Rip, Shred, and Slay
Sometimes sincere attempts on the part of film producers and game developers alike to create experiences that are eerie, unnerving, and genuinely scary can backfire horribly. If done correctly, gruesome gore, splattering dismemberment, and unholy creatures can make for a marvelous concoction of edge-of-your-seat entertainment.
However, any number of factors can cause an intentionally somber delivery to go awry, instead resulting in utter confusion or absurdist hilarity. In many ways, NecroVisioN feels like a first-person shooter equivalent of a wonkily done B movie horror flick. It wildly switches back and forth between extreme juxtapositions that make for some truly excellent moments and some rather awful ones.
The dark, blood-strewn battlefields of World War I seem like more than a fitting setting for a horror game. Hopelessness, despair, death, misery, and carnage are horrific elements on their own, and throwing in even greater depths of depraved grisliness and chilling encounters with evil, inhuman beasts tips the scale to the point of Hellraiser-like proportions. But a game that features a soldier having a string of possessed barbed wire jabbed into his face (with his body subsequently shredded apart in a spray of limbs and gore) in one breath and ridiculously laughable one-liners delivered in a George W. Bush-like southern drawl in another treads some curious boundaries. Yes, NecroVisioN is not your typical horror-infused first-person shooter.
As an American soldier who’s recently joined the British allied forces on the front lines of World War I, you wind up lost on the battlefield deep behind enemy lines. Before long, German soldiers and mustard gas are the least of your worries, as the malevolent dead begin to rise and seek out the flesh of friend and foe alike. The thin WWI plot soon peels away to reveal a more sinister one involving necromancy, the gates of hell, a mad scientist, and lots of zombies. Quickly abandoning the war in the human world, you wind up on a bloody, well-armed rampage through the hellish underworld seeking to take out as many of its denizens as possible before you fall. The dramatic, somber tone in the letters you’ll pick up from soldiers that shed some light on situation from another point of view initially fits well with the vibe of hopelessness exuded by the war-torn landscape. Yet as the plot elements (and your “witty” quips) grow more outlandish, and the body count more plentiful, the seriousness gets thrown out the window for some straight-forward stabby-stabby fun featuring wizards, zombies, automatons, ghosts, demon-ogres, and even dragons, among other things.
NecroVisioN is a moderately sexy-looking game, both in terms of its dark, depressing environments and the mixture of mundane and unholy foes you’ll encounter. Despite occasionally jumping around a bit between overt seriousness and Duke Nukem-like humor, the various settings you’ll battle through are largely on-point. Muscling through barbwire and gassed trenches early on with hellhounds braying in the distance and planes bombing nearby just feels right. Carving through mobs of hellish beasts in later levels is equally thrilling. Thematically, most encounters are pretty gruesome. You’ll frequently come across lots of gore, severed limbs, exploding heads, walking rotten corpses, and ample nastiness. Horror enthusiasts should find the level of hyper-violent dismemberment and splattering innards to be quite satisfactory.
Much of the gameplay hinges on mowing down countless foes as you navigate winding levels littered with secret passageways and unspeakable horrors to uncover. Between a tremendous armory of acquirable weaponry and additional melee options, there are some wildly fulfilling options for tearing your way through undead hordes. Early on, you’re able to dual wield any combination of various old-fashioned pistols, knives, shovels, grenades, and more, before graduating to slightly more powerful weapons like a bolt-action rifle (with a handy bayonet attachment), a shotgun, dual machineguns, and a sniper rifle. Kicks, punches, and other melee attack combos are necessary when you’re swarmed by zombies and other evil entities, and they add another dimension to the full-flavored combat system.
Deeper into the slaughter-fest, the weaponry gets more fantastic with the addition of flamethrowers, explosive launchers, and higher caliber ordinance. Surpassing all other weapons, the Shadow Hand, a powerful, demonic gauntlet, is one of the coolest items available. Its various powers include freezing and shattering enemies, shredding them with claw-like blades, and shooting out strands of barbed wire to nab foes and hang them in the air for dismemberment before throwing them away.
The large number of enemies you encounter, and the fact many of them will get back up after you’ve felled them (unless you deliver a constant stream of well-aimed headshots), makes for some tough going. The brisk difficulty and often intense, gritty action keeps up at a steady pace. To help balance things out, your health slowly regenerates up to a certain point, and a slow-motion mode kicks in right before you’re about to die that makes you temporarily impervious to damage, giving you a sporting chance to escape and recharge.
Though NecroVisioN tends to be on the predictable side, the fast-paced, first-person shooter combat and unusual WWI-meets-Hellraiser vibe is a solid fit. Beyond the main campaign, challenge rooms let you unlock items to boost your arsenal in the main game, and there are plenty of online multiplayer options to explore. Some of the game’s more disjointed elements – namely the laughably poor voice acting and the inconsistent waffling between gloomy, melodramatic seriousness and wacky, over-the-top outrageousness – make for some head-scratching moments and hamper the cohesiveness of the overall presentation a bit. Intermittent strangeness aside, gorily blasting away at a peculiar medley of demonic foes is indeed fulfilling.
Admittedly, some of NecroVisioN’s faults and quirks may be viewed as a plus among players who’ve already invested an unhealthy amount of spare time immersing themselves in cult horror classics like Evil Dead 2, Hellraiser, and Dead Alive – where bad acting, less plot, and more blood makes for a much more enjoyable experience. An appreciation for those films and for buckets of ultra-violent action will certainly make NecroVisioN more endearing.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
The carnage is nicely rendered across tons of dark, moody environments. 3.8 Control
A lot of different attacks to choose from can make for moments of chaotic confusion, but the variety is a plus. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Ok sound effects. The voice acting is so awful that it’s funny. 3.7 Play Value
A satisfying shooter blood feast, if that’s what you’re looking for. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.