Latest news
Review: Rise of Nightmares
by Andrew Testerman

Since its launch late last year, Kinect’s library of games has consisted of light, family-friendly titles like Sonic: Free Riders and Dance Central, lacking any purely adult-focussed content. No longer, for Sega has delivered Rise of Nightmares, the first M-rated (PEGI 18 in Europe) game for Kinect. Rise of Nightmares is an effort to create a survival horror title in the vein of Condemned: Criminal Origins or the Resident Evil series, but it falls flat in nearly every way possible, lacking quality controls, satisfying scares or even any fun at all.

Players take control of Josh, a man travelling through Eastern Europe with his wife, Kate. Before you can say, “Boy, the entertainment industry sure does have it out for Eastern Europe,” their train derails, and Kate is captured by a mysterious figure in a tattered trench coat. It’s up to Josh to find Kate in the nearby creepy mansion, and escape with their lives.

The narrative isn’t terribly original, but Rise of Nightmares keeps things moving along. The game takes a decidedly B-movie approach to its material, with buckets of gore, F-bombs aplenty and quasi-fetish imagery in numerous places. In fact, some of the early scenes play like Hostel: The Video Game, featuring ‘icky’ rather than ‘creepy’ environments, and placing an emphasis on torture and other generally nasty bits. The most inventive trick it offers is an early scene where players are introduced to all sorts of Expendable Meat-type characters, similar to a slasher flick, and their recurring presence in the game gives the player a reason - albeit a small one - to see the plot to the end.

Getting through the story means playing the game, though, and this is where Rise of Nightmares falters and ultimately fails. Controlling Josh sounds good on paper, requiring players to put their best foot forward to move, and to pivot their shoulders when they want to turn. However, the end result makes the tank controls from the early Resident Evil games look positively graceful by comparison, with a slow movement speed and an oil tanker-like turn radius. The game mentions early on that Josh is a recovering alcoholic, though, so perhaps Rise of Nightmares' movement issues are deliberately part of the character, and that Josh is simply drunk for the entirety of the game.

Things only get worse in combat. Conceptually, Rise of Nightmares has a few things going for it. For one, it has over 40 different weapons to choose from, and some of them are quite inventive; whilst the majority of these are single-handed tools like hatchets or machetes, occasionally an overpowered, two-handed weapon like a chainsaw or power drill will appear, livening up the proceedings considerably. Rise of Nightmares also features a riff on Dead Space’s strategic dismemberment, as enemies will sometimes possess metal appendages that deflect attacks, forcing players to target specific limbs in order to take them down. Lastly, each weapon can only handle so many hits before it breaks, forcing players to collect new ones and experiment with different combat options.

Decent ideas all, but they are completely undone by their execution. Kinect rarely offers the kind of precision needed to reliably target a particular appendage, making it sometimes more effective to flail in the general direction of enemies, and block whenever it looks like someone is winding up for an attack. Speaking of blocking; the gesture to target enemies and the gesture to go on the defensive are far too similar, resulting in more than a few moments when the game will fail to attack, in lieu of striking a pose like the Notre Dame leprechaun. Lastly, there were multiple instances when the Kinect simply didn’t interpret an attack, sometimes registering only seven of every ten attempted swings. In short, combat is a mess, and only the incredible poor enemy AI makes it possible for players to progress further into the game.

The time when the game does make good use of the Kinect is during boss fights. Similar to other modern action games, Rise of Nightmares utilises quick time events, but physically ducking, sidestepping, and dodging backwards is much more engaging and compelling than simply hitting the X button. It’s unfortunate that the best thing that can be said about Rise of Nightmares’ gameplay is that it makes QTEs better, but with a title this bad, gamers need to take what they can get.

Presentation-wise, the game is downright ugly. The character models look like they hopped the haggard express from 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, whilst most of the environments look as if they're straight out of a Dreamcast title, a console that was notable for its roster of crappy survival-horror titles. Voice acting is awful across the board, and though it sometimes seems like Sega wanted a campy, deliberately-bad feel to the performances, the VO work doesn’t quite go far enough to be anything more than a miserable experience for the ears. The only bright spot is the music, which adequately ramps up the tension with cacophonous violins and orchestral stings.

Rise of Nightmares is a noble effort to add a mature-themed title to Kinect’s library of games, but it’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying Rise’s half-baked scares and oft-broken play mechanics. For fans of horror who own a Kinect, this is the only game in town, but players need to heavily consider how much they are willing to put up with for the sake of hacking zombies apart with a pair of pruning shears.

4/10 [?]

Labels: , , , , ,

- Andrew Testerman

Discuss this article in our friendly forums

Sign up to our community today and discuss our articles, debate over upcoming games and organise matches and playsessions with like-minded people just like you.

Liked this? Spread the word - share with your friends!

Done? You might also enjoy these!

All comments are subject to our commenting policy

GGTL Classics
Some of the very best articles dug out from deep in the GGTL archives, written by some of our past and present wordsmiths alike.
Your continued use of this website and/or any others owned by Gamer's Guide to represents your acceptance and indicates your full understanding of all of our legal policies and terms. Our legal policies and terms are legally binding. If you in any way disagree with or refuse to be bound by any part of said legal policies and terms, you are advised to leave this website immediately.