Every so often, a game comes along and based solely on its concept is able to generate some hype. Vampire Rain is one of those titles that very well may have piqued the interest of gamers by providing an interesting twist to the somewhat stale genre of stealth-action games. A game involving vampires does sound cool on the offset. Adding to this hype is the opportunity for VR to make its mark against established heavyweights such as the Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell series. Unfortunately for fans of those games, VR does not fall into such a category. Instead, you get something that very well might drive you away from the genre all together.
The story behind VR isn't all that compelling but with the inclusion of vampires, it does stand out from the other stealth action games on the market. An epidemic has broken out where people have begun to suddenly disappear. It is discovered some one hundred years later that these missing people are actually being transformed into diabolical monsters known as Nightwalkers. Added to this problem is that the Nightwalkers are now attacking civilians in an attempt to convert the entire human race into an unstoppable army of vampires. In an effort to get to the bottom of this infestation, a crack team dubbed the Anti-Nightwalker Mission Team is created to put the bite on these vermin and cleanse society of their existence.
You take control of John Lloyd who has the distinction of being the only member of the ANMT to have experience with the Nightwalkers. You are aided by your teammates from mission to mission however your cohorts appear to be lacking in a few areas such as personality, charisma, and in some respects intelligence. These flaws will be distinguishable during many of the games cut-scenes which are both bland and uninspiring. The game tries to be lighthearted on occasion but the only thing truly missing during these scenes is some canned laughter. On a side note at least your character (Lloyd) is easy on the eyes and appears to be the strong and silent type. Compared to other stiffs in the stealth action field such as Solid Snake and Sam Fisher, Lloyd comes off as being a bit of a hunk. You almost feel bad for him having to put up with these so called compatriots. However once you start getting into the actual game, you'll begin feeling a lot worse for yourself.
VR begins with a few tutorial levels which are good for familiarizing yourself with the basics including the controls and both methods of dealing with the Nightwalkers, either by avoiding them or by taking them head on. The tutorials differ in length and objectives although some come off as being less necessary than others. In one tutorial the main goal is to scale down the side of a building, that's it. It lasts for about ten seconds. Why this couldn't be included in another tutorial is anyone's guess. As for the missions, getting from point A to B, defeating Nightwalkers or helping your team accomplish certain tasks make up many of the missions. As nice as it is to have such variety, getting the S grade which is the highest grade awarded in VR for completing the tutorials and missions still won't prepare you adequately enough for what awaits you in later stages.
In your quest in hunting down vampire scum you have a few tools at your disposal such as a telescope for long-range viewing and night vision goggles to help you identify your surroundings in the dark. Neither of these items can be considered useful unless you use necrovision first which helps you separate the Nightwalkers from the ordinary folks. This isn't without its problems because you constantly have to charge it while scanning every nook and cranny and this can leave you woefully vulnerable as well as take up a considerable amount of time. How you deal with the Nightwalkers is essential to how you progress through VR.
Since this game is about stealth action, sneaking your way around to get to where you need to go is recommended over trying to fight the Nightwalkers. If you do confront one, watch out for some of the worst AI the Xbox 360 has seen to date. The Nightwalkers have a peripheral vision in which they can see you. Therefore you can literally creep right beside one (if it is looking the other way) and it will not know of your existence. Another fun thing to try is seeing how much of your clip you can waste by firing in the direction of a Nightwalker. As long as none of your bullets connect, you should remain invisible and can proceed along in relative safety. One thing that works against you while moving around is invisible barriers which stop you from going a certain way, not only does this take away from what should be a free roaming environment but it also makes navigation unnecessarily more linear.
If you are foolish enough to attract the attention of a Nightwalker, one of two situations will occur. The first is that you are able to escape without the Nightwalker giving chase. The other is when the Nightwalker does come after you. At this point you might as well just put down your controller because there is virtually no escape. One hit from a Nightwalker and the next thing you know its game over. Thus having a life bar seems to be pretty irrelevant. Adding insult to injury is the lame cinematic of the Nightwalker finishing you off; it was cool back when Resident Evil did it but now it will just get on your nerves. You really aren't given adequate firepower to defeat the Nightwalkers making the fights feel very one sided and not in your favour. Even when you do have access to weapons that can kill the Nightwalkers, you'll probably have gotten so use to creeping around that the only Nightwalkers you choose to get rid of are the ones you absolutely have to.
Just about every aspect of the game's controls are not without some annoying quirk that prevents you from getting the most out of the robust amount of actions you can perform. There really isn't anything here you haven't been able to do in other games. You can duck and creep around corners, you can grab a hold of bars, and go up and down ladders, you can strafe and crawl. One problem that occurs frequently is when certain actions you would like to perform do not register. Examples of this include when you want to take cover against a wall but instead you are left standing near it which does little to hide you from impeding attacks. Trying to reach up to latch onto a bar may take a few presses of the button before you actually grab a hold of it and this problem also seems to occur more when you need to get somewhere quickly. Even using your gun can be aggravating because it limits what you can do outside of running, aiming, and shooting. Since killing Nightwalkers is such a chore anyways, it makes things simpler keeping your gun holstered, and only drawing it when it is absolutely imperative.
Visually speaking VR is a pretty game. The backgrounds and general environments provide a setting that is dark and gloomy which is fitting for the game. The graphics tend to be not as sharp in regards to the character models however. Your team looks rather chic in their dark ensembles and facial expressions and mannerisms are passable but they pale in comparison to other games on the 360. The Nightwalkers on the other hand are just downright ugly, and I don't mean in appearance. Compared to the rest of the game they look like a horrible mess that is devoid of definition and design. It makes them appear as if they have stepped right out of a PlayStation One title - even the zombies in the very early Resident Evil games looked better than this.
The soundtrack is one of VR's few saving graces. Even if the music is a tad dull and seems to run in a continuous loop, it works in creating an atmosphere that will give you the chills during when you are trying to sneak your way around, or while making a futile yet determined attempt to escape a Nightwalker. Outside of VR's hokey dialogue; the rest of the game's generic sounds such as gunfire, footsteps, and the supernatural transformations of the humans to Nightwalkers feel genuine.
There is a fair assortment of modes you can partake in on Xbox Live if the main misions prove to be too much. Deathmatches, Death or Nightwalkers, Destroy and Capture the Flame can be played either individually or as a team. These are all modes you've played before just with a few alterations. Death or Nightwalkers is similar to the traditional Deathmatch, the exception being that once killed you become a Nightwalker. Destroy involves you getting to a specified area and seeing how long you can survive, while Capture the Flame is basically a Capture the Flag knock off. If you've played Unreal Championship or the countless other games that offer similar modes of play then you'll feel right at home. As an added incentive, there is a nice compliment of achievements to obtain. Seeing how many of these are geared towards online play it seems that even AQ Interactive is subtly trying to draw you away from the lackluster offline experience.
It is a shame that VR is nothing more than a poor man's Splinter Cell with a dash of Resident Evil thrown in for flavour. If this was the game's biggest fault then it could certainly be forgiven for borrowing from those established franchises. On its own legs however, VR's clunky controls, poor AI, and boring story combine to make this game all but worthless. Not even worth a rental.