Review: Vampyr (PS4)

Review: Vampyr (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Vampyr
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (21.59 GB)
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), £49.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Vampyr starts off by saying that it’s a game about choices and the consequences that follow. In my first loading screen, a message said that if the game is too difficult Dr. Reid can evolve by killing innocent people and drinking their blood.

After the opening cutscene, I was trying to track someone down and stop them. However, the game forced me down linear paths into different combat situations where there was no non-lethal solution and no way to sneak past enemies.

This works well as a combat tutorial but lies in direct conflict with what I was told when starting the game. They’re not starting with their best foot forward.

The combat seems inspired by the Souls series, but don’t let that scare you off, it’s not near the level of a Dark Souls game. You have to be careful because Reid can’t take many hits. Attacking during brief openings and dodging enemy attacks is the key to staying alive. Of course, there is a stamina bar that needs to be managed.

There’s also a stun mechanic. Attacks that stun enemies tend to not do much damage but fully stunning an enemy allows Reid to bite that enemy. The blood from enemies allows players to heal themselves and use other supernatural attacks and abilities.

You’re managing a constant balance between dealing damage to an enemy and making sure you have enough blood in reserve for that next encounter. There’s a decent amount of enemy variety in the game as well. The Guard of Priwen, human vampire hunters, have various melee and range weapons and attacks. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a mini-boss has a freaking flame thrower. Supernatural creatures are thrown in as well to try to keep things interesting.

There were numerous peaks and valleys in the combat difficulty. On a side mission, I was banging my head against the wall to get through a few groups of enemies. After the side mission, I upgraded my weapon and leveled up a couple of stats and I was ripping through the same enemies as if they were wet paper bags.

It never feels like there’s a gradual increase in difficulty. Later I will get into killing non-enemies NPCs for XP. That’s really the big choice and consequence that is constant throughout the game. However, there’s a certain amount of investment in that system and it only makes sense to pursue that option at certain times. Or maybe I was just too greedy and wanted the big XP payout.

Reid has to have a current mesmerize level for each person so players can’t go clear out an entire area at the beginning of the game. Some of the difficulty spikes may be to encourage you to make this choice, but that’s not the way to have players engage with this system. Especially since taking the life of an innocent is a choice and you can complete the game without doing so.

Reid has a vampire sense that can be used at times to highlight trails of blood. He also has a cool jump ability that is separate from combat. They both can be used only in certain situations and feel underutilized.

London in 1918 was a dark and dreary time. As World War I was coming to an end, Europe was ravaged by the Spanish Flu. Now a vampire epidemic and murders are pushing people past the breaking point.

With all of this and the fact that vampires can only come out at night, it makes sense that the game is always dark and gloomy. Still, this is London and it feels so empty and lifeless. Yes, most people are hiding in their homes at night, afraid that if they venture out they will be attacked, but there would still be stuff going on during the day. They wouldn’t leave the bodies of victims where they were killed on the streets for days on end. London feels more like an abandoned war zone than a city full of people.

Vampyr has made it clear from the beginning that if the game is getting too tough, Reid can evolve by killing non-enemy NPCs. Before you start biting though, know that actions have consequences.

The developers at DONTNOD have created a social network that connects people and areas. Killing a person will have an impact on others. If a bunch of people suddenly go missing, the overall health of an area will go down and a percentage of the XP gained from taking an innocent life will be penalized. If an area’s health goes below critical, creatures will start to come out.

One way to keep an area healthy is to keep the people healthy. Reid can create potions to cure various ailments. One sick person is not a big deal. However, if the majority of an area has health issues, it will have a strong impact on that area.

When entering a new area for the first time, all the social connections are a mystery. It’s up to the player to explore and get to know people and how they are connected. Even a healthy person can have their blood XP boosted by learning more about them. Whether it’s talking to someone else or completing side missions, there are always ways to learn more secrets about people.

None of this is necessary if you come across someone Reid can mesmerize. You can take them right then and there. But is that measly amount of XP worth the potential upheaval it could cause? What about when the XP is maxed out? These are the choices players will have to make.

Visuals:
In general the load times were too long but even with that, every now and then the game had to pause in the middle of gameplay to load.

Since the whole game takes place and night and some enemies carry torches, it was fairly obvious at times when the frame rate took a hit and the men suddenly skipped forward a few feet.

Neither of these issues makes the game unplayable by any means but I am reviewing this on a PS4 Pro and it makes me wonder if these problems would be more prolific on a standard PS4.

Audio:
The music of Vampyr has a dreary and somber tone. It’s different than traditional horror music in a couple of ways though. Near the beginning of the game, the music was suspenseful and sad but there was a sweetness to it with little peppy notes mixed in that perked me up. Some other tracks have an abrasive screeching sound that still fits in somehow. It sounded like someone was trying to ruin a violin.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Vampyr is a very combat heavy game. After a while it becomes fairly repetitive and it begins to feel like much of it is there to pad out the game. Fighting through four groups of enemies on my way to the main mission which turns out to be a boss fight is only fun a couple of times. There is some variety among the enemies but Reid’s combat abilities are limited.

There needs to be some challenge to make the combat fun but I never reached the point where I felt like an almighty supernatural being. The social network is really neat idea, but it doesn’t have the depth needed. In the end, most of the people in the network feel like they’re just there for you to kill and gain XP.

If this had been a story-heavy game, the combat issues would be more forgivable. The story held my attention for the most part, but I doubt I will remember it two months from now. DONTNOD is a very creative studio and I was blown away by the ideas and story in Life is Strange. The premise for Vampyr is one of the most intriguing and interesting settings I’ve heard of in the last few years. There are flashes of genius, but ultimately the story doesn’t really go anywhere meaningful.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Matt Engelbart

Matt Engelbart

I love all things video games. When I am not gaming I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, BBQing, and reading.

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