Xbox Review: Van Helsing

We need lawyers who understand video game programming. People like that would be able to dig into something like Van Helsing and slap a multi-million dollar lawsuit on Vivendi Universal for plagiarism. This is a 100% clone of Devil May Cry in every way, and if one were to look deeper, it wouldn’t be surprising to find lines of code stripped right out of Capcom’s franchise.

It’s not only the melee combat, dual pistols, melee combat, in-the-air firing, and stylized defense. It’s down to the feel, and cinematic qualities which are also borrowed. It’s probably the best engine to use for the high-budgeted Hollywood movie translation, but it’s hard to get past how obvious it all is.

Van Helsing does nothing original, but at the least, it borrows all of its elements from what will likely be a classic action game. As Van Helsing, players will trek through locales, fending off mythical fiends dumb enough to try and withstand dual-pistol firing power. It’s wrapped tightly, allowing for quick movements and a great flow to the action.

The various undead provide only minor challenge to the monster hunter, a reasonable Hugh Jackman model. Boss fights are problematic because they feel like the rest of the action. Rarely do you need to change strategy from running, diving, and shooting. Where as DMC was brutally difficult to the point of impossibility, Van Helsing is a breeze.

All of this means the flaws came over too, including the uncontrolled camera system that's never in a convenient spot. Jumping is rough since angles are usually difficult to judge, and being attacked from off-screen adversaries is always disappointing design. The same goes for the amount of collectibles, spewing from beaten undead when they die (again). The ability to upgrade to new moves and powers is nice, but if the player is constantly forced to pick up green circles (and who takes glowing green circles as a currency?).

Puzzles are also a sore spot, either requiring the player to think illogically (how nice is it that Van Helsing’s arrows fit right into all the spaces he needs them to?) or flat out giving the player the solution. They also throw off the pacing, which is especially apparent given the constant stream of action. These sections are the only challenging aspects, and that’s only because they’re not designed particularly well.

For the most part, Van Helsing succeeds everywhere Capcom’s action game did. It’s a fair movie title, but it’s too easy to make the comparison and see where things in Van Helsing don’t fit. It’s short enough romp that playing through it won’t cause any harm, and you’ll enjoy the mindless blasting. Whatever you do, don’t expect any drastic changes from what you see in the first 10-minutes.

(*** out of *****)

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