Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: May 21, 2004
With the big budget summer movie season kicking into high gear, the video game industry would be remiss if it were to pass up an opportunity to capitalize on one of its most anticipated releases. Van Helsing is the CGI-heavy romp from Mummy director Stephen Sommers, and with its campy storyline, rich atmosphere and intense fighting, it would seem the developers at Saffire have all the necessary materials to turn out an exhilarating action game rather than the customary Hollywood-inspired disappointment.
Van Helsing is an interesting movie-to-game adaptation in that the storyline is almost identical to that of the film; even much of the dialogue has been lifted directly from the screenplay. However, the situations and events surrounding the characters and their conflicts are often dramatically different. For example, the cinematic version has our protagonist introduced to the lovely Anna Valerious in a remote Transylvanian village after an exciting action sequence involving Dracula’s brides. The game uses the same conflict and characters, but opts to setup the meeting via a daring rescue in the church.
This does not mean, however, that you will be prohibited the opportunity to visit the movie’s fantastic locales. Throughout the adventure, you’ll explore the depths of the catacombs, the Valerious library and both Frankenstein and Dracula’s castles, as well as numerous other original environments. You’ll also do battle with many classic characters, including Igor, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Dracula’s brides and even the Count himself (on several occasions).
It’s also nice to be able to get your hands on the film’s most memorable gadgets, including the ultra cool gas powered crossbow and tojo blades. You’ll amass an arsenal of eight weapons (six projectile, two melee), though only one of each may be equipped at any given moment. Since many of the game’s monsters are virtually immune to certain guns and especially vulnerable to others, getting each of your firearms in on the action is essential. Most of the weapons also have a secondary mode of fire, though you have a limited amount of ammunition, as opposed to the primary modes, which carry no such restrictions.
Upon landing a blow on one of your enemies, a timer in the upper left corner of the screen begins to count down. If you manage to strike another blow before it runs out, it will reset and the process continues until you eliminate the foe, at which time a point is added to your kill counter. Every five consecutive kills nets you another finishing move, which can be employed to instantly eradicate most adversaries. However, if the timer runs out before you’re able to hit or kill your opponent, the counter will return to zero and you must start over again.
Once you’ve defeated an enemy, you’ll notice that he/she/it leaves behind an assortment of crucifix-shaped objects. The odd one will be colored red and can be used to restore health, but the vast majority are green, and are called power glyphs. These glyphs may also be acquired by smashing environmental objects such as barrels and coffins, and come into play between missions. Before setting out on each adventure, you’ll be given the option to rearm yourself, and power glyphs can be used as currency to purchase health and ammo rejuvenators or weapon upgrades.