Ram a stake through its heart so it won’t come back!


Creepy ambiance? Check.

The main “hook” behind Nocturne is its coolness, with a storyline that combines the feel of classic horror with liberal amounts of X-Files paranoia. After Teddy Roosevelt kills a werewolf in New Guinea, the “Rough Rider” decides to form a government paranormal investigations unit called Spook House, staffed by the most bad-assed monster hunters to ever work for Uncle Sam. You play the Stranger – a gunslinger with a pissed-off demeanor. The Stranger makes a fashion statement by wearing a trenchcoat when it’s not raining, and sunglasses when it’s completely dark outside.

Nocturne is broken up into four chapters, which can courteously be played in any order. You’ll get to trod through dilapidated German castles, Capone-era Chicago and even partake in a daring runaway train battle.

Okay, so Nocturne is pretty cool – visually stunning for its time, the light and real-time shadow effects are something to die for (and all things considered it runs like a dream on a vintage Windows 98 machine). If only the game was playable! Employing the now familiar fixed-camera approach so popular among survival horror games like Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark, Nocturne’s gameplay quickly becomes an unmitigated disaster!

Dead On Arrival

Camera placement is something more reminiscent to the first Alone in the Dark, often switching at strangely inconvenient angles or not often enough (typically you can walk off into the horizon before the camera finally shifts). Your view frequently gets obstructed by monsters, as is a common hazard with these sort of games. While exploring a haunted forest, the camera switched to a low angle for a split second, and the screen was suddenly filled with a sloppy mish-mash of pixels that turned out to be a werewolf’s ass.


Bad camera angles make fights even harder.

But even more fear-provoking are the controls. The Stranger turns left and right waaaay too slowly, hampering your ability to effectively move during combat. There’s also a lot of “sliding” around objects, and the bounding boxes that keep you within the gameplay world are often illogically placed. Picking up objects is more difficult than it should be, and climbing ladders is raw trial-and-error. To top it off you get what must be one of the most feeble flashlights in all of gaming – lasting a whopping twenty seconds before the battery drains, you’ll find yourself  stumbling in the game’s painfully dark levels an ungodly amount of time.

One irritating aspect of third-person shooters is that you really need time to line up your shots – Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark coped with this by giving you slow-moving enemies, so you could easily aim most of the time. Nocturne features quicker adversaries, but improves the targeting system; you have a laser sight attached to each pistol, and the Stranger auto-aims at any supernatural spook within firing range. This works well most of the time, but when I started encountering shorter enemies, the Stranger would frequently shoot over their heads (maybe it’s time to take off those sunglasses, Tex). But despite the auto-aiming, the combat is simply terrible

The game is also buggy has hell. I could go on and on about the numerous level-loading crashes, getting trapped in level geometry, irritating mission goals, or how the whole experience doesn’t amount to much more than shooting battalions of monsters and finding keys. Though the concept is cool and the technology is definitely unique, playing Nocturne is too much pain to be any fun.

System Requirements: Pentium 233 MMX, 64 MB RAM, 500 MB HDD, Windows 95

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