Games: Vampyr a cut above the usual gorefests that's sure to get the blood going
GIVEN they were responsible for the hormone-jiggling angst of Life is Strange, you'd expect Don't Nod's take on bloodsuckers to follow the Twilight template of glowing closeted teens. Thankfully, Vampyr is closer to Hammer-time, reinstating creepy old men with widow's peaks gallumphing through dank streets on the sniff for busty wenches.
Taking place in a plague-ridden 1918 London, our befanged hero is Dr Jonathan Reid, who wakes up in a mass grave and quickly learns he's a vampire after drinking the blood of his sister. Torn between guilt and his urge to feast on the red stuff, our horrific hipster must find a cure for the plague while making brutal decisions as he explores London's vampire society on the sniff for unwitting fang-fodder.
With Don't Nod's choice-heavy shtick, players must decide whether to help people or drain them of their Cockney claret. An open-world design blends action and RPG with the usual fetch quests as you gambol around the streets in search of crafting materials. Unfortunately, treating people is a chore, with nine different diseases to pony up the ingredients for. Thankfully, your tour of vampire London is filled with rich lore – from the feral, sewer-dwelling Skals to crossbow-wielding religious fanatics – and there's a forest of dialogue trees to negotiate.
When you're done yammering, you'll face off against other bloodsuckers, vampire hunters and bosses – though your upgradeable vampire skills and period arsenal are hampered by cumbersome, frustrating combat.
There's blood a-plenty to be harvested, and doing so effectively puts the game into easy mode as you boost vampire powers such as the ability to cast spells, leap from great heights and truffle out items using a ghoulish version of Batman's detective vision. But with characters guilt-tripping you into saving their necks, Vampyr's real challenge comes from resisting the urge.
With decent writing and some wonderfully hammy acting. You'll be chewing jugulars and the scenery with grave abandon, though it all unfolds at such a snail's pace, even the characters can look bored rigid. Graphical farts don't help, with diving frame-rates, the occasional crash and characters getting stuck in the scenery. It's also incessantly po-faced and would have been enlivened no end with some camp creeping in under the floorboards.
While technically average, a unique setting and art direction lift Vampyr above the norm, even if its ambition is hamstrung by a meagre budget. Not all of its mess of ideas work, but Vampyr's a well-crafted and atmospheric 25 hours of hokum, and a classy cut above the usual turgid gorefests.