It’s typically a bad sign for a console or peripheral when our expectations for any game that supports it are low. As a parent, the Kinect is a wonderful game device that provides hours of enjoyment for my kids. As a “core” gamer, though, the device has, so far, been a disappointment. If Microsoft hadn’t put so much focus on the Kinect, it would be easy to write it off as one of those things that just isn’t for us. Instead, with the emphasis the company has placed on the device, we’re instead left asking, “where are the games for ’gamers?’”
Thankfully, Sega is one of the first companies to answer that question with Rise of Nightmares. The game plays out like so many B-movies. There’s bad acting, rocky relationships, over-the-top stereotypes and fountains of blood. The plot focuses largely on an American couple traveling in Eastern Europe. Josh likes his booze a little too much, and Kate is pressuring him to quit. None of that matters after a hulking beast of a monster kidnaps her, the train derails, and you need to survive a mad surgeon’s sinister creations to find and rescue the damsel in distress.
The biggest question that comes up when reviewing Kinect games is, “how does it control?” I am pleased to report that Rise of Nightmares is one of the most intuitive, enjoyable experiences available for the peripheral. When I heard that the game wasn’t on rails, I was skeptical that it would work at all. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the “put one foot forward” mechanic to move you forward not only worked, but also was nearly flawless. You’ll need to make sure you have a little bit more room than the average Kinect game because the movement mechanic allows you to backpedal by placing one foot behind the other.
The camera turns by tracking your shoulder position. Remember having to turn your shoulders in the Kinect tuner? This is why. I found that once I settled into a rhythm with the game, I was able to better coordinate forward movement with turning. I never quite got beyond running into the occasional wall, but it got better. I found that taking an approach that mimicked Resident Evil’s stilted controls (stopping entirely to turn) seemed to work the best. You’re not always afforded the time to do this, though.
The hand tracking for environment interactions was beyond what I’ve experienced in any other Kinect title. Opening doors, climbing ladders, flipping switches (all done in a way that should have Quantic Dream salivating to develop for the Kinect) were not only intuitive, but also fun. There are moments in the game where you need to cover your ears, swim to shore and pull large levers. The game demands that you gesture as you would if you were actually doing these things, and it holds up its end of the bargain.
Combat is largely up close and personal melee action, with the occasional projectile weapon to be discovered. There is a large variety of makeshift and intentional weaponry to be discovered from brass knuckles to vases. I absolutely loved some of the creative tools of destruction like shock knuckles and the brutal monster gloves, which pop a creature’s head in one hit. There are even two-handed weapons like large tongs and pruning shears that you use with a grabbing motion. You need to keep an eye on your weapon status, as everything deteriorates with use, leading to some difficult decisions.
I ended up flailing quite a bit while engaging in combat, but the zombie-like enemies were weak enough that it didn’t diminish the experience. They come in large numbers, but a well-timed swing can do damage to multiple monstrosities at once. The enemies are well suited for the limitations of the Kinect. The end result is satisfyingly brutal combat that never stopped being fun. Kicking a monster can help buy you some breathing room, and in some ways the game reminds me of Condemned: Criminal Origins.
It seemed like Sega knew what it was doing with the game, managing to overcome the weaknesses of the motion control with a couple of smart design decisions. While you can, and should, freely move around the environment, the game features an auto-movement mode that can be turned on by raising your right arm and turned off by dropping your arm. This puts the game on rails until you reach enemies or an area where the auto-movement is disabled. The other decision that was made helps compensate for the trickiness of trap-infested areas. While you may find yourself dying, the game will start you very close to the area of your demise. It helps lessen the sting of accidentally getting cut in half because of a bad moment of Kinect movement detection.
The visuals of the game are just as campy as the story. You’ve seen the enemies, setting and supporting characters in any number of survival horror games including Resident Evil and Silent Hill. While nothing you’ll see is particularly memorable, the package still works. Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking.
As for audio, the voice acting is beyond bad, making it that much more enjoyable as a B-movie story. The screams, crying survivors and gurgles of advancing undead are unremarkable, but fitting. The best part of the game’s audio design comes during combat as you inflict all manner of blunt- and sharp-force trauma on the unwitting shamblers that lurk around every corner. There are audio recordings to find that help fill in more of the story of the mad doctor and his wife, which is another reason to explore the environment on your own.
Let’s be honest. There is no title out for the Kinect, and, for that matter, no title that has been announced, that is going to sell the peripheral to core gamers for traditional game experiences. That’s not what the device is about yet. However, if you have a Kinect already, Rise of Nightmares should be in your library. It’s a devilishly fun game that showcases the power of the Kinect and allows you to punch the undead in the face.
Review copy provided by publisher.