Through The Looking Glass, Darkly
NecroVision Blasts Out Of The Ordinary
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NecroVision is a no-nonsense shooter that takes place during World War I. It's bloodier than any slasher flick, and comes complete with zombies, demons, monsters and all sorts of things that go bump in the night, you know the ones that bump into your head, hard. Oh, and there are everyone's favorite enemy the Germans too, so you know its going to be a tough fight.
Most of these DRM-free games that we get from Aspyr media are forgettable (though not normally bad) experiences. Aspyr seems to put absolutely no marketing effort into any of their PC titles to the point that most gamers don't even know a game like NecroVision (or Death Track Resurrection or Cryostasis) exists. We guess that the guys over at Farm 51 are just happy to be in the "rich" American market with their game, though developers should probably demand a bit more from their publishers.
The thing about NecroVision is that it's actually a cut above most of the Aspyr titles. With a little effort, people might actually learn about this one, and really dig it. It's billed as the spiritual successor to PainKiller, with some of the same team working on the game, but we think in a lot of ways that it's actually better. There is a more compelling story in NecroVision, and a lot more atmosphere.
The game follows a young American who joins the British Army in 1916 for the thrills and adventure of the first World War. Our hero is about to get so much more than he bargained for, and not in a Hemingway type of experience (which was pretty bad in and of itself ) either.
Your first clue that something is wrong is when you find a British soldier locked inside a bunker. He's gone completely crazy to the point of locking the rest of his unit outside to die. At first friendly in a crazy type of way, he eventually comes after you and you have to beat him down with your fists and rifle butt. Then when you get outside, you slowly begin to learn that both the British and the Germans seem to be fighting a common enemy, at least in pockets - the undead. It's not clear exactly what is going on at first (or really too clear as the game goes on either) but the "zombies" are explained away and attributed to things like shell shock at first. The Germans, always the 'go all the way' type of fighters, even gas their own field hospital to try to get ahead of the infestation. It doesn't really help, but you've got to give them an A for effort.
There are also these demons up in the sky that occasionally show up and talk to you, or more scream at you. In a sense you are kind of a chosen one, but instead of saving the world, you are supposed to drive everyone to Hell. You've got other ideas, but are powerless to do anything about it at first.
In fact, your character is mostly just trying to survive. There are a variety of weapons at your disposal to help you do this. In fact, there are a ton of neat guns that seem rendered very well. From bolt action rifles to pistols to swords to grenades to wielding a machine gun in both hands, you can take out your zombie enemies however you like. Heck, you can even chop off their heads with a shovel if you want. In fact, if you are going to go after zombies, you need to do headshots, cut off their heads, or do massive amounts of damage. I shot the heck out of several of them at first, only to see their mostly dismembered corpses still crawling towards me.
When you make kills, you are greeted with a little pomp and the name of the kill pops up on the screen. If you slice them up with a dagger, you get the "Heir Doctor" kill for example. Kill things in interesting ways to find all the kill types! What fun.
Our hero slowly begins to figure out what is going on, though the game has a bit of a convoluted plot, so its no wonder that he is still a little confused since the players will be as well.
As you adventure, your character will say things that also don't always make sense, though they are always funny. Sometimes he will speak in a demon-like voice and scream things like "Respect my skills" or "I forget who's good and bad, but I'm the guy with the guns." I sort of felt like I was inside an Evil Dead movie with Bruce Campbell a couple times, not that this was a bad thing.
One cool thing about NecroVision is that it was dripping with about as much atmosphere as blood, which is to say, quite a lot. There are even letters that you can find from time to time, written by solders experiencing The Great War, or the supernatural effects of the game. These letters are very well written, and our hero sometimes makes amusing comments about them once he's done reading. If only the game would pause long enough in places for you to read them, you might be better able to enjoy it.
The characters you meet along the way are also compelling. Most of these people are doomed and have some simple request for the player, like delivering a last letter to their home or giving them a pistol so they can kill themselves. You don't really have a choice as your character almost always gives them what they want, but its neat to see these interactions advance the story. And it's cool to see so many seemingly normal people driven mad (either overtly or in subtle ways) by the horrors of war.
Levels are fast paced and fun to play. Although mostly linear in nature, there are some environmental things that can be used to gain an advantage to insert a little strategy into the action. Not a lot, but smashing down a wall to get to a hidden machine gun nest or blowing up an explosive barrel while zombies are clustered around it can really make your task a bit easier.
At the end of most levels you get to fight a boss. This, as normal, is the worst part of the game. In fact, it's a little confusing sometimes what you are supposed to be doing. The first boss I came across was a wizard. I took shots at him and it didn't seem to hurt him too much, and because he was up on a rooftop there was not much I could do. Then a bunch of creatures spawned and attacked me, so I rushed into a bunker. Then some flying creatures showed up and I don't really know what was going on outside because I was just tying to hide. But the wizard's health was slowly dropping. When it got to about twenty percent the wizard suddenly appeared in the middle of the battlefield. My character said something about not being able to shoot at him because he was protected by a shield. Instead, he said he would have to get up close and personal. Then the wizard died. Mission complete. I still don't know what the heck happened.
There were also a few minor glitches that happened throughout the game for no apparent reason. These were things like the game slowing down to almost two or three frames per second at one point to the program dumping out into a blue screen of death. None of these errors were repeatable, so again, I don't know why or even when they would occur. But at least they were mostly infrequent.
Taken as a whole, NecroVision was extremely enjoyable to play. There is just the right amount of challenge and more action than you can shake a Chauchat machine gun at. Especially for fans of the horror genre, and to a lesser extent those who enjoy WWI, NecroVision is one not to miss. It's being sold at the reasonable price of $30 online, and is more than worth it for shooter gamers.
John Breeden II is the Chief Editor of GiN. While a forward thinking man he admits to a fondness for older video games. You should have seen him at Videotopia. John can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.