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     " Serviceable, though falling short of any praise worthy level... "

      Title: Van Helsing by Vivendi Universal

      Format: Xbox Action Shooter

      Reviewing Monkey: Our Ape Masters

      The Hype: Following on the heels of one of the most hyped movies of all time, Van Helsing is a direct movie tie in that loosely follows the concept of the film. Here, as in the movie, you take on the role of Van Helsing, monster hunter extraordinaire, and attempt to help kill Dracula…but the events and script have been re-written to for a more game friendly feel.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Serviceable, though falling short of any praise worthy level, the graphics in Van Helsing (VH) are more likely to be ignored than either enjoyed or decried. Though bright and full of neon-like colors, the levels are dull and listless, while the animations are under rendered and blocky. Certainly prettier than some of what we've seen lately, at no point did the game cross into unacceptable or offensive, but also never inspired me to actually pay attention to it either. 3 out of 5

      Playability: Warm up your fire-button thumb 'cause this one's a shooter that'll wear out your hand. Full of zombies, skeletons, gargoyles, and movie inspired bosses beyond counting, VH is, at it's heart, a classic third person shooter (with a heavy emphasis on the word "shoot"). Throughout the game's 13 levels over thinking will literally be your undoing as nearly every puzzle or challenge is best solved by unloading round after round from shotgun, pistols, crossbow, and lightning gun.
          That is not to say, however, that the violence is unpleasant, just uninspired. Area after area of mindless destruction certainly starts out fun but becomes boring and droll in relatively quickly. In truth, the only skill or strategy the game employs is the combination of learning how to avoid running blindly into monsters obscured by the non-adjustable camera (a cause of constant frustration) and deciding where to move during the frequent gun reloading pauses (which are just about the only time you won't be shooting at something). 3 out of 5

      Story and Drama: As I said in the introduction, the story loosely follows the over-plot from the movie, and not surprisingly probably does a better job of story telling than the piece of crap film ever did. That being said, the script is dry, even for adventure game fair, and despite Hugh Jackman's palpable voice acting gets old in a hurry. 3 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: Single player only is discouraging, especially given the obvious possibilities a co-op mode would have had, but more unlockables than you'll ever earn will keep those interested busy. 3 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       One of the most solidly mediocre games I've played in years, Van Helsing is fun for a while, then boring for the rest, and all the while never moves out of that "comfortable" area that lives between a game worth remembering and a game that makes you want to hurt someone. It might be worth a rental for those looking for some mindless, though lonely, shoot 'em ups on a Saturday afternoon or who are a fan of the film (if, in fact, such a person exists), but otherwise is unremarkable.

      The Good: Lots of action.

      The Bad: Lots of repetitive, uninspired, mindless action.

      The Overall Ugly: Three seconds after I submit this review I won't remember playing the game…for better or worse.

      What it's Worth: Rental if you want.

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