It’s been a century since the Great War (later downgraded to simply the First World War) broke out, but despite being arguably the most significant conflict in all of human history, it gets relatively little attention from game developers. There’s a lot of material with which to make a solid shooter experience, yet FPSes typically fall back on either World War II or zombie themes. But what if we threw history out the window and took some drastic liberties with a World War I-themed shooter? By, say, throwing zombies and other supernatural monstrosities into the mix? Well, somebody already did that. Back in 2009, as a matter of fact, and the result was NecroVisioN.
The game stars protagonist Simon Bukner, who is an American serving under the British Army during the Battle of the Somme. When an attempted attack on enemy lines goes awry, Simon finds himself to be his battalion’s sole survivor and has to wander the trenches and battlefields alone. When he encounters other soldiers scared out of their wits and rambling about monsters, he initially dismisses them as suffering from combat fatigue, but it’s not long before he himself begins witnessing unexplainable events and otherwordly creatures running amok amidst the fighting. Simon discovers that, just as humans are waging war on Earth, demons and vampires are locked in their own battles and the various conflicts are spilling out into each other.
It comes as no surprise that this game entrenches itself (pun intended) on the mindless side of the FPS spectrum. Serious Sam and especially Painkiller serve as inspiration, as horde after horde of uglies attempt to overwhelm players and eat their faces off. Close combat is common and melee attacks are actively encouraged, with clubs, spades and good old-fashioned kicks available. What’s more, these can be easily juggled, giving the game a button-masher quality that is rather enthralling. In addition, there is an ambidextrous approach to the whole affair; our hero may wield different combinations of pistols and melee weapons, with the left and right mouse buttons being mapped to each respective hand.
NecroVisioN isn’t just about killing, but rather killing with style. Pulling off elaborate finishing moves will fill an adrenaline metre that, once activated, will allow Simon to perceive time as moving slower. This is especially useful when players find themselves swarmed with enemies biting at their ankles – a very frequent occurrence. Make no mistake, this is a tough little gem with enemies that aren’t beaten down easily; even the weakest of the lot will soak up bullets and kicks with disturbing resilience. Fortunately, our hero is armed with all sorts of skull-crushing weaponry, from your standard army-issue pistols and trench guns to more elaborate “vampire tech” weapons with wicked designs. You even get a chance to pilot weird mech-like constructions and fly on the back of a dragon! These sections are skillfully provided in order to break up the monotony of the standard gameplay and offer a brief respite from the otherwise relentless run-‘n’-gun action.
The design of the enemies and levels is fantastic, with the bad guys being suitably gory refugees from the cheesiest of horror flicks, whilst the assorted arenas are grey, desolate and lifeless: a perfect realization of their war-torn significance. The visuals are pretty, with loads of distortion and effects being utilized, though it won’t hold a candle to today’s shooters. On the audio side of things, the music is mostly generic metal that, while not particularly memorable, serves its purpose in establishing the mood. The voice acting could be better, but hey, you won’t be playing NecroVisioN for the story…
Both NecroVisioN and its sequel Lost Company are still available on Steam, and you can get the entire package from here. The second game’s story actually serves as a prequel and casts players in the role of Jonas Zimmerman, a bitter old German veteran who makes a cameo in the first title. It’s mostly more of the same as the original game, though frankly I found Zimmerman to be a far more interesting character than Simon, especially since the latter’s cockiness and Southern drawl gets kind of annoying before too long.
If you’re up for some cheesy horror or you just want to shoot things without worrying about story, NecroVisioN should be on the top of your shopping list.