Shamble like a zombie while fighting them
Rise of Nightmares is touted as the first “hardcore” Kinect game, as it focuses on a single-player narrative instead of the all-ages fare of the party and fitness games we’ve seen to date. Josh, an American tourist on vacation in Romania, is trying to put his marriage back together. While taking a train through the countryside, Josh and his wife get into yet another argument, and she storms off toward the dining car. Josh pursues her, but when he finally catches up, the unimaginable’s waiting for him. A vile creature bearing more than a passing resemblance to Frankenstein’s monster has Josh’s wife in his arms, and as our hero starts to give chase, the train derails into a river. When Josh comes to, he and the other survivors discover a mansion in the woods—and his instincts say that whatever that thing was, it took his wife there.
Rise of Nightmares might break ground as the first “hardcore” Kinect game, but it’s more limited by technology than empowered by it. If you really want to set the mood and give yourself a scare by turning off the lights while playing, you can’t—the Kinect can’t see you. So, whether you like it or not, all the lights in the room have to stay on.
Josh doesn’t have any guns at his disposal, so you’ve got to get up close and personal with nearly every foe you face. And, sure, it does feel satisfying to punch a zombie out with brass knuckles, bash what’s left of their brains in with a lead pipe, or dismember them with a bloody chainsaw. But given all the movement involved in setting yourself up for the kill, the game’s A.I. is beyond simple to prevent frustration with the Kinect controls. In turn, this nullifies the fear factor—you never feel like Josh is in any real danger most of the time when the zombies shuffle onto the screen. In fact, many zombies will simply shamble right into the path of whatever weapon you’re wielding; the larger challenge comes in keeping your real-life stamina up than in mowing down the constant stream of proverbial cannon fodder.
And this brings us to the fatigue factor. Yes, the movements and combat controls are simplified, and Kiect picks them up rather well: shift your shoulders to turn around, stick one leg out to walk, and engage in various quick-time events like ducking or climbing. But you might get worn out in the process—I sure did. After one three-hour session, my pivot leg’s knee locked up due to the constant weight I’d put on it as I explored the castle grounds.
Still, the game’s actually a solid experience overall. You could even write off the “shambling” of the zombies to their macabre clockwork origins—even if they aren’t that threatening—and the plot’s engaging enough, with just enough cheesy B-movie voice acting to inspire you to push on with the story and uncover the mysteries lurking in the castle.
You’ll also find some surprisingly satisfying moments sprinkled in, like digging through a fresh cadaver, fishing through a blood-filled toilet for items, or luring zombies into some of the mansion’s traps—giant rotating blades or electrified water, to give two examples. Although Rise of Nightmares was certainly different from any other gaming experience I’ve ever had, I can’t help but think I would’ve preferred having a traditional controller in my hands. If you’re looking to get some more use out of your Kinect, though, this is a fine example of the potential for the device. Developers just need to turn themselves away from the cheesy party and exercise games and really focus on giving players a gaming experience.
SUMMARY: Rise of Nightmares breaks ground as the first “hardcore” Kinect game, but it’s more limited by the technology than empowered by it.
- THE GOOD: The first real “hardcore” game on Kinect
- THE BAD: Fatigue from playing too long, no sense of real danger
- THE UGLY: The macabre clockwork zombies you’ll face by the dozens