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Dreamkiller

Score: 72%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Aspyr
Developer: Mindware Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1, 2 - 8
Genre: First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Alice Drake has a gift, a gift that allows her to enter another person's dreams and rid them of their fears and obsessions. By "ridding," of course, I mean violently removing the hostile interlopers. This is the premise behind Mindware Studios' newest FPS Dreamkiller. Playing as the psychically gifted Ms. Drake, gamers will enter a dreamscape where the abnormality becomes reality. Best known for their mod-turned-official add-on to 2004's Painkiller (entitled Painkiller: Overdose), Mindware Studios goes back to the drawing board in Dreamkiller to create a bevy of new creatures and interesting environments through which the player must navigate. While the levels are well-designed and somewhat eerie, the game suffers from some severely dated graphics. On medium default settings, I could have been playing a game developed in 2004 instead of 2009. Turning the settings all the way to maximum produced noticeably better, yet still disappointing results. Some of the particle effects were nice, but overall, there was definitely a polished feel that was missing. On the other hand, the sound effects are spot-on; spooky and creepy when needed, fast-paced and adrenaline-filled at other times. The weapon effects were nice and the voiceovers, while certainly not Oscar-caliber, were serviceable.

Gameplay:

Fighting all manner of creatures straight out of nightmares (and cheap sci-fi movies), Dreamkiller is very much an old-school FPS. As Alice moves through the various levels, of which there are 12, she will encounter all sorts of interesting monsters. Given that her clients suffer from all types of phobias, one level might feature spiders while another could be crazed office workers or clowns. Even with the plethora of material available, there is a bit of repetition evident in the continuously spawning adversaries. As the player moves through the level, various weapons will appear for Alice to use (purportedly gifted via the person who is dreaming). Like so many other games of this genre, these weapons are generally over-sized giant-killers such as rocket launchers and miniguns. Each gun has two firing modes, adding a twist to the overall dynamic of the gameplay. In addition to the arsenal of weapons provided by the clients, Alice also has the ability to emit fire and force waves from her hands. As monsters are dispatched, they occasionally drop colored orbs. These orbs might serve to recharge Alice's depleted energy and health or provide an upgrade to a weapon. Weapons upgraded in this manner will remain so until the player loses a life. Levels are linear in design, starting slow and culminating in a boss fight. This is consistent throughout the game, though as a player progresses, it becomes apparent that there is some over-arching nefarious scheme being carried out on the dreamers of the world. It should be noted here that, although there is a Multiplayer mode in Dreamkiller, all attempts to find players online yielded no results. This may change in the future, as players finish the Single Player Campaign.

Difficulty:

Dreamkiller is a very straightforward game and makes no attempts to be something it is not. Controls are basic mouse and keyboard, easily picked up by anyone with any PC gaming experience. The first level acts as a tutorial, walking the new player through the controls and general template of the gaming experience. General difficulty increases as the level progresses, with the boss fight being significantly more difficult than the earliest parts of any given level. As expected, levels also increase in difficulty at a steady pace as the game develops. Though filled with frantic FPS action and monsters that spawn in random directions, the game never proves overly difficult, although by the end, most gamers will experience some degree of challenge. Of course, for those Quake and Doom veterans, the tried-and-true circle-strafe method works just as well in Dreamkiller as it did in these FPS classics.

Game Mechanics:

As previously mentioned, Dreamkiller does not set out to offer any new or ground-breaking gameplay. Levels are decidedly linear and players will move from one place to the next as they try to complete each section. To help with navigation, a small green arrow appears on the compass to offer a bit of guidance to the player as to which direction they should be going. The Heads-Up Display offers a good bit of information to the player, including status bars that track health, energy, ammunition and weapons upgrades. Movement is done using the standard (A) (S) (D) (W) keys with mouse movement controlling the camera. The Left Mouse Button controls primary weapon fire, while the Right Button handles secondary attributes. A nice addition is the ability to change weapons by simply moving the mouse wheel up or down. Aside from standard movement, Dreamkiller introduces a "teleport" type move through which Alice can send an astral projection running far ahead at a speed much greater than normal, and then jump to the new location. While interesting, the use of this ability was limited at best. There is also a berserker-type mode in which attacks become extremely deadly. This mode is entered by killing a number of monsters in quick succession. This is a useful mode, but it highlights an unfortunate design aesthetic, inasmuch as, when entering this mode, the already muted color palette shifts to just black, white and red. Instead of feeling like a death-dealing demigod, this affect made me feel more like I was on the verge of dying.

For fans of good old-fashioned FPS run-n-gun circle-strafing mayhem, if you don't mind slightly outdated graphics, this game is designed just for you. With a storyline that feels pulled straight from the 1984 movie Dreamscape, Dreamkiller provides an entertaining and fast-paced, if somewhat short game. The story is a bit weak and, as mentioned, the graphics are reminiscent of yesteryear, but as a $29.99 download from Steam, the price is about right.


-The Mung Bard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Buddy Ethridge

Minimum System Requirements:



OS: Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 (Does not support Windows 95/98/ME/2000/NT), Processor: 2.4 GHz Dual Core Processor (Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon X2), Memory: XP - 1 GB RAM, Vista - 2 GB RAM, Graphics: 3D Hardware Accelerator Card Required - 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible 256 MB Video Memory with Shader 3.0 support | ATI: Radeon HD 2600 | Nvidia: Geforce 7600, Hard Drive: 10.1 GB + 1 GB Swap File, Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
 

Test System:



OS: Windows XP SP3, Intel Core 2 Duo CPU 3.06 GHz, 2.0 GB of RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 512

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