Oh no, the Resident Evil series has competition and its name is Nocturne!
It's true, Terminal Reality has created something that may just be considered the minimum standard for the year 2000 in terms of quality PC titles. The realism in this game just blows the cover off any other game like it. Although visually the most frighteningly beautiful masterpiece around, it's the gameplay, story, and ambience that takes a bite out of Capcom's neck. However, with a completely simple interface and tons of minor problems, the developers of Nocturne could have lessened some of the frustrations involved in the game to make it even more enjoyable, but they still have outdone themselves with this superb groundbreaker.
The game requires a minimum of 96 megabytes of RAM for 3D hardware acceleration, 500 megabytes of hard disk space, and at least a Pentium MMX system to run. It's definitely not your average game, nor is it a game that can be played by those who can't afford the luxury of a high-end system. In fact, let's just throw the Pentium MMX out the window and get a Pentium II-400 at least. And forget playing in software mode, this game has got to be played with a 3D card -- it has to be seen to believe in all its artsy glory.
Now that we've got the monster hogging requirements out of the way, let's talk gameplay. The entire game's environment is at night and thus the title fits it appropriately. When you start the game you are required to manually adjust your monitor to the exact specifications of the contrast and brightness pitch levels that the game insists. This was done obviously for complete visual engrossment for the player; interactivity never seemed more involving!
What we're treated to is a splendid yet wicked slew of pre-rendered backgrounds with very cool, multiple source, real time dynamic lighting effects, volumetric fogging and animation. Everything is made to look realistic, from tumbleweeds floating across the ground to slushy rain pouring and splashing randomly all over the place -- even on the characters and enemies. There are also lightning effects and clouds that darken the area as you move along! As well, Stranger's trench coat flutters in the breeze, and even curtains wrap him with the smoothest of silky movements.
That's not all. The creatures you come upon are motion-captured so realistically that you're not going to want to play this one alone. Probably one of the best visuals of the game is the candles and other fire effects; it's just like the real thing. There are also many more perspectives than the Resident Evil games have, although in certain areas it becomes a bit of a pain to see what you're doing. Sometimes when you perform a move such as shooting a monster at the dumbwaiter, you will become quite frustrated because it transitions between three different angles throughout the entire action in a slightly slow and delayed manner. Also, if there is too much animation onscreen, the game tends to slow down a bit and becomes somewhat choppy.
Another aspect that can get annoying is the fact that at times you don't know where an object lies because of the pre-rendered background. It doesn't take advantage of a more 3D perspective and thus you're liable to end up making mistakes by turning down the wrong path and falling off a bridge and what not. One other annoyance is that the dumbwaiter has a few glitches. Sometimes when you pull on the rope the platform goes down by itself while you're still stranded in mid-air!
As well, you can even fall off the side of the screen at the tower level without realizing it because your character falls forever, and then you have to restart or load a saved game. And then there's also a problem with screen transitioning. It doesn't immediately pop to the next screen when you've already entered through a doorway. Instead it allows Stranger to run through part of it before changing the screen, and that might affect you from getting an aim on monsters in that next screen! However, all of these problems are pretty minor compared to the kind of excellent gameplay you'll be experiencing.
The shadows, textures, and blood and gore are so real you're going to probably turn on the lights every once in a while and take a break. The bloodstains stay on the ground as do the body parts of your enemies; you don't see this kind of thing with Resident Evil, Dino Crisis or even Silent Hill. In those games, as soon as you reenter a room you've been to before, the bloodstains are gone and sometimes the body parts are gone as well. Not in this game!
There is only one level of difficulty and once you're finished you probably don't need to play this again. However, it's broken down into four different chapters that tie in at the end with an epilogue of sorts using an in-game cut scene. From little tasks like stealing a movie reel and replacing it with another, to rescuing townspeople from their village and securing them at a church, the game keeps you engrossed with some of the best stories ever written for a computer game. With this kind of engine, it is not doubtful that there may be many gold editions or extra mission packs available for the game in the future.
The intensity you experience while playing can be really high, especially in scenes like the Chicago sections of the game where you face undead mobsters. You have to be paranoid in this game to survive. It is to the misfortune of the player who pulls his weapons out too late as the monsters attack from all sides. It's a bit difficult to turn around fast enough, as the game should have implemented a 180-degree turn button. But it's not a big deal.
Many of the monsters include werewolves, goons, drones, gargoyles and vampires (and vampire brides), imps, Sentinels, ghouls, skeletons and flesh-eating zombies that pop out of the ground from their graves. You basically get a really simple interface consisting of switching weapons and items. It's not very complex as are the puzzles, but it really gets addicting as the game progresses throughout its long chapters. And although it's not exactly scary per se and lacks the complete adventure element seen in Resident Evil, it does have plenty of secrets and surprises -- even one element that can scare the heck out of anyone. What is that, you ask? Well, if you come upon the floating ghost statues that whisper with an echoing, jittery effect, you'll see what I mean!
There is slight nudity in the game but most of it is during the room with Succubus tied to her bed. Turn off the lights and you'll be able to cross the room and grab the remote control for the elevator without needing to see her or listen to her seduce you. Otherwise you're in for a trap when she becomes a demon, ready to bite your head off. Other areas of the game include larva that can explode into nasty bits and pieces after you've thrown dynamite on them.
On that note, dynamite can be aimed in any direction, but if you're not careful to release it in time then you'll become bits and pieces yourself. As well, the body parts of monsters can be picked up and used as weapons or bait for triggering traps. The realism doesn't end there when you witness the blood dripping off your weapon or blood splattering everywhere after you've chucked the arm of a zombie!
The sounds have to be heard to believe, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that although stereo is not capable of true surround sound, this game mimics something very close to it. This game also takes full advantage of the best ambience there is, almost movie-quality. For instance, if the angle is close up at a fireplace, you'll hear the crackling very loudly. Or if a cut scene switches close to two agents of the Spookhouse organization practicing their fights, you'll hear it as if you were there! And from the splashing rain to the windy gust (however gentle or harsh), Nocturne will put you right into the action.
Speaking of sounds, the music theme is of cinema quality and is very spooky. Of course, like Resident Evil, there are many areas with no music which lends an even lonelier existence for your character. Also, the voice acting is some of the best ever, this side of The Sixth Sense. With the very low, deep vocals of Stranger to the accented, sharp voice of one of your half-vampire partners, Svetlana Lupescu, the believability is truly convincing and is pulled off quite well. Although Stranger doesn't talk that much, he appears very real and tough when he does -- almost like Duke Nukem or Sarge from the Army Men series.
Nocturne is a wish come true for those horror fans and anyone who wants to be surprised by a great game with great story and characters, true-to-life visual and audio effects, a simple interface and the most blood and gore ever seen in a game of its kind. With only a few minor problems in the game, nothing takes away the fact that it is a groundbreaking title that challenges the Resident Evil series to the core. Just make sure you've got enough money for that high-end system!
Graphics: With perhaps the best graphics ever for a 1999 PC title, Nocturne can't be beat with its lighting, fog, and animation effects.
Sound: The ambience lends a spooky experience as well as plain realism with varying degrees of volume and distance.
Enjoyment: This game was very enjoyable, a masterpiece that's addicting. It's a bit on the easy side but the story is very involving and the action is intense. There are a few minor problems that can get a little annoying but once you get past that everything is dandy.
Replay Value: As for most games of its kind, Nocturne could be played again whenever you have nothing to do.
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Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr, No One Lives Forever, Nightmare Creatures, Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way, Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, Resident Evil 2
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