When Nocturne (PC) first hit the shelves back in ’99, I came VERY close to picking it up. Having always been a big fan of the “survival horror” genre, the presentation of the game’s packaging alone nearly had me sold on the $50 price tag. After recently picking it up at a bargain-bin price and suffering through it’s sluggish gameplay and bug-riddled programming, I’m glad I passed on it back when it was priced at a premium.
The premise is cool enough; you play a character from the early 1930’s named “Stranger” who works for an elite government agency that deals in the extermination of vampires, werewolves, zombies and whatever other forms of hellspawn that go bump in the night. To aid you in your monster hunting, you have an arsenal of period weapons to choose from (i.e. pistols and shotguns), as well as futuristic hi-tech equipment like nightvision goggles and laser scopes. (Yeah I know, these things couldn’t have existed back in the Flapper era — suspension of disbelief is definitely required here).
The game itself plays over 4 different chapters, and as you may have guessed, the gameplay (with its pre-rendered environments) is extremely similar to Resident Evil. However, Nocturne manages to somehow one-up Resident Evil, by having control issues that are far worse than they ever were in Capcom’s ultra-famous zombie-romp. Perhaps the sluggish and clunky controls would have been less irritating if Nocturne were released on a console, but on the PC, it simply does not work well on the keyboard/mouse combo. (There is a gamepad and “auto-aim” option in the game’s options menu, but as I currently game on the PC sans gamepad, I couldn’t try out the game in the pseudo-console mode.)
To a great degree, the control can be dealt with, but the biggest problem is the game’s considerable amount of bugs. I played all the way through the first chapter, dealing with its minor glitches and whatnot, and while irritating, I never came across anything that stopped the show. However, the train level at the beginning of Chapter II was a different story, and after spending a good two hours or so trying to get the Stranger to advance through the cars without falling through the floor and becoming stuck, I had to call it a day. Obviously, everyone who has played the game hasn’t experienced such a serious issue (as evidenced by the complete walkthroughs that can be found online), so your mileage may vary.
Despite the aforementioned shortcomings, I will give Nocturne its due and state that the presentation is very good. The graphics are excellent (especially for a game from 1999), and even if a tad overdone, the unique shadow effects found throughout the game are quite impressive. The sound is also very well done, and surprisingly, the voice acting is quite good — something that’s not too typical in this genre of game.
At the end of the day, Nocturne, with its many problems is just too much of a chore to play. And it’s damn-near impossible to forgive a game that (at least in my experience) contains such a serious bug that it prevents you from actually playing it past the early stages. Perhaps if a little more effort and play-testing had went into the game we’d have a real winner here, but as it is, all we have is a seriously broken game dressed up in a real pretty package.