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Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: High Moon Studios
Developer: Capcom
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 16 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

It has taken awhile, but the old west is finally getting some notice from developers. Darkwatch takes on the traditional western theme and merges it with that of a horror game, delivering both a unique setting and a game that is a hell of a lot of fun.

Darkwatch looks great, especially when compared to other Xbox titles, but it’s the style that really helps to make it stand out. Take your typical western settings like towns, dusty plains and the old churchyard on the hill, fuse them with a dark, gothic atmosphere and you have Darkwatch. Although the game is clearly more “X-Files” or “Buffy” rather than your typical western, its neat to see how authentic the entire experience feels as you go through each area. The western/gothic style goes well beyond settings, so expect to run into everything from undead horses to zombie cowboys and even some corset-wearing ghosts.

Music also does a great job of setting up the western mood while blending in the game’s horror twist. All of the in-game music sounds like it was ripped from an old western movie, especially when you hear a few familiar bars of music. Sound effects and voice work enhance the package.


Darkwatch tells the tale of Jericho Cross, your typical "black hat" outlaw who accidentally unleashes a powerful vampire lord during a botched train heist. Jericho's folly eventually leads him into the service of the Darkwatch, the secret society whose job is to protect the world from supernatural forces and the people who captured the vampire lord in the first place. In addition, Jericho is also turned into a vampire himself, giving him a completely new purpose in life; fight the forces of evil, or succumb to his curse.

Jericho's choices make up the backbone of what would otherwise be your typical shooter. At various points in the game you are asked to make a choice during "Judgement Events". For example, you can help a sick woman by sucking the tainted blood from her veins or end her pitiful life and nab a quick health boost. The choices you'll be forced to make are cut and dry with no gray area between, which can make the system feel tacked on at times. Unlike other games with "moral choices", there's no persistent counter that judges all of your in-game actions. Instead, it is all about what you choose to do during predetermined events. The choices you make determine the powers you'll earn.

The system feels very similar to the Jedi Knight series and gives you a choice of good and bad powers. Whether good or bad, most powers have the same effect, though some of the higher-tiered powers are pretty unique in what they do and actually make it really hard to decide which you'd rather have, which ends up speaking well for the game's replay value. It's possible to balance between good and evil early on in the game, but there comes a time where you need to choose one path or the other.

A 16-player online component sets the Xbox version apart from the PS2 version -- so if you're having a hard time deciding between the two versions be sure to factor this in. Online, Darkwatch offers the traditional FPS multiplayer modes like Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, as well as something called Soul Hunter. From the few games I was able to play online, Darkwatch is a blast. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to drop the mother of all storms in my backyard, so I wasn't able to spend as much time online as I would have liked.


Even for a hardened FPS vet, Darkwatch is very hard, especially during the later half of the game. This is due, in large part, to being limited to only two guns at one time. Weapon selection is vitally important in nearly every part of the game since it is possible to find yourself in an area with very little ammo for your particular gun. Darkwatch does a nice job of slowly breaking you into the game, but there's one point early on where you're let loose without the safety net of the in-game help screens and left to fend for yourself. There are plenty of checkpoints to help you out, which is a plus - just expect to see a few areas multiple times.

Game Mechanics:

Darkwatch's controls are, like nearly ever other FPS on the Xbox, set up similar to Halo's. And, as with the rest of the games, they're extremely functional and really help to give the game a fluid feel. There were times where I found them to be a little slippery, but the overall feel is functional and works very well. It's only during the really intense gunfights that the controls feel less than perfect. They certainly won't lead to your untimely death, though you'll more than likely take a few hits as you try to quickly shoot at multiple enemies.

In addition to the powers Jericho earns through "Judgement" choices, he also has access to intrinsic vampire abilities. These include a Blood Shield that acts as a recharging defense; Blood Vision, which highlights important objects and enemies; and a double-jump, the mechanics of which should be self explanatory.

I've always felt that the western genre has gotten little respect, so I found myself liking Darkwatch from the start based on its setting. The fact that it is a genuinely good game only sweetened the deal. It may not do too much to set itself apart from the dearth of other FPS's on the market, but Darkwatch is definitely worth a look.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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