Welcome back to First Person Saturday, the weekly series where I will be taking a look at some of the worst the First Person Shooter genre has to offer. Last week I suffered through the awful DOS title Nam, so I decided to treat myself to a legitimately good game this week. Darkwatch is a 2005 FPS developed by High Moon Studios (Now known for developing the recent Transformers titles and Deadpool) and published by Capcom.
Darkwatch centers on a gunslinger known as Jericho Cross, who starts the game performing the last train heist of his life. Yes, Jericho perishes on the heist, but he finds him brought back to life as a vampire. He soon allies with a mysterious woman, who wants to escort him to the Darkwatch organisation’s headquarters to deal with his vampirism. The plot unfolds from there in a rather predictable way, but it’s not really worth going into. I found myself bored with the plot as the game went on, taking every chance I could to return to the gameplay.
However, it wasn’t necessary because the cutscenes are bad, rather than the gameplay is really fun. Every weapon has a main fire mode and a melee, each melee having a creative animation. Jericho twirls his revolver to dice off enemy arms, stabs zombies with the tip of his crossbow, and can even send his foes flying by using an axe that rests on the butt of his shotgun. The weapons follow a rather standard FPS format, with the necessary pistol, shotgun, rifle, akimbo pistols, and other assorted western weapons.
Jericho also has a surprisingly great physicality, being able to jump like he’s in an arena shooter. With the double jump, I was able to clear a good majority of each section, gracefully flying across the battlefield. I’m rarely used to having good jumping in a first person shooter, so flying through mid-air was a fresh and welcome addition. However, I would argue this would make some enemies too easy. Since your melee almost always one hit kills the standard zombie enemies, I often didn’t use any ammo at all when clearing a room, rather running around and dicing them apart with melee attacks.
The gameplay reminds me a lot of Painkiller, which is never a bad thing. Gunfights will all take place in small sections of the map rather than big sprawling encounters like Halo. Many encounters have enemy generators sprinkled about, which will keep spawning in zombies. Thankfully, they go down rather quickly with a mix of dynamite and crossbow bolts. The way dynamite is handled in this title is absolutely baffling, with some of the most shoddy grenade physics I’ve seen this side of Redneck Rampage. Honestly, I found no real use for dynamite, as it would rarely, if ever, hit its mark.
Even with gunfighting and platforming that’s so much fun, Darkwatch does have a big problem, and that’s the fact that it tries to ape Halo. Yes, it released in the era where every FPS was trying to be a ‘Halo Killer’, but the only game that actually managed to overthrow Halo was Call of Duty, a franchise doing something completely different than what Halo was doing. Halo had its shtick, and it did it well. High Moon tried to do the Halo formula, and it worked a lot less well than it did for Microsoft’s golden boy.
With a two weapon limit, the game’s weapons feel very limited. As certain weapons are only good for certain situations, there’s little reason to run around lugging your crossbow for a ranged encounter that might not even come while you miss out on the shotgun. The regenerating shields also aren’t too necessary, as they make an already easy game even easier. As a good majority of the enemies are close ranged, I’d be shocked if you had much trouble breezing through a good chunk of the game.
The game includes very simplistic moral choices at random intervals, awarding you with either light or dark powers. Honestly, I never found much use for the powers. They all boil down to ‘deal extra damage’ or ‘drain health’. Using them at times feels like cheating, as the game is already easy enough. The inclusion of being able to click the right stick to zoom in makes spotting enemies extremely simple, and so does the inclusion of zooms causing enemies to glow white. Gunfights can boil down to zoom, target, and fire. This monotony is broken up when other enemies show their faces, but most of the time you’ll just be gunning down zombies.
Despite the game’s shortcomings, I found a good majority of the game to be thoroughly enjoyable. Each gun is over-designed in such a way that makes it a blast to pick up and fire a good majority of them. The enemies, while mostly simplistic, were all fun to blast and dice up. Even if some of the deeper mechanics were a misfire, the normal gunplay was enough fun to make the experience constantly enjoyable. This is one western that I heartily recommend picking up.