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Vampire Rain: Altered Species
Score: 65%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment USA
Developer: AQ Interactive
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1, 1 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Puzzle/ Third Person Shooter/ Survival Horror

Graphics & Sound:
While a visually attractive game, Vampire Rain: Altered Species seems to place its greatest focus on the rain. Sure, it's in the title and so it is obviously an important factor, but it seems as though the whole game is a showcase for the rain - how it looks, how the environments react to it, how the pitter-patter of rain sounds on the pavement. What's there looks good, for the most part. The rain-slicked roads reflect the street lights beautifully and the blood-covered walls and floors that you encounter are appropriately eerie. I'll tell you what else is eerie, but not in a good way. Sometimes members of the Nightwalker Elimination Team (which I'll discuss further in Gameplay) appear to have no pupils. Just white orbs staring back at you - creepy! Further, the shaved skull of Captain Hank Harrison is too prickly in appearance. It may sound like a little thing, but you see his skull enough to where it becomes bothersome. Finally, and worst of all, when a Nightwalker "changes" from a regular looking person to a blood-lusting beast, they do this ridiculous shaking dance. Let me just say that it is really lame.

As far as sound effects go, they are pretty good. The tap of the rain on the ground, the click of the weapons as you ready them, it all sounds pretty good. Extra chilling is the sound of a Nightwalker noticing you - a creepy sound that is hard to explain, but will run a chill up your spine. The dialogue, however, is somewhat lacking. Some of the statements that Nightwalker NPC's make can get repetitive and irritating. Also, the chatter between your teammates and the command center can be somewhat lame.

For 100 years, humans have gone missing as victims of the Nightwalkers, a group of vicious vampires. The American Information Bureau (AIB) has formed a team of elite special-ops members to eliminate the Nightwalkers. Since the town is enveloped in rain, this dampens the senses of the Nightwalkers and might just make their task easier. Well, I am here to tell you that this task is far from easy. In fact, its damn near impossible.

You play as John Lloyd, member of the Nightwalker Elimination Squad and the only team member to have actually survived an encounter with these beasts, some years before. You, along with Hank Harrison, Claire Kelly and Duane Hanson, are tasked with finding the Advance Team who has gone missing, and eliminating all of the Nightwalkers. In the course of their search, they find the Advance Team ripped to shreds and begin to lose hope.

As you progress through the game, you will have Trials, Tutorials and actual Missions. The Tutorials teach you important mechanics you'll need to know in order to make progress. The Trials aren't mandatory, but you can repeat them over and over to hone your skills. Your Missions might involve locating a command vehicle or placing homing devices on the corpses of fallen comrades, but quite frankly, Vampire Rain: Altered Species is a puzzle game at its heart. You have to avoid the Nightwalkers at pretty much all costs because they are crazy fast and very difficult to kill. Once they spot you, you'll have a few seconds to get out of sight. If you remain in view for longer than a second or two, its game over dude. You have access to several guns, one equipped with a silencer, one with a sniper scope, but these aren't much help unless your team is with you. One Nightwalker will make mincemeat of you within seconds. You also have a U.V. knife which you acquire 6 missions in that is able to stealth kill the vampires, but I couldn't stand to play the game past this mission and I never figured out how to load it with U.V., so the thing was useless. So essentially, your job is stealthy avoidance. Every mission is a puzzle where you must determine the appropriate path. Nightwalkers seem to be everywhere, so it's not the easiest task. When you complete a mission, you'll nearly mop your brow with relief.

There is also an online component where you can play the typical multiplayer games like Deathmatch with up to 8 people.

Vampire Rain: Altered Species is hard, very hard. Like I said, the Nightwalkers are nearly impossible to kill and they work in teams. If you make one false move and they spot you, they will demolish you. There is only one way to complete a level (as far as I could tell) and if you tried a path that the game didn't like, you would approach a mission boundary and your captain would yell at you to stick to the mission. Since your guns are pretty much useless except for shooting off locks or scaring away birds to create a distraction, your only goal is to play it stealthy and remain out of sight. I don't know about you, but this doesn't add up to fun for me, but it does make for a stressful experience.

Game Mechanics:
Throughout the course of playing Vampire Rain: Altered Species, you'll unlock side stories, videos and things of that nature. While the side stories are somewhat interesting, they don't have any real benefit other than building some backstory, at least not enough to encourage you to continue playing.

In addition to your weapons, you'll have two additional items at the ready. Your Night Vision and your Necrovision will be your best friends. While sneaking through the night, you can scope out an area up ahead with a quick look through your Necrovision. This will tell you whether the people who are out and about are human (they show up as green) or Nightwalkers (they appear as red). Sometimes, someone may be lurking and you may not see them, but with Necrovision, you just might. Night Vision is also a help, but not nearly as indispensable as Necro.

You'll have a sniper scope available on your head-mounted display, along with the previously mentioned vision assistance. Since at times, you may have to shoot a lock off from a distance, this will help.

Controls are fairly easy, but not necessarily intuitive. You'll use the Left analog stick to move about and the Right to move the camera. You'll ready your weapon by clicking (Square) and shoot with (R2), reloading with (R1). (L1) allows you to scroll through your available weapons and (O) is your action button.

Basically, Vampire Rain: Altered Species just isn't fun. When a game becomes more of a chore to play than something you want to do, it's not a good game. I can see a lot of time went into making it pretty, but it didn't help, at least not for me.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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