Rise of Nightmares sees Sega utilise the Xbox Kinect system to create a blood-soaked battle against the undead horde (yup, it's them again). Players will use their full bodies to explore a creepy castle in Eastern Europe, thrashing away at zombies and monsters with fists, chainsaws and electricity-charged knuckle dusters. But will the familiar problems of lag on the Kinect system bring the real nightmares in this first-person slash-fest?
Microsoft's new Kinect system has sold by the bucket-load and introduced people to full body, motion control gaming. But there is a sense that the system is searching for a genuinely hardcore title to really bring it to life. Nintendo's Wii ultimately suffered in the long-term from an abundance of party games and casual titles, as hardcore players gradually drifted away from the platform.
So, it's timely that Sega's new first-person title Rise of Nightmares is a Kinect game very much aimed at adults, utilising the innovative control system for hacking and slashing away at the undead horde, rather than performing dance moves or playing bubblegum mini-games. Digital Spy checked out Rise of Nightmares to see if it might be a dream moment for Kinect, or a total nightmare.
Rise of Nightmares screenshots
One Hell of a night
The game's story plays out over one hellish night inside a spooky castle in Eastern Europe. Players assume the role of an American tourist who has come to the region on holiday with his wife. The couple's problems begin when the train they are travelling on tragically derails. The man escapes, but his wife is kidnapped, triggering a mad dash to get her back. He finds himself walking through the forest surrounded by wreckage from the crash, before heading into a graveyard just as people suddenly start rising from the dead (whatever happened to rest in peace?).
The man then makes the rather questionable decision to find refuge inside a castle, which is when things really start to go bad. The dilapidated castle is inhabited by a mad doctor named Victor, who has been doing some crazy "Frankensteiny" experiments, maybe or maybe not involving human centipedes. Our hero has to run around the castle, try to find out what is going on and get his beloved back.
There are clear references to Splatterhouse and House of the Dead in the game, although it has a darker tone than the latter, which was relaunched for the Wii by Sega in 2009. The game is very much aimed at adults, a fact made clear by its 18-rating and opening cinematic, which features Victor hacking off the hand of a man strapped in a chair. There are clearly references to torture porn here but at its heart Rise of Nightmares is an old school zombie slash fest, with players needing to use their full bodies to beat back the undead horde in oceans of blood.
Full body bloodshed
The first-person game is not on-rails, instead you lean forward to move and then tip your shoulders left and right to look around. You can go wherever you want in the world, but there are certain sections when the game will automatically move forward for you, triggered by holding your fist upright. Fighting is similar to the Condemned series, in that you will mostly be flailing at enemies in frantic motions with whatever comes to hand. Combat works pretty much as expected, you hold up your hands to get ready to fight and then punch, slash and thrash to your heart's content. You can push the enemies off with both hands, and kick them in the stomach to beat them away in frantic moments.
The hit detection is reasonably intelligent, meaning you can aim for specific limbs or the head to deal different types of damage. A well placed shot is able to decapitate the undead zombies and various monsters. Health is regenerative and there are some nice touches here, for example a certain enemy spits out a gush of acidy bile, which the player must wipe away with their hand before fighting back. Another witch-like foe screams really loudly, requiring the player to hold their hands over their ears and then kick her to end the shrill noise.
Sega said that our hero is not some super soldier, meaning he can only carry as many things as a regular person - i.e., one large weapon and a smaller item. But the range of weapons is excellent, starting off with lead pipes and jagged blades, but later moving on to blood spattered chainsaws and more experimental weapons, such as a set of electricity powered knuckle dusters, allowing the player to do some supercharged boxing. Alongside the combat, the game throws up a range of environmental puzzles, including one which involved hunting for a key that was ultimately hidden in a toilet bowl filled with blood, requiring you to reach inside and grab it. Gross.
Rise of Nightmares screenshots
Nightmare on Kinect street?
As with many Xbox Kinect games, possibly the biggest concern about Rise of Nightmares is the slight lag in the detection of movement by the system. The Sega reps attempted to argue that the game will run smoothly even in hectic moments of multiple enemies, but it was easy to see times when movements took just a little stutter before registering on screen. This may not be a massive issue for casual games, but with more hardcore titles it can be a terminal flaw. It's a bit like switching TV channels - when you are used to a smooth and quick action, you really feel the difference when it slows down.
Rise of Nightmares only occasionally exhibited delay on movement detection, but it remains a worrying sign. The team still has a few more months to sharpen up the control system before the release date, plus there are enough good ideas elsewhere in the game to make this compelling, such as particular techniques for tackling different enemies and some interesting control mechanics. But whether the game truly becomes a hardcore dream for the Kinect system, or a stuttering nightmare will ultimately be revealed later in the year.
Rise of Nightmares will be available on Xbox 360 on September 30 worldwide.