STAFF REVIEW of Rise of Nightmares (Xbox 360)

Monday, October 10, 2011.
by Adam Dileva

Rise of Nightmares Box art I?ll admit, the last Sega Kinect enabled game I played, I was saddened by and curious at how the controls could be so broken. I actually forever shelved Sonic Free Riders for Kinect as soon as I was done the review and I?ll never go back to it because of the shoddy Kinect controls. Needless to say, I wasn?t holding my breath when I heard about Rise of Nightmares (RoN) as it was another Sega Kinect enabled title. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and popped in the disc with no bias or expectations, hoping that maybe they?ve learned what did and didn?t work in their last motion controlled outing. I guess I was hoping for too much.

Being touted as the first hardcore and mature rated title for Kinect, I?ll admit I was intrigued as I?ve always loved horror movies and games. What I?ll tell you so you know what to expect is that you need to start the game expecting a B-Movie style of movie mixed with a House of the Dead setting. That being said, the team behind House of the Dead was actually responsible for this (Rise of) nightmare but don?t expect to be scared in any way. You?ll be swinging and flailing your warms wildly as you try and dismember zombies coming your way.

I?ll give Sega some credit with the ideas they had in place when developing Rise of Nightmares. Most of the combat works fine and without problems. If you slice your arm either horizontally or vertically, it?ll react in the same manner in-game. If you want to open a door or flip a switch then do just as you would in real life. Most of these gestures work fine without flaw, which is until you try and walk in a straight line, but more on that later.

You are Josh, who?s on vacation with his wife Kate taking a train to Romania. Kate is about to inform Josh about some news she has when he leans over and a flask of alcohol falls out of his jacket. Since he?s promised to stop drinking, this infuriates Kate and she walks out of the carriage to get away from Josh and his alcoholism. Feeling bad about what happened and keeping it from Kate he chases after her who is further ahead in the train and this is where your journey begins.

Normally I don?t like delving into too much of the story but it is so cliché that you?ve heard similar stories or watched a movie like it before. Josh is told by a fortune teller that something bad is going to happen very soon. Queue the train crash and Kate?s kidnapping from a mysterious figure. There were a handful of survivors from the train crash and eventually that won?t matter since Josh will go off on his own to find his wife without anyone?s help for the most part. Josh eventually gets knocked unconscious and awakens to find himself strapped to a chair where you?ll meet your main antagonist, Viktor.

As you control all of Josh?s movements, doing so with Kinect can be?interesting at times. To move the camera left or right to look in any direction, you simply need to rotate your shoulders in whatever way you want to look. No, you moved your shoulders too much now you?re looking at the wall. No, you overcompensated and now you?re looking where you just were. Yea, there you go, now just don?t move or else you?ll start looking in another direction. You can change the sensitivity of the look controls but I couldn?t find a happy medium that never felt precise. To actually move you simply put a foot in front of the other as if you are taking a real step. No, further out cause it?s no registering. No, not that far cause now you?re past where you wanted to be. Now you need to turn around and walk forward to get back to where you were. The further you extend that foot the faster you walk. Yes, you can only walk; there is no running, even when you have a horde of zombies behind you. I hope you?re patient because you?ll need to walk throughout the whole campaign. It takes a lot of getting used to moving your shoulders and adjusting your foot and even after a lengthy play; it?ll never feel ?right?. Prepare to eat a lot of wall for no reason and don?t even think about being able to side strafe, as there is no such option.

Frustration will set in very quickly due to the lack of precision in your movement. These movement controls are so broken that there?s actually a built in ?auto walk? feature by simply raiding your right hand above your head. Holding your arm up will move you in a line from point A to point B but you?ll miss any secrets or items as you?ll simply be on cruise control. There are many secret rooms and items to acquire but because of the manual movement controls, you?ll simply opt to forget about them to get to your next destination. There are times where you aren?t allowed to auto walk and are forced to use the horrible movement controls. You?ll have to search for a switch or even avoid traps manually. You?re going to absolutely loathe these sections as you?ll die many times as I did in the same spots repeatedly because you didn?t put your foot out far enough to walk fast past the floor traps.

On the other hand, combat is competent and interesting, at least for the first little while. As you pick up a weapon, to use it you do just as you would in real life. Swing a knife to slash in different directions, throw scalpel knives at enemies afar, and even hold a chainsaw with both hands and cut them up when they?re in front of you. Remember, you need to move your shoulders to properly face the zombies while doing this though. As you cut off limbs you?ll be entertained for the first little while but it does become very repetitive and really a shallow experience when you simply start flailing your arms to kill them faster.

Your weapons will break over time so once you find a weapon you like you?ll have to search around for another of any kinds since they break so often. You?ll be mimicking many real life actions though as you?re asked to open doors, flip switches, turn wheels, climb ladders and more. All of these actions are done just as how you would naturally do them in real life. Aside from a few actions that I was either doing wrong or didn?t register, these are entertaining as you can open a door normally or kick forward to slam it open.

Most of the time you?ll come across a group of zombies in a bunch, you?ll also notice that there?s very few types of enemies and you?ll even get a group of five zombies at once that are all the same model and pallet. Bosses aren?t much better as aside from one or two of the end guys, they are simply a regular enemy with some built in move that you?ll need to dodge by ducking or leaning, essentially a quick time event. As you get to the latter bosses you?ll need to combo your dodges before you can actually attack them. You?ll feel the strain doing the same motions over and over and your biggest challenge isn?t from the combat or enemies, it?s struggling with the controls instead.

I can?t fault a game for having a bad story and trying to go for that B-Movie style, but at times it feels like it?s trying to be a serious attempt at being scary, which it?s not. The writing and voice acting are terrible and the f-word is used to often and in the wrong spots that it?s laughable. The pacing of the game on the other hand is almost like a roller coaster. You start off high fighting zombies and having a decent time, then you have to actually move somewhere and you?re at the low point. Every so often a door will be locked and for some reason the switch you need to pull is always only a few feet away or around the corner. Don?t expect to become lost as to where to go as all you?ll need to do it look across at the other wall for the switch to proceed.

If Rise of Nightmares didn?t try and take itself seriously, maybe it would have been a little more bearable, but as soon as you get to your first floor trap you need to avoid with manual walking controls, you?ll see how frustrating it can be. The fact that there isn?t one scare in the whole game as well doesn?t help its case. I?m a horror fan and don?t scare easily, but my wife watched me play who can?t watch those movies and didn?t even flinch once.

I?ll give Sega props for being ambitious with their ideas. In theory (and combat) it works to have a game in this style controlled with Kinect but instead it feels like a horrible experiment gone wrong. Rise of Nightmares suffers from the syndrome of great ideas but poor execution. The game may not be great but it?s definitely shown some of the potential Kinect has for certain types of games. Sadly, anything involving walking is not one of them. Three strikes and you?re out; this is strike two for Kinect games Sega.

Overall: 3.3 / 10
Gameplay: 2.0 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 3.0 / 10


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