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Van Helsing

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Saffire
Publisher:  Vivendi Universal
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Action
ESRB:  Teen
Online Play:  No
Accessories:  Xbox Live (scoreboards), HDTV 480p, In-game Dolby Digital
Date Posted: 

7-13-04

Van Helsing the movie is a shallow early summer blockbuster thatís main appeal is the vast array of classic monsters it shows off and slick production.  Van Helsing the game is a shallow outing thatís main appeal is the vast array of classic monsters you get to kill and slick production.  So if you liked the movie, youíll probably like the game.  If you didnít, thereís little else to draw your attention here.

Van Helsing follows the title character through the land of Transylvania, battling Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and other assorted meanies through 13 different missions.  Donít let that relatively impressive number fool you though, because in truth several of them are really just boss fights with one or two other areas thrown in to make it seem like a ďmissionĒ.  Seeing mission times of 3 minutes or so is never a good sign, and in truth this game can be beaten in a good afternoonís worth of gameplay (my first time through was just over four and a half hours).

Combat is the standard action game formula Ė one melee weapon, one long-range weapon, and several combos and dodges to compliment the action.  Unfortunately, simply dodging and firing your long-range weapon as needed is all most of the game requires.  The main challenge in battle comes from figuring out which weapon is most effective against a particular enemy and the sheer number of enemies on-screen at any one time.  Even when hard mode is unlocked it isnít much more of a challenge, since you start with everything (including the almighty chain gun) you earned in the normal mode. 

In addition to the simplistic gameplay, the camera jumps around from fixed location to fixed location.  The result is a viewpoint thatís not always ideal, often resulting in getting backed into a corner and pummeled unnecessarily.  Itís particularly bad during boss fights, as the boss character will often be off the screen completely forcing the player to rely on the weapon lock-on.  While never game-crippling, it is annoying.

Like any good game of this sort, thereís also a ton of stuff to collect.  Green crosses come spewing out of defeated enemies and destroyed inanimate objects, and may be used to purchase upgrades and items from the armory at the end of each mission.  Special cheat glyphs open up a bunch of mostly useless modes that can be chosen from the inventory menu, including stuff like Big Head Helsing.  Easter eggs unlock one of several different challenge missions, and there are also items that provide ammo & life refills.

Graphically, Van Helsing has that look most multi-platform games on Xbox have.  The character models arenít as complex as Xbox exclusives, and the environments (while impressive) feature a lot of blurry textures and repetitive areas.  Thatís not to say itís terrible, because the monster variety is impressive and the attention to detail (particularly the descriptions of a lot of objects) in each environment shines.  Load times are virtually nil, with a neat-o transition from the main menu to the last save point in seconds and minimal wait times during the action.  On the whole itís a competent representation of Transylvania, and the unique setting adds to the enjoyment of the game.

The sound is similar, with some good voice acting featuring several of the movieís stars (cheesy accents actually fit for once!) and varied sound effects.  The music is epic and sweeping, and thereís enough environmental ambience to make the woods feel like woods.

Highs:

  • All of Universalís major classic monsters are here in fine form.
  • Fast and frantic action.
  • The load times are virtually nothing.

Lows:

  • This game is very short, and unlocking hard mode doesnít add much replayability.
  • Simply dodging, firing, and then dodging some more can beat almost every monster.
  • The graphics donít seem to have been optimized for Xbox in the least.

Final Verdict: 

If youíre a fan of the movie or classic monsters, this might be worth a rental or budget purchase once it drops in price.  Otherwise, thereís little reason to pick this up over the slew of action games already out there. 

Overall Score: 6.0

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