I’m waving goodbye to my 20′s and to celebrate I’m counting down 30 games from the last 30 years. Join me while I countdown 30 great years of game memories.
Despite popular opinion, the Xbox and Playstation 2 were home to some absolutely cracking First Person Shooters. Aside from a few decent attempts at doing it right on the Playstation 1 and Nintendo 64, it really wasn’t until last generation that things got going in earnest, kicking off with the original Halo in 2002. Of course Halo cast such a dark shadow that it was hard for many of the games to get their foot in the door of Xbox owners and as such many went unnoticed if not ignored. It’s not that they were bad, they were just competing with one of the most important FPS franchises of all time. Not an admirable position for any game to be in. High Moon Studios’ Darkwatch was one such game that was shrouded in darkness and left to scavengers in bargain bins across the world. Released at the tail end of last generation, Darkwatch was an occult-western whereby you take on the role of vampire-hunter and newly-branded vampire Jericho Cross in his quest to rid the world of the ultimate evil. It’s a by the numbers if well-designed shooter that adds some cool character upgrade features that hinge on a skin-deep morality system based on how you act at predefined decision points. It’s not a game changer but credit has to be given to the developer for trying to mix things up a bit, even if it feels a bit of a forced implementation of what was at the time the biggest thing on game designers’ minds. Front and centre though is the action and at the time I was drawn to the speed at which the game moves. The enemies are fast and rarely sit in one place for more than a few seconds at a time and the guns let off rounds at a rapid fire rate. Darkwatch was more Painkiller and less Halo, and it was all the better for it. It also performed on a technical level, as it well should have coming at the tail end of the eeping up a solid 60fps was a rarity at the time but this game managed it, while looking pretty good while doing so, although the fact that the game takes place at night with little in the way of fancy lighting probably helped. The thing I remember most about Darkwatch was its excellent art direction. In Video Game Art by Nic Kelman the game’s art is detailed from concept to execution, showing a marked evolution in the game’s look and feel. What started off as an overly cartoony, almost caricatured character design, ended with the stylish and edgy Jericho Cross that we saw in the final game. It And the excellent art direction didn’t stop there. Darkwatch’s steampunk-inspired western aesthetic was a far cry from the dimly lit metal corridors that permeated through an entire generation of FPS design, rather opting for a gruesome gothic world populated animated cadavers and ghastly ghouls. I’d stop short of calling it attractive but its look was undoubtedly appealing, particularly if you’re a fan of its horror-inspired themes. Darkwatch was a great shooter the fell foul to a market that had simply moved on. Halo ushered in a very different generation of FPS design. Gone was the fast-paced, shoot anything that moves school of thought, and in was a more methodical brand of shooting anything that moves. A small distinction, but an important one that in essence led to the games that dominate sales charts today. While I lament the decline of the classic form of the genre, acknowledging the admirable attempts by Painkiller and Serious Sam to keep it alive, I accept that things had to change. Darkwatch in some ways was a fitting farewell to not only a console generation, but a genre, and one that many of us grew up knowing and loving. In other ways though it was the last gasp of a genre that was in serious need of medication. I can’t help but see the same trend emerging as we wave goodbye to another generation. The question is what form will the much beloved First Person Shooter take on next?
Have a favourite game from 2005? Tell us in the comments. Don’t forget to come back soon for the next game in our countdown. Miss a year? Catch up below.