After years in development Hell, Namco Bandai proudly brings you to the ungodly depths with this remake of the classic arcade gore fest. It might not have enough to make any new fans, but it's the bloodiest damn game this year which should make the old ones pleased.
Timing is everything. A well timed joke can garner huge laughter even if the punchline isn't all that funny. In marketing the same holds true. People get excited for different things at various moments throughout the year. Namco's newest release, Splatterhouse, falls victim of itself mainly, but one might make the case that four weeks earlier and this game could have been a great weekend laugh to put you in the mood for Halloween. Instead, this tediously average game comes out at a time when people are putting snow tires on their cars and making lists to give to loved ones, ensuring that whatever niche appeal this has won't be enough to totally justify a reboot of the franchise.
Gratuitous, Yes Please
Splatterhouse tells the (literally) harrowing journey of Rick who, after being brutally attacked by monsters under the command of a deranged Dr. West and left to die, strikes a deal with a mysterious mask. The deal seems pretty straightforward: the mask saves Rick's life and lets him go after his girlfriend in an exchange for constant supply of blood which you get by killing enemies. Heady stuff, I know, but stay with us. Blood plays a big role. Everything you do, your own health, and the access to the world is done with the currency of blood. On that front, things are simple and you'll find it everywhere. Splatterhouse does one thing well, and that's blood.
The real knock on this game isn't even the silly story, its setup or payoff. Campy horror like this sells for good reason, people like it. What holds Slaughterhouse back the most is that the game is a very straightforward third-person action/brawler that lacks the type of innovation or depth needed to compete with the deluge of games on the market. The worst offense is the stupid-simple combat. You mash fast and heavy attack buttons, and dodge. Deviating from this strategy often results in death. Even when you use weapons little changes but the rate at which you make it through locked rooms of enemies. And for the perfect trifecta of average - you basically fight the same enemies from the start to finish, with the odd BIG enemy tossed in. They don't evolve, there aren't different tactics that you have to adapt to or counter. In fact, the most involved strategy for any of the enemies is stepping out of the way before one of them jumps on you.
If what you want is thoughtless combat where your only task is to annihilate hoards of enemies in as bloody a fashion as possible then Splatterhouse does that just fine. You will see buckets of blood every time you come in contact with any part of the world. When you engage an enemy in a grab and complete a short QTE they'll virtually explode all over your screen as you rip their intestines out through their asshole (yup...that happens). However, QTE's are actually hampered by the amounts of on screen blood. With the button prompts directly in the lower middle of the screen it's often hard to see which button it is until it's too late. The flip-side is that once you learn Ricks kill moves you'll never struggle to pull them off because they're always the same. The bloodshed extends to Rick, too, who loses his arm and much of his torso if enough damage is taken. While it isn't a prime strategy to lose health you do at least get to pick up your own arm and crush enemies with it.
Smartly Splatterhouse is filled with 2D sequences that tug on the nostalgic heartstrings more than the rest of the game can ever hope to. These aren't perfect but they do their best to recall the atmosphere of the old arcade games. Arguably, I'd have paid for a Live or PSN game that was done like these sections since they were easily the most enjoyable, and were never bogged down by lame puzzles. Puzzles might be too strong of a word though, as the solution is always to kill an enemy and throw them at whatever object has a shimmering spike.
Players will struggle with a broken camera for huge portions of the game. During boss fights I had the camera turn to a strange angle as if it were targeting something - but it was a ninety degree angle away from my enemy, leaving me open to getting my ass handed to me. That's fine once or twice, but it wears thin when you see how bad load times are. In fact, they make those of Modnation Racers look lighting fast in comparison. Every load back to a check point after dying is a grueling test of patience. Worse is that you never get a great gauge on when you might die, since the screen is so often cluttered you have to look to your health meter, which is a mistake on the higher difficulties.
Splatterhouse isn't a great looking game, there's an unevenness to it that's off-putting. Sometimes looking like a cel-shaded cartoon and at others looking like a poorly textured tech demo, it's clear that this game went through many designs. There's some cool animations to see but they're often followed by atrocious levels, specifically rooms made of flesh that look anything but 'Next Gen". On the bright side the voice work has that type of enthusiasm needed to pull off camp. Whether it's Ricks girlfriend screaming to the camera or the Mask mocking Rick for being a pussy, the actors deliver on tone with what you'd probably expect.
It's a letdown that Splatterhouse isn't anything special, it's hardly even interesting. But at a bargain price and in the right mood this game will scratch an itch and then you can be done with it. However, it's coming out way too late and it's full priced. That matters. There may well be an audience that can look past the faults and won't care that the game is nowhere near as good as it should be. But. you'd have to be a HUGE fan of the originals, or of Horror films, for this game to merit even a passing glance.
Final Score: 55%