Obscure is the new game from Ubisoft and MC2, to be released across PS2, Xbox and MS PC/CD Rom.
If you are a fan of American High School horror movie titles, you may want to take at look at this on your PS2. Looking beyond the vomit inducing soundtrack and Americanisms, Obscure brings together the best elements of horror survival games like the Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Alone in the Dark. Unfortunately, it didn't appeal to our tastes and while a novel twist on the genre, its just too cheesy to turn us away from the established franchises. Fans of Sum 41 and Span (rock and roll bands supplying the soundtrack) may feel differently.
What's the story? Tread through the dark corridors of an American high school, controlling five teen stereotypes through haunted real-time environments. Sunshine is your friend. A torch attached to your pistol helps to dispense with the nasties, both in scaring them, and improving your gun aim.
The mechanism is most like Silent Hill. The third person camera adapts well to the dark spaces. Although you have five characters to control, the reality is you use control one and another tags along. Each stereotype has key skills and will suit battles/puzzles accordingly. Beasties burst from the dark recesses as you attempt to bring in the light- smashing windows, throwing light switches etc. Nothing new here to be honest.
While the difficulty level hinges on the surprise factor (and we were surprised on more than one occasion!), there are plenty of save points and health restoring icons dotted around. This saves tracking back too much. With unlimited continues, one can press on and on. Plus, as this is an offline two-player game, a second player can pick up a joypad and hop in to control the accompanying player. Unfortunately, although realtime, the offline nature renders the further characters redundant.
The graphics aren't too bad, but the psuedo supernatural elements struck us as a little vague. Bearing in mind the premise of the game relies on bringing light into a dark world, the darkness helps to mask over the plain backdrops and obviously fuels the surprise elements. The feel is grimy, but not as cool Silent Hill and not as crisp as Resident Evil. Sound, as we mentioned before, is fitting for the High School drama, but the stateside punkesque dirge drove us bonkers. So too the appalling voices. The creepy original score works well though- it sounds like screaming children and animals, welded into an operatic orchestra.
If the accompanying characters die, you can still press on with your mission. Not enough to lift this game above the competition. While the Resident Evil games preceeded the movie, they drew heavily from the Zombie movies of old, creating a nice story and franchise for themselves. It's hard to see Obscure doing the same. The mix of genres (like Buffy, Faculty, Scream?) isn't enough to give the game an attractive hook, in our humble view. Equally, the group control/continuance element isn't groundbreaking enough to make this game truly 'Obscure'. Sure, there are nice shocks waiting in the wings, but the premise is hardly, erm…Obscure.