The number of inspired horror video games on the market is woefully inadequate to satiate most gamers' appetites. Thanks to the wonders of cloning – see: laziness – we've got a myriad of sports titles, driving quasi-sims and mindless shooters, but not many good, dark games.
Sure, there are the Silent Hill and Resident Evil franchises, but the boys behind Silent Hill have been plundering H.P. Lovecraft's tomes for eons and Resident Evil 4 owes so much to John Carpenter's The Thing that Capcom should be sending him royalty checks.
So, when High Moon Studios sent me an Xbox beta copy of Darkwatch, a Horror Western shooter, it cheered me up. And I needed cheering up after I saw that Hillary Clinton's railing against violent video games, a politically motivated slam against 18-to-34-year-old voters.
Darkwatch's gameplay isn't original, but this kind of genre amalgamation is and it's got something that the cookie cutter crap doesn't: inspiration and a true love for the source material that came before it. Blade, Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, Tombstone, The Professionals, Dawn of the Dead, Hellraiser, From Dusk 'Till Dawn, the Evil Dead films and, I'm earning major geek points here because I doubt ANYONE remembers this flick, Bruce Campbell's Sundown: Vampire In Retreat -- which is, itself, a vampire western.
In Darkwatch, you play as outlaw Jericho Cross. He's lanky and menacing like an evil version of Vash the Stampede or Spike from Cowboy Bebop mixed with Clint Eastwood's The Man With No Name.
A robber by trade, Cross hits the wrong train one night and awakens a vampire lord.
Now he's been bitten, turned into a half-breed and is none too pleased about it. Cross is taken in by a Men In Black, or Nocturne, type organization called Darkwatch and does what any rational guy worth his salt in Badassery -- Badassage? Badassosity? -- does: he declares war on the forces of evil responsible for his plague.
And what a glorious war it is.
The art design in the game is fantastic. It's the Wild West, but infected with a kind of wicked art nouveau. Your guns, for example, look like antiques that H.R. Geiger spent too much time fooling with. They're pointy and deadly and make quite an impression.