PAX '11: Rise of Nightmares Might Make Kinect Worth Owning

Until this point most of the games we’ve seen for the Kinect could best be described as mini-games, or on-rails at best. The concept is still growing and promise is really starting to show as far as games are concerned, and I think Rise of Nightmares might be leading the pack on that front.

If you’re not familiar with the game, Rise of Nightmares can be best described as a survival horror game in a sense, with a good deal of exploration and some puzzle solving involved. This might sound a little formulaic, until you remember one thing: it’s all controlled with the Kinect. 

My experience with the Kinect has been extremely limited at best, and while at first things were awkward and clumsy while playing Rise of Nightmares I slowly started getting the hang of it and was soon performing flawlessly. The strangest part for me was turning which felt way too fast, but I was told that the turn speed and sensitivity is adjustable in the full game. Once I was in the game zone the sensor never had an issue picking me up or reading my movements.

The heart of any Kinect game is obviously the movements, and in this game they’re incredibly intuitive. To interact with things in the environment, you move your hand around. If you want to grab or activate something hover over it. Things get progressively more complex from here, but I’m sure the part you’re most curious about is movement. To walk you simply step one foot forward and your character will walk forward while it’s extended. The same goes for stepping back to walk backwards. The speed with which you move your foot determines your walking speed. To turn, you simply rotate your shoulders the direction you want to look.

Of course exploring isn’t the only thing you do in Rise of Nightmares, sometimes you have to take on the various nasties you’ll encounter throughout the game. To enter combat you just put your fists up as if in a boxing pose, and attack with whatever weapon you have equipped. For blades or handheld weapons this is mostly just punching/swinging animations, but one weapon in particular stood out for requiring a new approach realistic to how you would actually wield it: a chainsaw.

As with the turning this is a little awkward and clumsy at first, but the more you do it the easier it becomes. While your hands are up and you’re not attacking you’ll automatically block, which again felt seamless when you got used to it. I did see other players using throwing weapons that I never picked up, but they were again used in the same way.

As far as weapons there were a good bit of them available throughout the demo, though I’m sure they were a little more liberally spread around than they will be in the final game for demo purposes. However as far as I’m aware you can only hold one weapon at a time so you’ll have to be careful with what you pick as you may be stuck with it for awhile.

During combat, the game will auto-target the nearest enemy when you enter the attack stance. Sometimes this would get a little strange as one enemy would get closer while I had already locked on to another and it wouldn’t change to them. Lowering your arms and re-raising them would fix this, though this left you open to attack. Throughout the demo there were also segments where the character would automatically walk to the next destination. This was done by raising your arm when the on-screen indicator appears. This is entirely optional but a nice addition.

At one point the auto-walk indicator stayed up pointing me towards a door, even though I had to first go into a room at the end of the hall to find a key. This was a little frustrating, though not so much as to ruin that segment. Oh, and the key I had to find? It was in a toilet which my character had absolutely NO qualms about digging through. Seriously just reached right in and dug around. Did I mention it was full of blood?

Well, you’ll be seeing a lot of blood in Rise of Nightmares and if the demo was any indicator, a lot of really messed up stuff. Saw blades rotating through one room required you to sidestep them and push or kick the enemies into them (which is done by well…pushing or kicking. I have to admit that was kind of fun.)

I’m still not entirely positive if I’m sold on the Kinect as a gaming platform or as something I desire, but it’s certainly getting closer and if I were to ever pick one up and move somewhere with the floor-space to play, I have a feeling I’d be picking up Rise of Nightmares pretty fast.


John Colaw

John is what you might call something of a badass. When he's not writing about games or playing them, he's playing in the Kansas City band "Documentary" and drinking as many different beers as often as he can. He's a huge comic nerd in the best sense of the term, with a particular love for the Creator Owned movement.

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