Game Rant’s Andrew Dyce reviews Rise of Nightmares
Motion gaming has seen some major developments over the past two years, and while the Microsoft Kinect and PlayStation Move made big splashes when they launched, the list of killer apps hasn’t been as impressive. So when Rise of Nightmares first appeared, the hopes of Kinect owners and zombie fans alike were raised, as it seemed to offer the closest simulation of zombie-slaying that safety would allow.
But does Rise of Nightmares scratch an itch every Kinect owner feels, or simply mark yet another genre that will be problematic – given the limitations of motion control? Read our review to find out.
Even with the relatively short list of Kinect titles that offer more than just mini-game collections, it’s possible that you haven’t heard much about Rise of Nightmares. That’s understandable given the recent onslaught of triple-A properties played exclusively on a controller. But from the game’s very first trailer it was clear that the subject matter would be darker and deadlier than other dance and fitness-related Kinect offerings.
It’s refreshing to see developers building a game from the ground up for the Kinect’s motion controls, and even more so to hear that it isn’t aimed at younger audiences. But a premise can only take you so far. Sega needs to show with Rise that not only can the Kinect be utilized for telling a single cohesive story, but that familiar genres can offer something new.
While the finished product is proof that the Kinect can be used to deliver some competent gameplay and bone-chilling immersion, the actual game leaves a lot to be desired. It certainly has aspirations of being more than just a demonstration of Kinect’s hardware possibilities, but there are more mistakes than successes, which means an ultimately unsatisfying experience.
Anyone who sat through the Microsoft Press Conference at this past E3 knows that many developers have already fallen into the trap of building Kinect games that can be reduced to hacking and slashing with arms flailing. Since that’s one of the most straightforward actions that Kinect can perceive, there’s no getting around it, but (even with flailing arms) a compelling story and thrilling environment might be enough to elevate a player’s interest. Sadly, Rise of Nightmares doesn’t tackle either of those issues with much success.
The story itself places the player into the shoes of a man traveling through Europe with his wife. Eventually the two are dragged – along with a few other innocent victims – into the twisted experiments of your typical mad scientist. The voice actors do little to make the characters anything more than interchangeable NPCs, and the plot beats of the opening action set-pieces make it abundantly clear that the player won’t really form any meaningful attachment to these people. Since the player’s main goal for the entire experience is to find and rescue his wife, one would expect that at least some time would be spent developing the two characters, or their relationship. Alas, it is not to be.
The story will immediately be familiar to any modern horror fans, with a majority of the game taking place in a large castle in the remote forests of Eastern Europe. While the setting fits the extremely disturbing violence and grotesque undead creatures the player is faced with, the lack of diverse areas or polished visuals is noticeable. We’re not going to attack the game’s writers for crafting a story that is no more offensive or ridiculous than any current horror hits like Final Destination or Saw, but with such a flimsy plot, the game can really only be enjoyed for its moment to moment combat.
As far as the combat and controls are concerned, neither is a fully mastered science. Considering just how long ago Sega announced Rise of Nightmares, the competent navigation and combat on display is extremely promising for the future of Kinect. The developers have never disguised the fact that this game is a zombie-slasher, so the monotony of thrusting and slashing is an unavoidable risk. Even though the player is given a vast array of weapons to wield, from saw blades and explosive vials to hatchets and chainsaws, long stretches of facing one or two opponents at a time is nowhere near as satisfying as being plunged into dozens of mindless killers. Sadly, the latter occurs far too rarely.
We would be more than willing to forgive this lack of depth given the genre and new technology (and enjoyable as it may be), but the worst aspect of Rise is the moments that show just how much better the game could have been.
We’ll avoid spoilers but after approximately 3 1/2 hours of the game’s 5 hour campaign, an entirely new form of weaponry and attacks are introduced – with completely new gesture commands. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that if Ken Levine were to take note of this portion of Rise of Nightmares, a BioShock Kinect title would be far more appealing. But in a move that is as puzzling as the plot twists that follow the introduction of these elements, the abilities are completely stripped away. What follow is a drawn-out, loading screen-filled climax that offers some of the least interesting, least satisfying, and most cliched gameplay and cut-scenes the game has to offer.
This is the ultimate tragedy of Rise. Out of an interesting and aptly-designed Kinect title that is happy to sit completely within the genre of horror-slashers comes a few fantastic ideas. But ultimately, those ideas are left behind in favor of staying true to the played-out and all too familiar horror story. We can’t fault the team for telling the story they wanted to, but it does descend into “weird for weirdness’ sake” territory. The result is a game that offers somewhat satisfying gore and creepiness, but does itself a disservice by showing that it could have been, and likely should have been much, much more.
If you’re a die-hard zombie and slasher fan, then this game could absolutely strike a chord. But aside from renting the game to play with a large group of people who are similarly inclined, it’s hard to see Rise of Nightmares as more than an unnecessary and shallow Kinect experience. Walking through corridors and slashing undead monsters may be enjoyable at some points, but the future controls hinted at are more impressive than the overall experience.
Rise of Nightmares is available now – exclusively for the Xbox 360 and Kinect.