We’ve got some sympathy for Vivendi Universal. Admittedly, for years its been behind some really quite insipid tie-in games to the various movies in the Universal Pictures archive, yet with last year’s Hulk, the company delivered a brief but very entertaining marriage of stealth and action. And pretty much everyone ignored it.
This year, with Van Helsing, the developers have still just about kept us on side. It’s based, inevitably, on the huge blockbuster movie of the same name, and finds you in the title role as you encounter big name enemies such as the Wolf Man, Dracula and Frankenstein. You also tackle smaller baddies along the way, and this is all done through a mixture of weaponry and good, old fashioned hack-and-slash.
In fact, ‘old fashioned’ wouldn’t be too bad a description of Van Helsing. Nor would ‘templated.’ The game, you see, throws up some cut scenes, and then it’s off for some action adventuring. Another cut scene, another bit of game, and so on. Unless you’re a devout adorer of the movie, you’ll be pig-sick of those seemingly endless cut scenes in under an hour.
The gameplay itself requires a bit of problem-solving as you head off on your quest to hunt down the game’s numerous monsters, although all too often the answer to the puzzles will be blatantly signposted or really quite obvious. Likewise, the adventuring side never really kicks in, as you’re usually under a minute away from the next slice of action.
And thank goodness for that action, which is the game’s saving grace. There’s nothing really new here, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Whether you’re fighting one of the boss characters or just battling your way through a level, the fast pace engenders a solid momentum, and as a single player throwaway game Van Helsing does well.
It’s enlivened more by a healthy selection of weaponry, and every now and then it pays to choose wisely in order to reap maximum impact against a particular foe. Throw in a few special moves and, while hardly groundbreaking, it’s all certainly enjoyable.
There are some more problems, though. The camera angles, for instance, look like they’ve been influenced by the last Tomb Raider game a little too much, and on too many occasions we just couldn’t see what we needed to in order to progress, thus relying on chance more than skill. The game’s not long, either, and although you’ll probably have an enjoyable time going through it, there’s little replay value and it won’t take the experienced gamer more than a day or so to get to the end.
Nonetheless, as a rental item it’s a game that fits the bill nicely. There’s certainly not enough here to warrant £30-40, but there’s enough within it to go and give your local Blockbusters a bit of business.
Company: Vivendi Universal