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Nosferatu - The Wrath of Malachi PC CD-ROM

Published by Mindscape
Developed by
Idol FX & Pan Vision
Released - Out Now
Price : £19.99

Could this be the year of the horror shoot 'em up? First of all we had Painkiller, Doom III should be arriving sometime in the summer and here we have Nosferatu - The Wrath of Malachi. Horror has always been a popular theme in games, you only have to look at the success of titles such as the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series if you need confirmation of that, but Nosferatu is a little different from those other games. Idol FX & Pan Vision have decided to create a game that is filled with shock value. By this I don't mean it's full of hideous gore or such like but rather that your enemies love to come at you from all angles and without any warning. It's time to close the curtains, turn off the lights and be prepared to be scared silly as we look at Nosferatu - The Wrath of Malachi.

The game has been inspired by, although not based upon, the 1922 classic film Nosferatu by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. The year is 1912 and the game puts you in the shoes of James Patterson. Patterson has just traveled to Carpathia to meet up with the rest of his family who have gathered together for the marriage of James' sister to a Romanian count. The rest of the family arrived at Castle Malachi, the residence of the Count, before you as you've been in Stockholm competing in an Olympic fencing event. When you arrive though something is seriously wrong, nobody is there to greet you and your family members are nowhere to be seen. In front of you is a suitcase that contains your sword and fearing the worst you take your sword and walk around the castle courtyard. Suddenly a man comes flying out of an upper floor window and lands only a few feet in front of you. You approach the man to find that it's Father Aville. The Father is seriously hurt and frightened for his life as he tells you that the Count is a vampire. It's just the beginning and already the atmosphere is chilling.

All your family have been taken prisoners and you'll need to rescue them. Not a difficult task you might think but you only have a limited amount of time to complete your task. First of all you have 30 minutes to rescue Dr. Amersfield so he can heal Father Aville (who says he only has 30 minutes to live). In fact you'll have to rescue all your family members before their allotted sacrifice time. The time is shown in the top left of the screen and moves in real-time. When a character is rescued you'll obtain an item from their luggage that will aid you in your task, which is a nice touch. You'll begin with just a sword but will soon acquire guns, crucifix and wooden stakes amongst other things. It's rather pleasing to see that the weapons have been kept within the theme of the game, which sometimes isn't the case with some games.

As far as the game play goes it's real heart pounding stuff as enemies will attack you when you least expect it and they are often strong and you'll only be able to take a few hits. Of course there are three difficulty levels (easy, medium and nightmare) but even on easy it's no walk in the park, especially as returning to areas where enemies have been defeated will often bring more enemies upon you. The enemy AI is OK on the whole. Enemies have been programmed to simply go for the throat and won't let up at all. Some enemies can be lured past a doorway so it's possible to pick off some enemies by luring them out of a room and taking them on one against one. When you're not fighting for your life you'll be hunting for keys, plenty of them in fact, in order to gain access to other parts of the castle where your family members are being held captive. You can save anywhere you want to but why on earth have the quick save and quick load button been allocated as F5 & F6? They are too close together and more than once I've pressed the F6 button instead of the F5 which can cause some serious frustration. Replay value is high as many parts of the castle are random so whilst your goals are exactly the same each time you play, the layout of the castle won't be so in effect it's a partially new challenge each time you play. This is especially welcome as there is no multiplayer mode in the game.

There is absolutely no doubt about what Nosferatu's main weakness is and it's definitely the graphics. Graphically the game looks old, very old, in fact it looks completely out of place in the 21st century. Whilst this is an obvious disadvantage, particularly as a selling point, it's not as detrimental to the game as you might think. The reason for this is because of the dark nature of the game, it's graphical deficiencies are not as glaringly obvious as they might have been if the game had been in a brighter environment. The graphics have a slight grainy look to them, which helps enhance the illusion of the horror film theme. The game also makes great use of lighting in the various locations and this helps to increase the fear factor of the game. Despite the below par look of the game Nosferatu still manages to create a terrifying atmosphere with enemies that are definitely designed to make you increase your chances of needing clean underwear after a gaming session and the developers deserve credit for this.

Rather disappointingly Nosferatu isn't completely deaf gamer friendly. The cutscenes in the game are not subtitled and this is a shame. It's not all bad news though. Tutorial messages are shown in text only. When you encounter a character who has information for you you'll see a screen (like the lowermost screenshot on the right hand side of the screen), which shows the information in text. Before the screen is displayed they'll also say a few words but these are not subtitled. These words don't offer any information though. The time you have left is shown on the top left of the screen, which is all important in Nosferatu. Pressing the TAB key will display the family photo which shows you which characters need to be rescued. A green circle on the character indicates that the character in question has been rescued whilst a red cross indicates that the character has been slain. We'd usually say in a game like this that hearing gamers would have an advantage because of the audible warning that enemies are nearby but to be honest they come at you with hardly any warning at all so deaf gamers don't really have a disadvantage in this respect. Overall it's not too bad for deaf gamers but it would have been a lot better if the game had been fully subtitled.

Nosferatu - The Wrath of Malachi is one of those games where the game is greater than the sum of it's parts. If you're a fan of FPS games that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end then Nosferatu can be considered a very good game. Of course there will be those who will look at the screenshots and will not be prepared to give the game a chance, but whilst I admit the game looks nowhere near as good as many of the games we've seen you don't really notice it when the atmosphere of the game grabs you and the fear sets in. The low price and the high replay factor offset the graphic quality problems anyway in my book. The location of the quick save and quick load buttons are problematic and it is disappointing to see that the game isn't fully subtitled and our rating fully reflects this disappointment. Still if you like spine-chilling experiences then Nosferatu - The Wrath of Malachi is well worth the asking price.

Overall Game Rating: 7.0/10
If you like to be chilled as well as thrilled with your FPS games then ignore the quality of the graphics and enjoy one of the scariest games in recent years. It's just a shame that the game isn't fully subtitled.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Could have been better for deaf gamers. Disappointing to see no subtitles option for the cutscenes.