Dealspwn Rating: 7/10
Developer: The Farm 51
Publisher: 505 Games
The Great War has never been that great when it comes to videogame spin-offs. Anything involving Hitler, the Nazis, Stalingrad, D-Day, or The Battle of Britain on the other hand and the market is as saturated as a Red army soldier who’s just liberated Berlin. Anything featuring iron-clad Roman legionaries butchering tribes of illiterate sheepherders who’ve barely discovered how to dress themselves, and we’re all clamouring for our debit cards. Scour your local game store for any World War One titles however and you’ll be lucky to turn up more than some mediocre strategy game or prehistoric title on the Red Baron - unless of course, some helpful shop assistant happens to point you in the direction of Necrovision: Lost Company.
You have to give credit to Polish developers The Farm 51 for at least stepping up and giving the World War One angle a go. Necrovision might not be the only World War One game to emerge in the last few years, but it’s the first contemporary attempt to really try and adapt The Great War as a first person shooter. But given the fact WWI could never really work as a serious FPS because it would either consist of you sitting there holding your finger down on the fire button and mowing down scores of hapless infantry for hours. Or else walking very slowly through no man’s land into a wall of heavy machine gun fire, The Farm 51 have understandably taken some big liberties with history.
But what you’re confronted with in Necrovision is a story and setting which so down-right insane you’re initially convinced the whole thing must be a joke. The voice acting is horrendous, the undead-Adolf Hitler-lookalikes who come at you wielding nail bats and large pieces of corrugated iron are hilarious – especially after you knee cap them with your luger, and see your character turning his pistol sideways like O-Dogg from Menace to Society. ‘What you say about ma mamma?’ you want to shout triumphantly, and feel like playfully nudging one of the developers and casting them a knowing wink as if to say ‘yeah, good one’, until you actually begin to realise you’re meant to take the whole thing seriously.
During sporadic intervals between bludgeoning deranged, green-eyed German infantryman (who are victims of some sick experiment of something) you find Farm 51 spoiling your fun with these poignant letters from dead soldiers. You suddenly realise that Necrovision’s genius for absurdity is actually unintentional. One minute the game has you sinking a nail bat into someone’s head, and the next minute, it starts harping on about the reality of war, the pain, the loss, the suffering etc. But it’s best to just ignore anything to do with the story - which becomes increasingly more bizarre – and just crack on with the killing, which thankfully is a blast.
The first three hours of the game is full of running in and around the trenches, occasionally wearing gas masks, and using an array of World War One weaponry to take down groups of mutated bosh. Weapon choice is diverse. From lugers to sniper rifles to chattering machine guns to grenade launchers, Necrovision sports an impressive array of Great War weaponry. Some can even be duel wielded which is a bonus, especially when you consider the number of melee weapons on offer. But NV doesn’t actually linger in about the trenches for long, and pretty soon there’s a big twist, and it’s all for the better.
The gameplay starts to really pick up when you get hold of the shadowhand (a melee weapon complete with some magic abilities), and then just goes all out mental when you find yourself battling a huge metal scorpion in a mechanical, robotic suit, and riding around on a big fire breathing dragon. The hordes of enemies come so thick and fast that by the end of the game your entire screen is filled by such a dense, marauding horde that you simply can’t click the game mouse fast enough. It’s true that the emphasis on quantity of enemies rather than quality of battles can grate on you after a while, but Necrovision does reward perseverance with some brilliantly entertaining gameplay about one third of the way through.
However, many gamers will find overcoming the initial three hours or so a struggle. Whilst the levels and baddies look quite good, the visuals are undermined by poor texture quality which makes for an underwhelming first impression. It also has a linear feel – reminiscent of some archaic Medal of Honour title – and irritatingly long load times. Early missions often involve tiresome tasks such as pulling levers which can be awkward to locate, and overall, the game’s high difficulty can leave you struggling to maintain interest. On top of this there are various technical issues: the scenery seems oversensitive to passing enemies as often they’ll get snagged, and the AI could certainly do with a bit more refinement.
If you take Necrovision with a pinch of salt and rise above its poor first impression, occasional pretentiousness and sloppy execution, the game does redeem itself. The story might be as messy as watching The World at War on magic mushrooms, but it does satisfy your itchy trigger finger and provide plenty of amusingly-gratuitous-violence. The big drawback is that it takes so long to reveal its true potential. And if historical realism, polished gameplay and consistent storytelling is what you look for in an FPS, this is one avoid. But if guns, blood, gore, mechanical scorpions and riding around on dragons sounds like a good way to unwind after a hard day’s graft, it’s a great way to let of steam. While we continue to wait for a truly interesting WWI title to emerge, Necrovision has just enough to keep us going in the meantime.
- Impressive choice of weapons.
- Over the top gore and extreme violence makes killing enemies fun.
- Sheer insanity of story can be quite amusing.
- Takes a long time to really get going.
- Let down by poor visuals, long load times, and various minor technical issues.
- Difficulty level might be an obstacle for some
The Short Version: Necrovision’s ‘over the top’ take on WWI has just enough to keep us entertained. While the incoherent blend of magic, vampires, WWI and the underworld can leave you feeling confused; it truly delivers in terms of action. However it’s only after hours of boring missions that things really start to pick up, and perseverance can be difficult thanks to an array of technical problems, linear levels, long load times and an unusually high level of difficulty.