Caio Reviews: Darkwatch

Evil... Old as time, spreads like a plague, corrupting the hearts of men. For millenia, there have been those who were against it. A secret organization to protect mankind. They are the frontline in a unholy war. They are... the Darkwatch

- Opening Narration.

Way before John Marston was shooting zombies in the face looking for a cure to his undead wife and son on Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, Jericho Cross was shooting vampires in the face looking to curse himself on Darkwatch. What in the bloody hell is that? Well its a FPS game developed by High Moon Studios (also responsible for Transformers: War/Fall of Cybertron games and, recently, Deadpool) and released by Capcom on the US and Ubisoft in the UK. Yeah, Darkwatch's ideas may not have been original, but they were quite neat and entertening, there was the chance of a sequel there was enough room to improve and bring out something awesome. Gosh, how I wish someone revisited that game. Unfortunately this game passed under the radar at the time, and now it's a underrated gem.

Summary

Seriously, who would not want to play this game?
Seriously, who would not want to play this game?

It's 1876, and an age of darkness has come upon The Wild West. You are Jericho Cross: Gunslinger. Renegade. Outlaw. Behind you lies a bloody trail of robbery and revenge. Ahead of you lies one last train to rob. Well you couldn't have a picked a worse train to rob, cause there is no gold aboard. But in fact, a 1000-year old vampire-demon named Lazarus Malkoth. Though a mysterious woman called Cassidy Sharpe tries to stop Jericho from blowing the vault, he unwittingly releases the vampire from his prison cell and with him, a terrible curse that unleashes all kinds of undead horrors upon the West. Woops. As if that wasn't bad enough, Jericho is bitten in the process and turned into a bloodsucker. Guided by Cassidy, he now must search for the Darkwatch, a secret organization devoted to fighting against the supernatural evil and helping them hunt down and destroy Lazarus, all while you can still cling to what is left to your humanity or descent into further darkness...

Plot

The plot goes in a very simplistic fashion as it was with many FPS games released at the time, there wasn't much depth or backstory to begin with, it was mostly go from point A to point B. Sounds pretty dull, huh? Well, the game features a morality system like in the Bioware games. you were turned into a vampire and you are given a choice between cling to what is left of your humanity or embrace the monster within. Whatever your decision to play as either a good guy or a bad guy, you still need to kill your sire no matter what.

What is pretty disappointing about the plot is that the most interesting bits of worldbuilding are featured in the manual or the (now defunct) website that you can check out on IGN. According to the Darkwatch timeline, they has been fighting vampires since the fall of the Roman Empire and Lazarus himself founded and leaded the organization up until he was possessed by a demon in a attempt to control the powers of darkness and became the Darkwatch's greatest enemy. You think this critical piece of the plot would be mentioned in the story itself, but it never happens.

Despite the small time they spend together, they made a good team
Despite the small time they spend together, they made a good team

Well, right after the tutorial is over, Cassidy Sharpe is murdered by Lazarus and Jericho is left on his own inside a abandoned mine. When all hope seems lost, he is guided by the ghost of Cassidy, who by this point on serves as Jericho's conscience and encourages him to do the right thing. With her help, he reaches the Darkwatch Citadel and is received in the way you might expect when a vampire walks into the headquarters for a vampire-hunting organization.

He is thrown in chains before Darkwatch commander Clay Cartwright and conscripted into the order. Except your trial by fire is a little more harsher you for human recruits seeing that you are... You know... A vampire. First by throwing you against several undead with nothing but only a mace. Then forcing you to walk under the sewer infested with snake-vampires and then releasing a lots of monsters while you are under the sunlight. You know, I kinda wished this was the actual test for Darkwatch agents, the ones that survive better be guys with the biggest, roundest, hairiest balls in the whole world. But Jericho passes the test and is rewarded with a new set of weapons, a fancy uniform and... Look at that. A brand new partner. A sexy female agent named Tala.

Well, I think I might enjoy this job :)
Well, I think I might enjoy this job :)

You perform several missions for the order by cleaning up the mess you caused in the beginning of the game, such as saving Indian villages under attack, saving Regulators surrounded by undead and recovering a important mysterious artifact that allows vampires to walk on daylight (totally not foreshadowing anything...). After one mission goes really bad (regardless if how well you did), Jericho is scolded by Cartwright and Tala goes to comfort him. If you catch my drift.

I think he might regret this decision in this folowing morning.
I think he might regret this decision in this folowing morning.

But things take a turn for the worse when Tala makes Jericho bite her during their night of passion and in the following morning, you hear the alarm going off and with demons crawling inside the Citadel. Apparently Tala has betrayed everyone and in her words "I only played you Jericho and you gave me what I wanted". Huh. Eh doesn't matter had sex. And as if that was not enough, as you fight through the carnage inside the Citadel, you see Lazarus absorbing the daywalking prism-thingy and becoming a super-vampire-demon himself in the process, allowing him to walk into the sunlight. Oooops.

Doesn't matter. Had sex.
Doesn't matter. Had sex.

Well this is the final battle against your maker, Lazarus has all the powers of ages at his disposal, and commands a unending horde of undead hordes that he endlessly throws at you. But that doesn't matter at all because they mean precisely sh*t, not even the fact Lazarus has gone One-Winged-Angel on yo ass is ever a factor. I mean, his boss fight is cool, but you just kill him pretty much right after he got his upgrade! How lame is that? -_- *Sighs* Anyways with Lazarus finally dead, you are given the definitive choice, one that will decide how the game ends:

In the Good Ending

Jericho lets the Curse of the West to die with Lazarus, only for Tala to appear and take his power upon herself. He and Cassidy chase her into Lazarus' lair, a hell-like dimension that is said where the old world ends and the new one is born, and where Lazarus would remake it on his own image, just like Tala will do it now. She transforms herself into a demon and fights Jericho. She is killed however and in her last words she said "I would loved you" (I wonder how she would seeing how she said to your face earlier that you were nothing more than a pawn) and both Cassidy and Jericho returned to the human world. Jericho's curse is lifted and Cassidy ascends as an angel to Heaven, bidding farewell to her friend and asking him to remember her with him riding off into the moonlight.

In the Evil Ending

Jericho takes the Curse of the West upon himself and becomes the new Lord of Vampires, causing Cassidy to turn on him and Tala allying herself with him. She leads him into Lazarus' lair a hell-like dimension that is said where the old world end and the new one is born and where Lazarus would remake it on his own image, just like Tala and Jericho will do it now. They are both confronted by Cassidy who transform herself into a angel. Tala orders Jericho to kill her, and does so. Just as they embrace, ready to inflict darkness upon the world, Jericho kills Tala by bleeding her dry, turning into a full vampire and throwing away his Darkwatch badge. He rides off into the moonlight, ready to rule the West completely unchallenged.

Well, what can I say? Both endings play out the same manner and the same level with some minor alterations, the final boss is essentially the same one, right down to attack patterns and visual design. But I gotta say, I like the evil ending better than the good one. Why? Because it's much more impactful and dreary, and far less cliched and corny like the good ending. And honestly, if we had to make a Darkwatch sequel, the evil ending is the only way we could continue the story seeing how the good ending wrap things up.

Eh doesn't matter had sex.

Characters

Our hero is just as eloquent and wordy like Gordon Freeman.
Our hero is just as eloquent and wordy like Gordon Freeman.

For exactly the same reason as the worldbuilding mentioned above, the characters are paper-thin and most of their backstory is left once again to the manual. Jericho Cross is your typical heroic mime that doesn't utter a single word throughout the entire game except for pain grunts and death wails. The developers said that "hope that Jericho's character arc — as this desperate lone wolf that's robbing trains with a subconscious death wish — makes a believable transition into this half-vampire hybrid gunslinger and will ultimately envelop the player in his destiny: which is a guy that can be either a hero or a terror. Basically, we just want people to care about this character and what happens to him — and I can't think of a first-person shooter that's really made us do that yet" Well, giving him a personality is a good start. I understand the decision to make him as so that the player can imagine themselves in his shoes and he can stay in consistent way especially it so many moral choices being made but look at this; according to his backstory "he left Missouri and joined the Union army after a tragic argument with his slave-owning father. Disgusted by the atrocities he witnessed in the Civil War, Jericho deserted his regiment and drifted out west. Jericho's rage found an outlet in the life of an outlaw and his face soon found its way onto wanted posters across the counties." Well apparently lost his tongue across the way and didn't get it back when he became a vampire.

*triumphant laughter that swells to over the top laughter*
*triumphant laughter that swells to over the top laughter*

The only characters with a personality in this game are your female companions Cassidy Sharp and Tala. In one hand, Cassidy Sharp is a kick-ass female character as befitting any Jennifer Hale-voiced heroine. On the other hand, she is effortlessly beheaded by Lazarus just at the end of the tutorial and is quickly demoted to exposition fairy like Cortana in Halo. While she wasn't specifically annoying for me (seeing that I played mostly as a good guy) if you play as an evil motherf*cker, you can expect her to chew you out a lot when you cover yourself in the entrails of innocents.

Did I mention that Tala was featured in Playboy once. For advertising purposes of course.
Did I mention that Tala was featured in Playboy once. For advertising purposes of course.

There is also distinctive lack of real antagonists. Excluding Lazarus (the game's Big Bad) and Tala (who is technically on your side for most part of the game up until you rock that bod senseless), every enemy you face is a mindless, generic undead abomination that only cares about chewing on your cold corpse and doesn't have much to say. And not even Lazarus appear that much in the game, though when he does, man, his scenes are worth gold. He is very intimidating and well-voiced acted with his lines being the best ones in the game (not a big feat seeing how our protagonist is a mute). And it might not even be a spoiler that Tala turns on you. The moment you lay eyes on Tala, that sultry and exotic, raven-haired, voluptuous femme fatale (voiced by Rose McGowan no less), you just know she is going to screw you (in a metaphorical and literal sense) sooner or later. Raise your hand anyone that was legitimately surprised that the hot chick was working with the black hats?

Clay Cartwright, essentially the game's Big Good, lending you the resources to hunt down Lazarus, not only gets less of a supposed role other than scolding Jericho for being, you know, a vampire, is also wasted in a sense its hinted this character might not have the most heroic of the intentions. Early in the game, when Jericho and Cassidy pass upon a Darkwatch Outpost, they find a laboratory where Cassidy comments that they have been breeding monsters, but they don't know why. Then when she witness his needlessly brutal treatment he gives you, she comments that "he was not the men I once knew". You think something afoul is at play, right? Unfortunately, this plot thread is unresolved when the Citadel is attacked and we don't even know his final fate. Did he survive? Did he die? What the hell was he doing creating vampires? WE NEVER EFFING KNOW!!

Gameplay

Not enuff dakka. You think this is enuff ya punk? One hundred moar? MOAR DAKKA!!!
Not enuff dakka. You think this is enuff ya punk? One hundred moar? MOAR DAKKA!!!

Some of your allies might turn into undead. Its your duty to give them rest.
Some of your allies might turn into undead. Its your duty to give them rest.

If you are familiar with Halo and Time Splinters then this game will not be strange to you. The game has a two-weapon limit, allowing you to carry only a pair of weapons at the same time as well as dynamite you can thrown at your enemies. Your weapons include your revolver, dual revolvers, carbine, shotgun, crossbow, sniper rifle, rocket launcher (in the Wild West no less!!) that each has a different strength and limitation so you have to look out what is the best you have to carry. The controls are quick and precise due to the analogic calibrations. You can take out the arms of enemies away for crying out loud, and do headshots with ease. Its so satisfying to disarm your enemies and they be unable to attack anymore only to fall dead in the ground, you would almost expect them to chew you to death.

Get used to these little critters, folks. You will be seeing them a lot in this game.
Get used to these little critters, folks. You will be seeing them a lot in this game.

The Enemy AI is somewhat frustrating, while your gun-wielding enemies are good enough taking cover and changing position, a large bulk of the enemies you face are the melee-based Reapers, that don't have any strategy other than bull-charging your position and attack you head on. They aren't hard mind you (they are the starting enemy type) but intensively annoying specially when they surround you or attack from directions you aren't looking. It wouldn't be so bad if you didn't have to fight them in virtually every single freaking level and more times than your gun wielding enemies.

Of course you get different ways of playing the game, such as rail-shooter sections were you ride your trusted horse Shadow, your first (and if you are good guy, only) vampiric victim. You are equipped with unlimited ammo, but you can only use your basic gun, the Redeemer. One mission requires you to fetch a Coyote Steamwagon to rescue some stranded Darkwatch agents and it was like, the best mission in the game, and there should be at least one more like it. Cause you are set against a literal horde of vampires and you just use the gattling gun to cut them by the hundreds.

At least until you meet these suicide bombers -__-
At least until you meet these suicide bombers -__-
Every enemy you kill restore your heath and mana to use your powers.
Every enemy you kill restore your heath and mana to use your powers.

As mentioned above there is a karma system that controls the nature of your powers. Through out in the game, you will find Lazarus' victims that have been bled dry or infected with his evil. You can either put them out of their misery, sucking the infection out of their bodies or feeding on their blood and finish on what is left of them. As each moral dillema is resolved with either the good choice or evil choice, you gain special abilities such as enhanced armor, cause fear, make enemies turn one against the other, etc. There are total four of these powers for each side and they are practically identical in the manner they work when you compare them side by side. If you wish to have the complete set, I suggest you to play the entire play through in one mode (either evil or good). It helps greatly that you have a replay mode, where you can replay one of the chapters in the story mode as many times as you want as either good or evil and also in any difficult. Word of advice: when you replay in the main story mode, your replay is erased and you can only play them again if you complete the story mode once again.

Sound Effects

The voice actors were very well cast. Mass Effect fans will probably see FemShep in Cassidy Sharp since its umistakably Jennifer Hale while they will be waiting for Lazarus to ASSUME DIRECT CONTROL (yes that is the Harbinger). Cartwright is voiced by Michael Bell (Raziel from Legacy of Kain), but the one voice actor that is really wasted is Christopher Corey Smith, the guy who does Jericho's grunts and screams. He is a very talented VA, having previously being Superman in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe and Molag Bal in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

The soundtrack is good too, nothing memorable really but fits the tone of the game very well. A smart use of the theme song of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" on the main menu. If I were to describe the main theme for Darkwatch, it seems like a mix of Western, God of War and Van Helsing. Listen for yourself and see if you hear the same.

Visual Effects

Man, look at the size of this moon. We are about to crash at this rate.
Man, look at the size of this moon. We are about to crash at this rate.

One would say that the vampires and Western theme are drastically opposite and wouldn't work well together with one having to overshadow the other. That is not the case here, because the combination flows very well. The style is very gothic and dark, but in a way you can still call a Western. I could feel its reference to a great Tarantino movie "From Dusk Till Dawn", specially in the sequences where Jericho and his allies were surrounded by vampires and had to stand their ground against the hordes of undead. One of the enemies are reptilian serpents that remind me of a Naja vampire from From Dusk Till Dawn III too. While I did like the enemies's designs as well, I thought it was a bit cheap to introduce "ghost" versions of them near the end that are stronger and more tougher but looking the same way.

Final Score

7/10 - DarkWatch stands out among several FPS games, while it doesn't quite compare to Halo 2, Doom 3 or Half-Life 2, it has a good mix between the western and vampire theme and is definitely worth checking out. Its a fun first person game with some great ideas that need a lot of work but definitely deserves a sequel, for there is room to improve.

Thank you guys for reading. I appreciate the comments as well as your own opinion in the game. What did you think of Darkwatch? Have you played it? Did you plan on doing it?

Bonus Material

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