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     " This game is almost everything a role-playing game should be and in a lot of ways more... "

   Title: Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption by Activision

   Format: PC Role Playing Game

   Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

   The Hype: Vampire the Masquerade has been the most popular role playing game on the market for quite some time now. In it, players assume the roles of vampires who suffer their way (it tends to be very melodramatic) through eternity plotting, scheming, repenting, and yes, occasionally even fighting against various evil forces. A computer version has been talked about for ages and was finally announced some three odd years ago. We Monkeys got our first glimpse of it at E3 two years ago and it made our E3 hot list in both 1999 and 2000.

      What This Monkey Thought...

   Graphics: KEEN! Far and away the best in game graphics ever seen in a role playing Game, vampire supports dynamic lighting (based on the Quake 2 lighting engine), smooth animations, nice movement, and solid character designs. This would be a 5 out of 5 waiting to happen except for three serious flaws. 1) Activision got a little lazy and copped out on the graphics towards the end- often replacing what should be nicely animated hands with frighteningly club like bulbous fists, not taking the time to sync lips to words at all (it’s like watching a badly dubbed Kung Fu movie), not accurately representing armor on the models, etc. 2) Clipping, clipping, clipping. 3) All of the levels are really, really dark. Not just "mood lighting" dark, plain old "who’s touching my ass…I can’t see anything in here" dark. Which, when you realize that you are a nocturnal vampire who only exists at night (note the redundancy), and thus should be able to see in the dark, gets really annoying. But, otherwise, the graphics totally kick ass. 4 out of 5

   Sound: Incredibly music sets the mood and will keep you in the game even if the mediocre combat sounds and repetitive battle noises annoy you to death. I don’t know when the industry will figure out that having your character scream more than a couple worn out catch phrases during combat is a good thing. Also, worthy of note, and all on their own at that, is the ambient sounds (the backgrounds). Everywhere, but especially in places like clubs and dungeons, it is amazing. They’ll creep you out, pump you up, and make you wet yourself if you’re not careful. 4 out of 5.

   Game Play: Never have I been so mixed about a game’s playability as I am on Vampire. On one hand, it is, arguably, the best interface ever seen on an rpg…Easy to use, has hot keys for everything you want, and is very customizable. It also has fantastic camera control, a keen experience points system, and some really fun character options. On the other hand, it has, quite arguably, the most frustrating combat AI and command structure in history. To attack, a constant Diablo-esque "click-click-click-click" (despite the fact that it has a completely non-functional "auto-attack" setting) is required. This is made even worse by the clipping and 3D camera options so that constantly clicking on the target you want can be very difficult. If that isn’t enough to annoy you, the collision coding in the engine is horrible and characters will stack and get backed up even if there appears to be plenty of room. Furthermore, the combat AI is atrocious and more often than not your characters will either bunch up behind you during battle (thus not doing anything) or charge head long and engage at point blank range (even if they have ranged attacks). Here in the office we dubbed it "Acti-Crack" because even though you hated parts of it as much as you’ve ever hated anything (especially in regards to the combat AI) you still got totally addicted and everyone that started had to finish it. It ends up getting a very mixed 3 out of 5.

   Level and Environment Designs: With the exception that occasionally if feels a little like you’re playing Quake 2 again, the levels totally rock Monkey! Killer designs combining just a little bit of puzzle solving (but thank the High Monkey not an excessive amount) and maze work is polished off by being made into pseudo-accurate representations of real life type environments. They kept me interested, un-frustrated, and happy. We often commented on how cool the level designs were and how lush the textures came across. 5 out of 5.

   Multiplayer: Have you ever walked into a gaming store and seen a small contingent of pimply, smelly, taped eye glass wearing, out of shape, geeky-ass laughing, over book smart, under testostoroned, dorky, nerds huddled around a table rolling dice and pretending like their character actually makes them tough in real life? Or, for that matter, ever been that person? Well, Activision wanted to take that type of immersion and make it so you don’t have to show your face in public…Thus removing the limited real life social contact most of those people had. Vampire, as a multiplayer game, has damned near everything you could imagine from a role-playing game and more. "Story Tellers" (game masters) can design levels and adventures off line (creating everything from treasure placement to non-player character dialogue) and then upload it to one of the Vampire servers. Once there, gamers actively participate in a real role playing game with other players while the Story Teller gives directions, controls (at his discretion) baddies, and occasionally even takes charge of player’s characters to give them bouts of inspiration. It is, far and away, the most realistic role player I’ve ever even heard of and if more people weren’t so averse to using their frickin’ brains (because real role playing requires thought) it would be kicking Asheron’s Call and Everquest’s asses combined. The only two disadvantages to it are the lack of a simple editor (for levels or skins) and no real organized community. 5 out of 5

   Replayability: Unfortunately, the game is totally linear in design (though to a small degree you can make different choices as you go through) so the true replayability is pretty small. Though, there are enough different types of weapons and ways to configure your characters that you can easily justify playing it again (and I intend to when I’m done writing this). 3 out of 5

   Story/Dramatics: Boou-Yah! Actually, I should say "Oh, prithy, I suffer, but lo, I find strength, to fight, if it may be the right thing to do, but I’m sad, because my love is not with me, but still I rise, even though I never wanted to be a vampire, but I’ll make the best of it, right after I suffer, and say ‘Boou-Yah’." (Because the game is damned melodramatic). However, if you can get past the melodrama (and some pretty sad voice acting) you’ll find a kick ass story with plenty of twists, turns, and surprises. The only problem is that its all linear (just keeping it from 5 out of 5). 4 out of 5

   Instructions and Learning Curve: The learning curve is pretty short (though reading the instructions is pretty much required to learn everything). The only real flaw is that there are errors in the instructions! Can you frickin’ believe it? There’s also some pretty key information omitted (like maps of the towns, damage modifiers, and decent explanations of the special powers). Even so, you’ll figure it out, but not before it pisses you off. 3 out of 5

   Installation and Real System Requirements: Installation was easy and it makes great use of every last drop of your video card, though I strongly doubt it’ll actually run well on the listed minimum of P2-233- since at times it really slowed down our K6-2 450. 3 out of 5

   The Verdict:

       This game is almost everything a role-playing game should be and in a lot of ways more (it would be more than perfect if the damned combat wasn’t so screwed up). Buy it and enjoy getting your solid money’s worth. Plus, one of the characters goes from being a kinda cute nun to a totally hotty slut…Thus fulfilling all your parochial school fantasies.

   The Good: Graphics, role-playing interface, multiplayer, level designs, and story.

   The Bad: The damned combat interface and AI.

   The Overall Ugly: Overall, this is the best-damned role-playing game I’ve ever seen. A good, fun, solid 30 hours of blood drinking fun.

   What it's Worth: Market

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