Obscure: The Aftermath lives up to its name as it melds the horror and gore aspect of Resident Evil 3, the teenage angst and youth stereotypes of Tony Hawk, and the music of what could be seen as Enya on crack. Mix all of these elements together onto one disk and you have a game that uses teenage horror movie cheesiness to tell a story about drugs, sex, and gory remains. Aftermath was published for the PS2 by Ignition Entertainment and Playlogic and was developed by Hydravision Entertainment. Aftermath is also available on the PC and Wii.
Aftermath is the second in a series that began with the original title "Obscure" which was released in April 2005. The original title followed a group of high school students who attempt to survive amidst disappearing people and murder at their local school. Aftermath continues these same plot years later the surviving students who are now attending college. Students at this particular institution of supposed higher learning find that if they inhale the remnants of a new flower that has been found around campus it can have hallucinatory effects. The flower ends up being part of a larger story that can yield side effects such as body deformation and death. In the spirit of every Saturday morning special starring some celebrity from the Disney Channel, they too quickly discover that drug abuse and unprotected sex are a deadly business. Literally.
What most people will quickly mention with regard to the Obscure series is its introduction of co-op play throughout the game. Both players can be controlled quickly and easily through single-player or you can team up with whatever drunk college guy just woke up on your couch to pinch-hit into two-player action. I chose to ignore the stinky hung-over gentleman I found periodically in my college residence and fought the untold horrors of Aftermath solo taking control of the six or so characters throughout the game myself. Each task that must be completed is always done in pairs with each character having some ability that can either help or is absolutely essential in getting to the next stage. The game will progress without any choice in changing the characters you are using until certain points where all the characters meet. These areas are almost like 'safe zones' where you can return, change characters, and continue on through the various directions from the safe zone until the puzzles at that stage are completed. The game progresses with using various
Controlling two characters on a screen can be tricky business but the developers made it as easy as possible by allowing you to jump from one character to the other by pressing the R-shoulder button. You have the ability of equipping all the different weapons to each character which are easily changed using your inventory menu and are mapped to one of the directions on the D-pad. Weapons range from a variety of ballistics which require ammo, to electrically charged weapons (chainsaw!) that require electrical charge, to a variety of melee weapons. Items within the environment, chairs mostly, can be picked up and thrown at enemies for distance attacks. The rest of the controls are fairly standard although I found myself wishing that I could have more control over the camera. There were a few times where I would just walk aimlessly around until an indicator appeared letting me know I could hit the X or Circle button to activate a motion or device.
The game environments have a distinguished creepy atmosphere and offer relatively free movement with plenty of open spaces. The characters themselves are relatively well rendered although appear blocky and stiff in the cinematic cut-scenes. The monsters lack variety but those that were created look great and disturbingly gruesome. The graphics are on the higher end of what you'd expect to see on the PS2. With the newer systems pumping out eye candy faster than the Girls Gone Wild bus pulling into the Playboy mansion it's nice to see a game that helps prevent the PS2 from looking as dated as it is.
The sound in Aftermath is definitely noteworthy. The creepiness and quality of the tunes and sound effects were far more than I expected and definitely elevated the gaming experience beyond the graphical constraints inherent on the PS2 platform. The voiceover work is above average with what I've seen in other survival horror series although some of the dialogue tries way to hard to sound like stereotypical college kids.
To be clear Aftermath is no Resident Evil 3. Aftermath is better suited to players who are new to the survival-horror series and want better odds of finishing the game with minimizing the feeling of helplessness and dread. The puzzles aren't overly difficult but do include a variety of searching tasks and manipulation of objects to open doors. The Resident Evil series still takes the cake when it comes to multi-faceted puzzles where adventures reward you with one piece of a larger puzzle. Aftermath does not offer any extra value options to increase the replay value so it's basically a once through and you're done kind of game. It's not a very long game so the advanced gamer may want to rent this one before moving onto something with more staying power. With that said it does offer up the gory goodness and feeds the need for some R and R this summer.