On the second-to-last day at E3, the Tech-Gaming crew had a little bit of time to kill, so we wandered around the West Hall to see what surprises we might have overlooked. Tucked away in the back corner, hidden behind the glitz and splendor of the Big Three, we found a tiny, forgotten booth for a small Hungarian studio called Neocore Games. They invited us in and gave me a chance to try out their flagship title, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing.
The game actually follows the son of Gabriel Van Helsing, the famous monster hunter, as he slogs a demon-infested 19th Century Europe to reach Brogovia in order to stop a new evil from razing all of Eastern Europe. The build I got to sit down with seemed to cut the difference between the Diablo-style “mouse-click/loot-grab” mechanics and Hunter: The Reckoning’s strategic-action-oriented combat. Players will juggle a host of ranged weapons, swords and spells in order to take down the hordes of grotesque monsters as you slay your way to Brogovia.
The art-style is very unique, and was one of the things that made the game so memorable against the backdrop of samey games that we saw at this year’s Expo. I had never played a Hungarian videogame before, and so I really wouldn’t have known what to expect as far as visual conventions, but Van Helsing’s art direction was striking. The environments were dark and whimsical, living somewhere in between a classic Tim Burton set and a gritty Western game. The enemies were distorted, mechanized versions of classic monsters, like werewolves and vampires, while Van Helsing and other allied characters had a much softer, almost Asian inspiration to their facial and wardrobe design. The juxtaposition should have been jarring, but it all seemed to fit together very well.
My biggest take-away from my hands-on time was that this game is going to be tough. There is a lot more to the combat than clicking on the thing you want dead until it falls over. Players are expected to manage their distance, facing, spells and weapons all in real time while mobs of really tough monsters gang up on the young Van Helsing. There’s a pretty in-depth levelling system that allows for a great deal of customization, but I didn’t really get a chance to dive into that on the show floor. I also didn’t get a chance to play the game using an 360 controller, but could confirm support, since the game is releasing on both PC and XBLA. I’m not entirely sure how the game will map to a controller, but in my dreams, it controls just like the old Hunter games on XBOX.