I've been wanting more variety in my Kinect games for a while now - that's why I was so glad Child of Eden came along. But sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for, lest you end up with a game like Rise of Nightmares.
Rise of Nightmares is a first-person survival horror/action game that puts you in the role of Josh, who is American and a drunkard. On a train in Romania, your wife - who seems to have even fewer character traits than Josh - is kidnapped by a nasty hulking beast thing and a maniacal laughing scientist. Things go downhill from there as you are drawn into the scientist's labs and must face off against his never-ending horde of zombies.
So yeah, it's not exactly an Oscar-worthy setup, but the execution is even worse. The script is painful, the characters one-dimensional, and everyone's eyes are even deader than the zombies they're being killed by. At a guess, I'd say the developers were trying to go for a deliberately hammy horror movie vibe, but that's no excuse for terrible writing.
But that's okay, because you get to slash at zombies with arm motions! Right? Well yes, you will be spending a lot of time hacking at zombies with a wide variety of weapons. Some, such as the garden shears, are pretty satisfying. But in the end, while melee combat can sometimes feel nicely visceral (helped along by the zombies' reaction to various blows), it all gets repetitive well before the end - and your arms will be tired even earlier.
Compared to the non-combat sections, however, the zombie hacking is pure bliss. Much kudos to the devs for attempting to make a first-person Kinect game that isn't on rails, but I really don't think they were successful. To walk forward, you place your right foot in front of you. To turn, you pivot your shoulders left and right. The end result is like trying to guide a very drunk person around a room. You have to wonder whether that's why they made the main character an alcoholic.
The developers even knew the control scheme was frustrating: you just need to raise your right hand and Josh will automatically walk to the next objective or enemy. That right there shows a lack of confidence in what's ostensibly a major gameplay component.
Even if you get into the swing of things, and begin to enjoy hacking at zombies and being shuffled from place to place with auto-walk, repetition will soon set in. Locations are what you'd usually expect from a Romanian castle infested with zombies: catacombs, dark forests, and endless stone corridors await. More powerful zombie variations, along with uninspired boss fights, are subbed in as you progress, but you'll still be doing exactly the same thing time and time again. And with a plot that actively tries to make you turn off your Xbox, it's not like you've got much of a reason for getting to the end.
I hate to be so harsh. Good on Sega for even attempting a Kinect title that wasn't full of sports-themed mini-games. But plonking down roughly $80 on Rise of Nightmares would be a big mistake. It's repetitive and full of admirable yet ultimately failed experiments, and there are many better titles worthy of your attention.
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