XBOX REVIEW: OBSCURE

For under twenty bucks, Obscure is certainly worth a shot in the dark.

Obscure is a survival horror game that is designed for both a decent single-player and two-player co-op experience. The budget title manifests itself in certain low res graphics but overall you would be hard pressed to tell it from other higher priced games. This ain't no Resident Evil or Silent Hill but it has its appeal. Where I think it goes wrong is with the story which just kind of falls to pieces later in the game.

The characters are underdeveloped. It wouldn't have cost a dime more to put a better story together with deeper characters if this was a major concern at the start. I've seen a lot better game with less production values and older technology which goes to show that personality and imagination are any developers' greatest assets.

What starts out with promise degenerates into one of those terrible teenage horror movies like Sleepaway Camp. A hidden basement is found under Leafmore High which brings five students together to investigate. With a really chilling atmosphere you are enveloped in darkness and shrouded in mystery. As you come across clues, things begin to get stranger and more frightening. The suspense is the best part of the game. When actually do encounter some monsters it's almost anticlimactic.

All of the five characters are teenage-style shallow. The story begins to resemble a Scooby Doo premise without Scooby Doo. Fortunately each character has some unique ability which means that we'll use them even if we don't really like them.

Hands down the best feature of the game is the co-op mode. Exploring and shooting your way through the game is a lot more fun with another person. The game rises to the challenge by presenting you with more creatures and puzzles to solve which require two virtual bodies. The puzzles are straightforward and can be figured out rather quickly. The only strategy you'll use is deciding how to execute them. The more you and your partner become accustomed to each other's strengths and weaknesses the faster you'll be able to plow through the levels.

Located throughout the levels are health items, weapons, ammo and of course deadly creatures. Most of the levels are dark and you'll need a flashlight to illuminate your path. You can tape the flashlight to your weapon so that you can see where you're going and what you're shooting at. It's a handy feature. Light also helps to keep away viscous spirits that arrive in black clouds of doom. The quick select menu lets you call up any weapon from your inventory with minimal fuss.

One problem that plagues any co-op mode is that the partners can get lost offscreen causing some huge delays and maybe even some unnecessary hits. Obscure addresses this problem with a feature that allows you to change the onscreen perspective to the other character in an effort to let him catch up to the previous leader. It works fine and keeps the pace of the game steady. The save-anywhere feature is also a welcome addition in such circumstances.

Some textures are fuzzy and some of the animation is stiff but the creature look like they're right out of Doom 3 - although not as detailed. Unfortunately there are only a handful of creature character models, and that goes for bosses. You'd better like these freaky things because you'll be seeing a lot of them over and over. The lighting is well done as using the flashlight creates a claustrophobic atmosphere.

Sound effects are chilling but not as chilling as the cold delivery of the voiceovers. It's too bad that not enough attention was paid to the story and the development of the characters, you almost don't care if they are eaten by a stray demon.

Even at under twenty bucks I would still recommend renting this one for a couple of days. Once you play through the co-op mode you've experienced the best that Obscure has to offer.

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System: PS2, XBOX
Dev: Hydravision
Pub: DreamCatcher
Released: April 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Dan
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
2.5
VALUE
2.5