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Obscure PlayStation 2 Official Website

Published by Ubisoft/MC2-Microids
Developed by Hydravision
Release Date : Out Now
Price : £34.99

Obscure is a survival horror game set in a school, Leafmore High School to be exact. The game begins with you controlling Kenny Matthews who has just finishing practicing basketball and his friends have just departed. As Kenny prepares to leave himself he goes to the back room to collect his things only to find, when he gets there, that his phone is ringing. Kenny picks up the phone to find it's his girl friend Ashley who's ticked off at him for being late for their date. Whilst he's on the phone though he doesn't notice someone creep into the room and take his bag. As the phone conversation ends Kenny sees that his bag is gone and that the door of the room he's in has just closed. Kenny runs out of the room and follows the mysterious character out of the High school and into a building at the back of the school. Once inside the building he hears noises coming from the buildings' basement. As he finds a gun and a torch he decides to go below to find out what's happening. He soon comes across a person who doesn't look well at all and this person warns Kenny to get out immediately. They both head out only to be stopped by some kind of monster and for now that's all we see of Kenny. It's a dramatic start to the game and one that instantly grabs your interest.

Rather than having one or two main characters in Obscure you'll have five controllable characters that you can choose to control. Kenny Matthews, Shannon Matthews, Stanley Jones, Ashley Thompson and Josh Carter. As well as being able to play as either character you can also have one of them follow your character around whilst the others wait at a gathering point for your current location. After the events at the beginning of the game (that we mentioned in the introduction) you'll take control of Josh, Shannon and Ashley as they intend to search the deserted school for Kenny. Kenny's not the only person to have gone missing so as you can imagine Josh, Shannon and Ashley are keen to find out what's going on. Each of the characters that you control in the game has a special ability. Ashley has a special attach for instance and Shannon has a +25% recovery rate. It's also rather useful that you can swap between them as one might be better suited to a specific task than the others. Changing characters does require you to return to the gathering point, although this is hardly a difficult task.

What might come as a disappointment to fans of the survival horror genre is that there is little in Obscure to distinguish it from other games in the genre. A majority of the puzzles have clearly been influenced by other games. You'll find yourself hunting for keys and other objects that allow you access to other locations going back and forth quite a bit in the process. Eventually you'll come across a combat situation and it's simply a case of holding down R1 and pressing the X button, all very straightforward and familiar. When it comes to saving a game you can't just press the start button and save. Instead you'll have to hunt for disks that allow one save per disk. What makes the game different though is that you have a companion (yes RE Outbreak gave you two companions but they were more of an aggravation than a help) who can help you from time to time. You can also order them to help you look, to remain where they are and also order them to follow you. The directional buttons are used to give these basic orders and it actually works very well. Another player can also join you. By pressing the start button on a second controller (at any time during the game) player two will take control over your companion and this is actually a good way to play the game.

Graphically Obscure compares very favourably with other games in the genre on PlayStation 2. The character models and environments are all up to standard and in truth it probably has the edge over the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games on the Playstation 2. Although I wouldn't say the monsters are as disturbing as they are in the Silent Hill games. Obscure has taken many elements from other games in the survival horror genre but the element I wish it hadn't taken was the unchangeable camera angles. I know it's probably deliberate in an attempt to increase the suspense by not being able to see what's in front of you at times but it makes things a lot more intuitive if you can turn the camera around to fully explore your environment. The frame rate is fairly constant with only the odd dip from time to time although there was never anything that caused any problems. Load times are not too bad either and you don't find yourself starring at a loading (or black) screen for two long, unlike certain other PlayStation 2 games we could mention.

It was great to see that Obscure has the option to enable subtitles. Because of this you'll be able to follow the games story and you'll be aware of what your character and their companion is saying. The subtitles text is white with a black edge. I would have preferred it had the subtitles been placed on a dark overlay in order to make the text stand out but if you have a decent size TV then this isn't an issue as the text is easy to read. Hints appear in text too. Approach a locked door with a glass panel and a hint will appear with the word glass in red text to give you a clue that it can be smashed. Items that can be picked up or interacted with usually glow to indicate this which is usual for games in this genre but nevertheless it's still very useful. Occasionally you'll have to pick locks which simply requires keeping the X button pressed and whilst you're doing this a decreasing bar will appear onscreen to show you the progress of the lock being picked. Hearing gamers will be able to hear the nearby presence of enemies but deaf gamers will not have this notification. It would have been great had the game provided visual clues for such noises.

The PlayStation 2 isn't exactly short of survival horror titles but Obscure, despite being short on originality, manages to be one of the better ones on the console. The main problem with the game is it's brevity. At only 5-6 hours long it's not going to keep you interested for months to come. Of course what makes it stand out is it's support for two player co-operative play and it's certainly a nice feature to have in a game of this nature. If you've played a survival horror game before the chances are that much of what's here will feel familiar and I suppose, aside from the support for simultaneous two player gaming, very little here is different from what has gone before but if you can live with the fairly short length of the game it's still worth checking out for fans of the survival horror genre.

Overall Game Rating: 7.2/10
Obscure will feel familiar to fans of the survival horror genre as it contains many elements from previous games but thanks to the optional two-player mode it does having something different to offer.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The game is subtitled but it would have been great to have seen some visual notifications for nearby enemies.