the in­cred­i­ble ad­ven­tures of van hels­ing III

Blood­sucker-bash­ing RPG lacks bite

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START -

Con­trary to what 2004’s to­tally lousy Hugh Jack­man film told you, ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite old-timey vam­pire hunter isn’t a dash­ingly hand­some Aus­tralian as­s­kicker. In the grue­some, gothic world Neo­core has cre­ated for its

Di­ablo- ap­ing ac­tion-RPG se­quel, Abra­ham Van Hels­ing can take many forms. A tele­port­ing sol­dier; a wiry spell­caster; a shad­owy stealth spe­cial­ist; hell, even a me­chan­i­cal man who has more in com­mon with Op­ti­mus Prime than Nos­fer­atu. Hon­est Abe cer­tainly is a multi-tal­ented mon­ster mur­derer. It’s just a pity the core game­play in The In­cred­i­ble Ad­ven­tures Of Van Hels­ing III doesn’t of­fer nearly the va­ri­ety pro­vided by its six dis­tinct com­bat classes. Un­like the ex­cel­lent Di­ablo III: Reaper Of Souls, Neo­core’s tongue-in-cheek ad­ven­ture never quite knows how to pace it­self. First re­leased on PC al­most three years ago, Van the Man’s some­what clumsy, re­lent­lessly repet­i­tive quest al­ready feels like a fanged relic in need of a good stak­ing.

From the get-go you’re im­me­di­ately thrown into the deep, drowny end of Van Hels­ing’s world; a se­ries of sid­e­quests are laid out at your beastie-thrash­ing feet while you’re still fum­bling around, try­ing to get used to the game’s clut­tered con­trols. This sen­sa­tion never re­ally fades.

A Grimm re­al­ity

The realm of Bor­govia has at least been con­structed in imag­i­na­tively eclec­tic fash­ion—one mo­ment you’ll bat­tle hooded zealots in a creepy, mist-filled for­est ripped straight out of the works of the Broth­ers Grimm, the next you’ll be find­ing de­mented clowns in the world’s least whole­some fun fair. The chang­ing sights pro­vide con­stantly evolv­ing win­dow dress­ing, but no amount of lo­ca­tion changes can mask the fun­da­men­tal samey­ness that makes Van Hels­ing III’s com­bat a chore. For most of my time with the game, I play as the Um­bral­ist class: a sneaky fighter who can briefly dis­ap­pear, and one who’s al­to­gether use­less at close range. Be­cause this stealthy sap quickly gets over­whelmed when crea­tures in­vade his per­sonal space, you con­stantly have to stay on the move, pep­per­ing en­e­mies with pro­jec­tiles from range. The trou­ble is, the game throws such an over­whelm­ing amount of en­e­mies at you, all the run­ning and gun­ning quickly be­comes more ex­haust­ing than try­ing to swim across Lake Michi­gan in trunks made from gran­ite.

The low­est ebb comes dur­ing a bat­tle so pro­longed, it makes the Civil War look like a blink-and-you’ll-mis­sit play­ground scuf­fle. Now, try­ing to take out a portly circus mas­ter who

“Un­less you’re starved for Di­abloesque ac­tion, there’s little to rec­om­mend here”

can barely move should be a de­li­cious slice of gothic gateau; and it would be if the swine wasn’t flanked by dozens upon dozens of cronies. Make no mis­take: Van Hels­ing III chucks a lot of on­screen en­e­mies at you.

Class ac­tion

How you’ll cope with such over­whelm­ing odds partly comes down to which class you choose. Af­ter spend­ing hours with the Um­bral­ist, I wish I’d swapped over to the Pro­tec­tor or Phlo­gi­s­toneer sooner. The former bulky knight is a hard tar­get to hit, mostly be­cause he can tele­port like a chain­mail­coated Corvo At­tano. As for the lat­ter metal man, his range of ar­tillery strikes, rocket bar­rages, and an ex­tra toasty flamethrower make those heav­ing crowds of crit­ters con­sid­er­ably eas­ier to deal with than the skulk­ing shadow stalker. Stupid Um­bral­ist. Still, even the bet­ter classes fail to pa­per over the samey cracks, and fights rarely force you to switch up your tac­tics.

As unin­spired as its tire­some skir­mishes quickly be­come, Van

Hels­ing does de­serve credit for its writ­ing. While the main plot—which sees the mon­ster hunter seek­ing vengeance against his old ally, Pris­oner 7—is func­tional at best, mo­ment-to-mo­ment script­ing is strong. The game’s cheek­ily play­ful, sar­cas­tic tone plays well, and Abe’s re­la­tion­ship with his side­kick Lady Kata­rina (a spec­tre who as­sists you in fights) is both breezily like­able and sur­pris­ingly ten­der at points. In short, the sharp script de­serves bet­ter than the blunt fights that drag the rest of the game down.

Un­less you’re ab­so­lutely starved for Di­ablo- es­que ac­tion, there’s little to rec­om­mend in Van Hels­ing III. Of course, many of those read­ing this may have al­ready down­loaded the game—it was free to Xbox Live Gold sub­scribers through­out Jan­uary. If that’s the case with you, it’s just about worth a few short hours of your time—the script and cutely drawn lo­ca­tions un­doubt­edly pull their weight. As a pack­age, the game is also bol­stered by four-player co-op and a skit­tish eight-player PvP bat­tle arena. Still, no amount of pad­ding or smart one-lin­ers can truly save this te­dious, vamp-slay­ing slog.

left The Phlo­gi­s­toneer is hands (and steel shins) down the most fun class. far left Peter Cush­ing never had prob­lems quite this big.

right This is what we look like when we see a clown, too. Ad­mit­tedly it doesn’t hap­pen very of­ten.

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