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Nocturne: A gothic adventure

October 8, 1999
Web posted at: 3:49 p.m. EDT (1949 GMT)

by Hugh Sterbakov

screen shots


(IDG) -- Pulp Fiction, Men in Black, and Castlevania collide with a silver bullet in Terminal Reality's upcoming gothic adventure Nocturne. A gloomy, atmospheric third-person adventure that combines Resident Evil's pre-determined camera angles with Tomb Raider's action and a first-person-shooter control structure, Nocturne is shaping up to put some bite into Halloween.

This single player game transports you to a shadowy version of the 1930s, where you'll meet some of your worst nightmares. President Franklin D. Roosevelt has convened a special, secret agency, dubbed the Spookhouse, to deal with the growing threat of the supernatural.

Who ya gonna call? You. The general public is too fragile to comprehend the rise of monsters, so, as society clings to its cushy image of reality, you'll deal with the other side as a Spookhouse agent--and werewolves and vampires are only the start of it. Just wait'll you hear the zombie cow say "moo."

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Nocturne consists of four episodes, each a complete story with a number of sub-missions. You'll travel from a haunted western town to an uncomfortably crowded graveyard to the depths of Hell on assignments from the Spookhouse. This gothic slant on your typical third-person action format offers a variety of challenges, including hunting monsters, finding relics, rescuing humans, and unraveling diabolical plots in the heart of evil. Your character, The Stranger, packs an expanding repertoire of weapons that includes Lara Croft-style double-fisted handguns (distinguished from Lara's by laser scopes), but his mysterious background and enhanced physical prowess make him far more dangerous.

The pre-rendered, fully polygonal environments in Nocturne spare no technological expense. Special effects such as flashlight strobes and gently sifting fog add to the ominous tone as your laser scopes desperately penetrate the dense shadows. The game prompts you to check your gamma settings at the outset, and you'll be glad you did: The first sign of an assailant just may be red eye-slits that emerge from slumber. Each new camera angle brings more hiding places for death, and you'll find Nocturne's inhabitants far quicker and more lethal than Resident Evil's slowpoke zombies.

Nocturne's cinematic package is rounded out with a soundtrack that lets the eerie environments speak for themselves. All of the in-game dialogue is spoken in performances that will let you taste the characters' fright or demonic confidence. However, rather than numb you with rockin' tunes, this game sets its mood with whistling winds, rumbling trains, echoing footsteps, and subtle growls. You never know where the next scare is coming from. Consider this The Blair Witch Project of computer games.

The interface will feel both familiar and unique to players of Tomb Raider or first-person shooters. You can control The Stranger with a keyboard, mouse, gamepad, or a combination of these, but the constant danger of attack from any angle requires the precise, quick movement gamers have perfected with the likes of Quake II or Half-Life. Nocturne also offers an optional Tomb Raider-style auto-aiming feature, which may be considered the game's only difficulty increment. Luckily, you can save your game at any point, so careful gamers won't be too frustrated by sudden assaults from the shadows.

If horror's recent resurgence has you eager for new thrills, stay tuned. We'll have a full review of Nocturne when it hits shelves on Halloween.

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