Originally created 09/22/05

'Darkwatch' adds macabre twist to Wild West

Rugged outlaw Jericho Cross had no idea what he was getting himself into when he robbed his last train.

In true Wild West fashion, he jumped from a cliff as the train passed below, shot his way to the front and placed dynamite at the unusually ornate safe.

Just before it blew, someone yelled, "No! Don't! There's no gold in that safe!"

Too late.

The safe blew open, revealing Lazarus, a vampire king, who then unleashed his undead on the West.

The train belonged to Darkwatch, an ancient order that keeps the supernatural under control. Lazarus was their prisoner, and Jericho let him escape.

Hey, they don't call it the Wild West for nothin'.

Such is the opening of Darkwatch, a fast-paced, first-person shooter that breathes new life into the genre.

There have been first-person shooters set in the West, but none as imaginative as Darkwatch, with its very gray area between good and evil, alive and dead.

After unleashing Lazarus, Jericho is bitten and turns into a vampire. The player makes decisions throughout the game as to whether he fights his evil instincts or embraces them.

Jericho attains certain powers, depending on those choices. Some powers enhance his shooting skills, and some are more supernatural, allowing him to take enemies' souls from a distance.

One of his supernatural abilities is blood vision. Click the right thumbstick, and the screen turns red, highlighting enemies and the weapons they drop.

The playing mechanics are easy enough to learn. Move with the left thumbstick, aim with the right, pull the right trigger button to fire. Being a vampire gives Jericho extra height in his jumps, which often comes in handy when he's surrounded by enemies.

There is certainly no shortage of the undead trying to stop Jericho. More variety in the types of enemies would have been appreciated, though, because you pick off wave after wave of the same thing.

At least, the missions are varied enough to keep the action going and, more important, keep you interested. Most missions are walk from Point A to Point B, kill all enemies, but others include shooting while riding a horse, defending an outpost and training with the Darkwatch.

Capcom and High Moon Studios put a lot of effort into the look of the game. People, backgrounds, enemies, explosions, all are impressive to see, on Xbox and PlayStation 2. The game has a dark, comic-book look.

Darkwatch also has some excellent voice acting and sound effects. Crank up the surround sound and the gunshots have real impact. The music doesn't always match, though. Something just doesn't seem right about a vampire riding his demonic steed across the desert to the sounds of a mariachi band.

The unique story, fast-paced action, varied gameplay and overall experience definitely make this a game worth picking up.

Reach Dustin Turner at (706) 828-2903 or dustin.turner@augustachronicle.com.

Game play

Title: Darkwatch (Capcom, www.capcom.com, $49.95)

Platforms: PlayStation 2 and Xbox

Rating: M (Mature), for blood and gore, intense violence, language and sexual situations

The Verdict: Imaginative, quick on the draw, fun to play; * * * * out of * * * * *


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