This game turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise. I often wonder why certain games don't seem to receive much attention when they are really quite decent and enjoyable. Sure, it has its flaws - what game doesn't - but it plays quite well. One reason it does run relatively smoothly is because it uses the Painkiller engine as well as Havok Physics, which was used in games such as Bioshock, Assassin's Creed, Fallout, Fear, Dead Space 2 and many others. Some members of the Painkiller development team formed a new company called Farm 51 and developed Necrovision. The game is quite long with lots of bang for your buck.
The story, although not prize-winning, does carry it along. It takes place in France during WW1 and our character is a young American soldier fighting alongside the British against the German invasion. When Simon's battalion is ambushed and massively overwhelmed, he makes his way to the relative safety of an old farmhouse. Here he meets another survivor who let many of Simon's squadmates die by blockading one of the entrances. After a deadly confrontation you can pick up his rifle and look for a way to escape by opening the blockade and infiltrating the German trenches. The story does take a flyer soon, introducing a supernatural face and voice that speaks in mysteries, but what the heck - it's fiction. Apparently, Simon has been chosen to save the world, although he doesn't know it yet. This quest will first take him through German occupied territory, then the Underworld of the Vampires and finally to Hell itself. The nature of this story allows for a variety of venues from traditional environments and combat to more otherworldly type visuals and weapons.
The game does take some surprising turns and will never leave you bored. It seems to have crammed in as many different devices as it can and you will see a resemblance to a few other games. There are secrets, puzzles, spells, a dragon you can ride, mechs, launching pads, demons, oversized bosses and even bullet time. Everything but the kitchen sink. The story is also supplemented by finding letters written by both British and German soldiers, which tell of their war-torn experiences and unusual occurrences. The first part of the game follows more traditional lines with WW1 weapons and enemies, although some zombies are thrown in for variety. Later you will pick up a special weapon called Shadowhand and meet vampire soldiers and hellish demons.
Combat also departs from the traditional FPS as it relies heavily on melee. Combos of these net you different amounts of fury. Your available fury level can be upgraded by finding certain secrets. A full adrenaline bar allows you to enter slo-mo or unleash a more deadly strike. This can be a bit of a button mashing exercise at times when you are surrounded, but you can see it at work if you kick, then butt and then shoot the enemies. After beating a level, you can enter the challenge room and replay it to find the secrets and upgrades you may have missed. A word of caution though as this can be a little confusing in the menu. The game will also create autosaves throughout the replay and when finished you cannot automatically go back into the main game, although it has a continue button which confuses the issue. You must load a save from the first playthrough to get back in. If you think of the challenge room as a separate game, you will get the drift. I took to doing a manual save at the beginning of my next level before going into replay of the previous one. Completing levels also unlocks some non-game challenges in here as well. The rewards are bonuses you can use in the game, but are not actually needed to beat it.
The special feature in this game is the Shadowhand, which you will receive later. It's worn on your left hand and allows you to carry a gun in the other. It has three modes you will find as you progress. It's basically a melee weapon that can be charged up by killing enemies and then once full has a unique firing feature. You can also earn spells for this in the challenge room. Slo-mo is the other feature, but needs your adrenaline charged to use with the exception being when you are dying. You will be given a freebie at this point to try and avoid the inevitable.
Necrovision does suffer from some unevenness in both gameplay and graphics. At times, it is extremely difficult, but at others it seems too easy. Fortunately, there is a quicksave feature in game. The outside challenges are also particularly hard. Graphics are a mixed bag between looking terribly dated to being surprisingly well done. Level change cut-scenes are presented in still-life form, but there are some animated in-game scenes, which are very crudely rendered. There are places where you can be virtually blinded by the special effects or get jammed into corners by the enemy and unable to move or see. Loading times are also a bit long. However, if you don't take Necrovision too seriously none of these greatly effect your enjoyment of the game and are more slight irritations than anything else.
This is another game that got less than stellar reviews on release but is rated mostly positive on Steam user reviews. NecroVisioN is still readily available, although you don't hear much about it anymore. I seriously enjoyed it and wouldn't hesitate to say, "Buy it". It's often on sale for a few bucks. Some recent news has been announced that this development studio is working on a remake of Painkiller. Good news indeed. (I think)
The second game in this series, NecrovisioN Lost Company, is a prequel in time to this one.