Games based off movies typically aren’t longed for much when it comes to either sales or reputation. There are many unfortunate circumstances in regards to why this is, but translation is certainly near the top of the list. For example, trying to take something that is anywhere from one to two hours long and stretching it out to eight or nine hours does not usually go well. The final product is, more often than not, hollow and lacking in any sort of value or enjoyment. That being said, though, a game that managed to overcome this mistake is none other than the PlayStation 2 title, Van Helsing.
When discussing the plot of the game, one need not do more than watch the movie itself. Add a couple of levels, throw in some new dialogue (with the same actors might I add), and eureka, you basically got yourself the game’s main story with a bit of new polish. I must say, it’s rather enjoyable to hear Hugh Jackman come back for the role as Van Helsing. Other actors might not feel as strongly about trying to redo a role for a property that didn’t fare too well. Regardless, for those who do not know the story, the basic premise is that Mr. Helsing hunts down the paranormal, with Dracula at the top of his list. Pretty decent stuff, all in all.
This might be where I’m the most biased about this title ‘cause Van Helsing plays a lot like Devil May Cry, and I loved Devil May Cry. The movement, combat, and general flow of the game is where Van Helsing really shines. Hitting and shooting things feels satisfying without being overly tedious. Areas in-game are large enough to the point where you’re not getting swamped by enemies. The upgrade system is also worth highlighting as it’s easy to use and has enough variety to keep the player interested. The last thing I’ll mention in terms of gameplay is the progression. This is a game where it feels like you’re becoming stronger the further you get. Even nowadays, this is something titles seem to have trouble with. Long story short, take it from me. When it comes to Van Helsing, the gameplay is where it’s at.
When going back and looking at the visuals for this title, it’s shocking to see they still hold up. A lot of other games simply do not have the same graphical punch as they did when first released. Van Helsing managed to keep its style and flare by doing a lot with a little. It combined an old-Victorian setting with a creepy gothic perspective that helped players get immersed in the world. The levels look genuinely scary and the boss designs made me so nervous I didn’t even want to continue. To sum up, the look and feel of the game was almost too effective.
Well, this category is a bit of a cop-out, considering its more or the less the same as the story. If you liked the characters in the film, you’re bound to enjoy their portrayal in the game. If you’re interested in knowing more about them, however, then Van Helsing provides some great moments for expanding their backgrounds. Again, it’s not much, but it is something to help tide dedicated fans over.
Last but not least, we come to replayability. Is this title worth your time after you’ve already finished it? I would have to say a solid maybe. I really enjoyed the game for what it is, being an action-adventure combat-centric thrill ride. That being said, of course, I feel like this a title that you could finish once and be satisfied with. I do think it has an amazing introductory level that is worth playing again and again. That’s with any game, though. The intro is what should sell it for you.
So, with everything said and done, is Van Helsing a title that still holds up? Yeah, definitely. If my opening paragraph didn’t give it away, there’s no doubt that this game is a gem. Although a bit dated in certain departments and ripping off others (i.e. the movie), Van Helsing outshines its date. So, if you ever manage to find this game, do yourself a huge favor and pick it up.