Martin Carr reviews The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing…
Hungarian games developer NeoCore have unleashed a Diablo III clone which is fun, fast but ultimately offers little to shout about. I know that sounds like a rather harsh opening but consider these hurdles.
Diablo III was an epic action RPG which managed to remain addictive without being repetitive. Enemies were well-distributed without swamping the novice, while its learning curve was graded to appease veteran and rookie alike. With Van Helsing the opposite is all too often an issue.
In the game Van Helsing and his ghostly companion Katarina may provide slices of sarcasm, but their verbal word play too often gets lost amongst the carnage. As much as this may broaden the characters and provide additional depth, I felt it detracted somewhat. Meaning that after little more than two hours I turned off. Not because the game was bad but rather because it failed to engage me. With Diablo III I never felt the passing of time and often had to stop from frustration not indifference. As much as Van Helsing looks pretty and excels in the animation stakes this is now a prerequisite not an exception. Next Gen consoles have to work harder and capturing that lightening in a bottle is becoming increasingly difficult. Which is where Van Helsing falls down.
In terms of game mechanics I have little or no complaints. Apportioning attributes, manipulating abilities and fighting off hordes of beasties from Borgovia is fun. Load times could be reduced while multi-player longevity needs work, but ultimately Van Helsing is let down by fundamentals. What we have here is a good game which is stuck in the slipstream of other genre defining titles. A ‘lesser son of greater sires’ if I can steal from Lord of the Rings momentarily. Neocore have created something uniquely funny which is let down by a lack of vision. If other elements had been improved upon, Van Helsing may well have ploughed its own furrow. Single-handedly eradicating any bad memories spawned from witnessing that Jackman travesty.
In its defence there is much to be said for Van Helsings atmosphere and humour. Which goes some way to glossing over those shortcomings. It’s true that there is an old-fashioned, vaguely misogynistic tilt to the exchanges. But that dialogue is well written, sharp and just age appropriate enough considering ‘Van Helsing’ is currently on free download for Xbox One.
For those reasons I recommend Van Helsing as a diversion after Christmas dinner, but no more than that. It neither pushes the envelope nor reinvents the wheel. If anything this game represents those boxers and socks you get every Christmas. Highly practical, mildly diverting but ultimately uninspired.