plays great too, offering smooth, responsive gameplay to compliment the other features. Controls are set up in a way that they do become a problem, especially with the focus on melee combat. The X button performs these brutal blows to enemies, and they're a necessary way to beat these levels. Since you need the X button, you can't use the second analog stick for looking. You'll need to commit to every blow.

Jumping is handled better than any first-person shooter before it. Once the lead character gains his vampiric powers, the double jump is available, and it moves slowly while still feeling natural. It's not hard to make what should a difficult leap while taking down the cloud of enemies on the other platform.

Levels go by fast, filled with appearing enemies that waste no time launching attacks. At times, it feels like a light gun shooter as they appear from specific sections and require precise accuracy to drop. There's a definite Serious Sam feel too when the screen is crowded by countless living dead. The multiple inspirations are obvious without taking away from the appeal.

Gore is completely over the top, and while this is definitely a dark, morbid title, it has a sense of humor about itself. Enemies look for their heads when blown off, watch for their arms when sliced into pieces, and explode into a gooey mess when walking too close to dynamite. They offer plenty of classic scare moments, busting through the walls of a closed off mine with no warning as to their sneak attack.

Putting the game in an alternate Wild West adds the extra atmosphere the game needs to work on this level. It's both a beautiful and harsh setting at the same time, the environments reinforcing both. Light plays a huge role in the gameplay as player controlled Jericho Cross needs to stay in the shadows to use his vampire powers. Stepping into the sun takes them all away and makes him vulnerable. It's a smart mechanic to add an extra layer to the game, and it works better than expected.

Darkwatch fails as a multi-player title, and even with full Xbox Live support, this is only a solid single player experience. Options are limited (deathmatch, capture the flag, soul hunter). It's a waste of a strong engine, and with the over-the-top gore and physics, this really could have become one of the top online titles. You'll experiment for a few moments before going back to the main game.

While Darkwatch will of course be overshadowed by the major players in the genre, it's going to find an audience who can appreciate what it is. The single player experience offers a smooth and enjoyable experience worth wasting about eight hours on. This is calling for a sequel on the Xbox 360.

Note: The Xbox version is a major upgrade from the Playstation 2. The controls and frame rate feel more natural (and definitely responsive, except for the X button mishap).

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