2009 Reviews

NecroVisioN

  • Review Date: 2013-06
  • Release Date: 2009-02
  • Developer: The Farm 51
  • Rating: 8.0

I'm very glad that developer The Farm 51 didn't bomb out with this title and, somehow, had enough sales to make a prequel, another Painkiller sequel (which really isn't needed) and two more games under development which, quite frankly, look fantastic.

It's a surprise because I didn't hear much about Necrovision after it's release. I remember seeing early trailers and thinking it's just the sort of game I like - old skool in not only fast-paced gameplay but also design. It looked a bit like a Return to Castle Wolfenstein with a horror/war setting.

The problem for this game is perhaps keeping players in the game long enough until it gets good. Initially, the first two levels weren't great, and probably offput a lot of gamers. But anyone who gave this game a poor rating probably quit early on. But if you perservere, the game gets really good.

Necrovision starts out in a WWI battle scene. You're trudging through cramped trenches with poor weapons, then the next level feels like Painkiller with enemies swarming and re-spawning constantly. At this point, the amount of enemies was just frustrating and not fun. The team at The Farm 51 hail from Painkiller, so if it's this tricky on only the second level, I can't imagine how hard the later levels will get. So, I dropped down to easy difficulty.

In hindsight, that second level is the hardest, so I didn't need to replay on easy. By the middle of the game things were a little too easy. At the same time, I'm glad there weren't so many enemy re-spawns because Painkiller's gameplay style isn't very good, to be honest.

I keep comparing back to Painkiller because the games do have similarities, mostly with the design style and fast-pace with lots of enemies on screen. But the combat is very different. You don't get weapons that gib enemies instantly, you need to slug it out, and some enemies will get up two or three times after being taken down. Sometimes this can be annoying, especially in the early stages when most of your foe are zombies and you just find yourself melee button-mashing.

Necrovision blends melee and shooter combat very well. Normally when a game tries to do this, you just end up using one or the other because it's not equal. Early on you just use normal hand-to-hand combat or your knife as the main melee weapon, with the handguns, rifle, shotgun and sniper all coming in handy for different situations. There were more powerful weapons, but I tended to save them up for mini-bosses. There was plenty ammo so I probably could have used them more.

But once you get to the halfway point of the game, everything totally changes. It's almost like a new game. This is where the WWI ends and you go underground to fight the vampire race and demons (no more fucking zombies). You get given a supernatural claw (like Wolverine) which massacres enemies, while with your other hand you get upgraded Vampire weapons (handgun, shotgun, flamethrower, rocket launcher). The claw also has powers which build up the more enemies you kill. The most useful is a fireball attack which obliterates everything around you. A few of those in a row and I got a bit of slowdown and my screen was engulfed in flame, but it was still an epic attack.

The claw also comes with other powerups; freezing enemies, a fast explosive projectile, shield that I never earned. The projectile comes in very handy as well, especially in later stages where I would save fireballs for bigger enemies or when I was in trouble.

The controls aren't perfect - you have no less than four different attack keys which switch around depending on your weapon combination. The melee attack and fireball were bound to the same key for me, so often I'd waste my fireball without realising it.

Once I got my Vampire weapons, the human weapons weren't so useful - I only came back to them for the sniper or more powerful shotgun and rocket launcher once I got to the bosses.

Speaking of which, the bosses are unusually easy. I think I only died a couple of times on them throughout several boss battles. Which is just as well, because the main weakness of Necrovision are the level loads, even quickloads, still take 1-2 minutes.

Like the combat, the level design isn't so great early on. It's a well-repeated war theme. But things improve as you move from castles, a hellish underground of mechinical monstrosities and palaces before finally fighting through hell itself. It becomes a fantastically designed fantasy-horror world.

The game uses the Pain Engine, as used in Painkiller, but damn this thing must have been upgraded because the huge levels looks as good as most Unreal Engine 3.0 games. However, I did have all settings maxed out including running in DX10 mode. DX9 had a horrible blurry look and wasn't nowhere near as sharp as DX10.

In an industry becoming dominated with realistic shooters, it's nice to get a horror/fantasy game that doesn't get wrapped up in being realistic. That prefers chaotic, horde combat and doesn't take itself too seriously. This is definitely a studio to keep an eye on.