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This game gave me nightmares.“Surely this guy from FANGORIA wasn’t scared by the smash-n-splat imagery from a video game? He’s seen this before, right?” No, I assure you. It wasn’t so much what SPLATTERHOUSE brings to the table that gave me nightmares (that’s not to say that the good folks at Namco Bandai didn’t deliver as the game comes packed to its exposed gills full of the blood-drenched gore and over-the-top violence that comes part-and-parcel with any quality horror-related video games), but it also delivers something more.
SPLATTERHOUSE combines the right amount of comically horrific violence and blood dripping visceral combat with a well written story and a thrashing heavy metal soundtrack. Toss in some tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendo and an extremely liberal use of profanity, even throw in amateur nude photographs of a cartoonishly hot college girl, and you have everything that occupied my mind at the age of thirteen…right at the tender age when teenage angst began to bloom, when music became all about how loud it played, and when the testosterone-influenced desire for movie violence got a whole lot bloodier. That’s why SPLATTERHOUSE scares me. I feel like I should be hiding this game from my parents and talking about it on the bus ride home, even though I presently have kids and a mortgage in Grownupville.
The newest version of SPLATTERHOUSE (available now on XBOX 360 and PlayStation3) serves up a reimagining of the classic arcade story for the modern era of gaming. Metal-nerd Rick and his she’s-so-hot-why’s-she-with-him girlfriend, Jennifer, are two college students preparing to go to a shred-fest concert (the site of Rick’s future marriage proposal). Prior to showtime, they visit the off-campus mansion of Dr. West, the university’s professor of Necrobiology (I somehow missed that in my undergrad). While marveling at West’s suspiciously spooky artifacts, Rick is fatally attacked and Jennifer is kidnapped by West and his demonic minions. Clinging to life, Rick begins hearing voices from a nearby artifact, offering to save his life. Rick reluctantly puts on the Terror Mask and transforms into a steroid-chomping vein-popping fury of trapezius muscles and jean shorts. The mask heals Rick’s wounds but turns him into a blood-fuelled machine of mayhem hell-bent on smashing, slaughtering, and disemboweling anything that could potentially get in his path to rescue.SPLATTERHOUSE takes the classic beat-em-up formula and saturates it with blood-spraying gore and goo (as if the title didn’t give that away). The mask adorned by Rick feeds off of blood, so naturally this encourages players to kill enemies in the goriest way possible. It can also regenerate Rick’s health and can use a “berserker” attack when fed enough. Never really needing weapons (there are a few standards – cleavers, chainsaws, shotguns - scattered about), Rick comes armed with a bevy of combat moves that can expand as the game progresses, all capable of turning demons into piles of broken bones and mangled faces at the hands of his massive fists. The ultimate goal of any throwdown results in the “splatterkill,” in which the camera changes from the hovering 3rd person view to a close-up minigame sequence that involves Rick separating one part of an enemy’s body from the other. As dismemberment ensues, waves of blood fly and spray while the Terror Mask itself taunts and heckles the fallen. (For a deeper look at the combat and gameplay, see FANGORIA Issue #295, where we had a special preview look at the game in development and an interview with producer Dan Tovar).Unfortunately, SPLATTERHOUSE suffers the typical beat-em-up side effect of repetition (smash enemies, move forward, bash more enemies, etc), but the game does a great deal to distract players from the perpetual fist-pounding and keeps the combat as a co-star to its other stand-out qualities. Besides offering top notch voice acting and a rich story that's surprisingly good for the genre, SPLATTERHOUSE incorporates a fantastic “tribute” to longtime fans of the series. Occasionally, the game will revert from its 3D environment to a side-scrolling 2D scene enhanced by 3D graphics, causing the Terror Mask to crack comments on the familiarity (i.e. “Haven't we been here before?”). In addition to these 2D segments, all three of the original SPLATTERHOUSE games that originally appeared on 8-bit and 16-bit consoles are included on the disc. Aside from the linear one-player story mode, the game also offers a survival combat mode, pitting Rick against wave after wave of demons, turning familiar maps into splatter filled arenas of sickening destruction. As previously mentioned, the game's soundtrack boasts a thrash heavy who's-who of modern day metalheads, with bands like Goatwhore, Mastodon, Municipal Waste, and Lamb of God, giving Rick one of the most ass-kickingest setlists to...well, kick some serious ass.In they heyday of SPLATTERHOUSE, when it bore arcade's first parental warning and cartridge boxes came with labels claiming it too “inappropriate for young children and cowards,” horror-gaming was defined by anything with blood and ooga-booga monsters. Flash forward to current-gen consoles, and “horror” usually means “survival” (typically from zombies) as gamers get their scares not so much from the blood spilt by battling nightmarish creatures, but by the suspense that precedes the fight. Boiling over with gore and intense combat, SPLATTERHOUSE defines its own genre of horror gaming. Kudos to the team behind the next-gen SPLATTERHOUSE for not forgetting that a good majority of us grew up on gore and splatter, idolizing Stan Winston, quoting Bruce Campbell, and donning hockey masks with our Iron Maiden tees every Halloween. Horror doesn't have to be about conserving ammunition and constantly running away – it's more fun to take it head-on with a spiked 2x4, brushing splash-back viscera off your bare chest while finger-bleeding shreds ring in your ears.SPLATTERHOUSE is now available for XBOX 360 and Sony PlayStation 3.
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