Games are rarely afraid of breaking taboos or being politically incorrect, but if there’s one social group you can defame to depravity without fear of any reprisal, it’s the Nazis. Both video games and cinema has proven that it is possible to make the black-hearted bastards more even more despicable: raping then murdering their octogenarian grandmother for her gold fillings could be considered an all-time low even in the career of Nazi death-camp scientist (and is assumed, surely?), but it’s more fun and tasteful to say the least, to put them in league with Hell.
Necrovision follows in very much the same vein as ID’s Return To Castle Wolfenstein, and though you’re the same stereotypical Yankee fighting the evils within the German ranks, The Nazis have gone and The Farm 51 has given it a World War One theme, making the living German soldiers you’re initially fighting objects of sympathy.
Working your way through the trenches, you’ll discover letters left to loved ones decrying the crimes of one insane high-ranking scientist, Dr. Zimmerman, against his own people, turning soldiers into a hideous army of undead monsters and opening a dimension to hell.
In the same spirit of Wolfenstein, Necrovision saturates each level with secret stashes, usually accessible by blowing holes in walls with dynamite or grenades and some which are impossibly difficult to find. Once you’ve completed a level, you’ll get a classic Doom-style breakdown of your mission stats including baddies killed, secrets missed and special Vampyre artifacts found. These ominous, blood-red relics endow your man with an increased Fury level, a bullet-time metre built up by stringing headshots and combinations of special kills together, which grants you powerful attacks at high levels. Fury is especially useful because the Romero-style soldier zombies are incredibly robust and will pick themselves clumsily off the floor even after a pojnt-blank shotgun blast to the chest. Though they move like a Saturday night drunk, they often attack in droves you’d expect to see in Dead-Rising and are lethal if you’re cornered, so timely use of Fury can save your pork rinds.
But with old-school gaming comes some old-school problems: invisible walls pop up frequently enough to be annoying, two large bosses we tackled got stuck behind walls and were utterly exposed to an easy kill, voice acting wavers between adequate and poor and the theme is conflicted. The protagonist walks around making crass Duke Nukem-style noises, slaughtering hundreds accompanied by arcade pop-ups, while reading heart-wrenching accounts of Zimmerman’s victims and the odd cut-scene where he sympathises with the plight of the German soldiers. Combat inconsistencies hurt the game more though – there’s merit in the range of weapons to choose from and the hundreds of different means of dispatching the undead, but the core shooter mechanic is askew. Living soldiers seem equally capable of taking wounds that only the undead could survive, picking themselves up after being knocked flat by what should have been a mortal wound, the damage system arbitrarily discounts some shots that clearly hit the mark and it’s not tangible enough, if it wasn’t for the health bar at the top of the screen, we’d sometimes wonder if we were even hitting some bosses.
Necrovision falls short of its own self-imposed mark: to rekindle the old school shooter experience, but that was a particularly high bar to reach, so if you fancy a simple run-and-gun experience with a few twists, you’ll get your money’s worth here.