It’s been five years since Robert Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino teamed up to bring the cult vampire b-movie From Dusk Till Dawn to the big screen. The film stars George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino as Seth and Ritchie Gecko, fugitive brothers fleeing from Texas Rangers after a bloody bank robbery. The pair soon finds themselves in Mexico, at a ‘dusk till dawn’ bar called the “Titty Twister”. It’s not long before the hoodlums cause even more trouble, thereby unleashing the true, bloodthirsty nature of the establishment’s occupants.
Fast forward five years, DreamCatcher Interactive and French developer Gamesquad have teamed up to develop an interactive follow-up to the blood-soaked flick. Penned by Hubert Chardot (Alone in the Dark, The Devil Inside), From Dusk Till Dawn takes place a couple of years after the events of the film, as Seth Gecko, one of the two survivors of the original massacre, has been captured and imprisoned for his brother Ritchie’s crimes. Sentenced to death, Seth is shipped to New Orleans on a prison barge called the “Rising Sun”. As if the situation couldn’t get any worse, the vessel is quickly commandeered by vampires that begin feasting on its crew and inmates.
From Dusk Till Dawn is an action adventure game that can be viewed from either a first or third-person perspective. Players take on the role of Seth Gecko as he begins his ascent to freedom, while killing as many blood suckers as humanly possible. There are 20 levels in total and considering the cargo of this sudden ghost-ship, that being death row inmates, you’ll likely be taken by surprise when you find a cinema and a strip joint mixed in with the usual cabins, engine rooms and medical bays. Is this a prison ship or a cruise liner? I suppose for the sake of level design, Gamesquad choose to expand the realm of belief. At the same time, however, the sense of claustrophobia one might feel in such a situation is left unexplored.
As you make your way through the many levels of the vessel, you’ll encounter a variety of vampires. Armed with sharp teeth and an assortment of weapons, these guys and gals look like they came straight from the set of Resident Evil, plodding around like zombies as opposed to vampires. While you expect them to leap across rooms, tossing characters around like rag dolls with their superhuman powers, such abilities are instead reserved for boss enemies. Instead, the vampires’ strength are in numbers and believe you me, there are hordes of them to slaughter. While on the topic of boss characters, Gamesquad does an excellent job creating some truly terrifying creatures with some extraordinary abilities, such as invisibility. It’s unfortunate that the regular vampires aren’t as nasty, although it’s probably also a good thing, otherwise Seth would never see the sunrise again.
Besides the main goal of reaching the top of the ship, missions often involve secondary objectives, such as escorting a Pastor through the carnage so that he may flood the ship’s deck with holy water. Ushering such NPCs can be a task in itself. Many of their actions are pre-scripted and once they die, you’ll have to restart the level. You’ll also encounter various crew members, such as mechanics and armed marines, who help in the struggle, often engaging vampires and creating immense battle scenes, particularly in the later half of the game as the enemies increase in number.
Seth wreaks havoc with the usual suspects of weaponry, including a grenade launcher, shotgun, assault rifle and flamethrower. What vampire killer would be complete without a holy water dispenser? Some of the weapons are ineffective against particular vampires, so you likely won’t find yourself using the same weapon over and over again. In Aliens vs. Predator fashion, you can also kill vampires and gain health back at the same time by standing over your potential victim and driving a stake through their heart, a move that takes a little while to get used too. And of course, med-kits, as they are in all games, are conveniently scattered throughout the ship’s decks in case you’ve taken one too many bites.
Visually, From Dusk Till Dawn is fairly solid. The character and creature models, as well as the levels, are nicely detailed and the use of dark corners and corridors certainly adds to the atmosphere. However, there are some clipping issues and framerate lulls. There are plenty of cinematic sequences between missions, in which the story unfolds, but the lip-synching is either one step ahead or behind, resulting in some awkward moments. Similar to the film, Seth Gecko quips a range of one-liners while mowing down the vampires and the sound effects, particularly the ambient sounds, are well implemented. You’ll hear the echo of voices and footsteps as you tread through the decks, creating a real spooky mood. Last but not least, original new music has been mixed in with soundtracks from the original movie. Very nice.
From Dusk Till Dawn, the game, is similar to its big screen counterpart. At first, they’re smart, sharp and energetic, but by the mid-way point, they disintegrate into a repetitious gore fest. From Dusk Till Dawn benefits from strong production value, innovative boss characters and a creepy atmosphere. Unfortunately, poorly scripted NPCs, unimaginative creatures and a few glitches slowly suck some of the life out of the game. From Dusk Till Dawn is an action-packed ride, without a doubt, but it could and should have been more memorable.