Obscure Review

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Graphics: 8.0
Sound : 7.0
Gameplay : 4.5
Multiplayer : 5.5
Overall : 5.8
Review by Andy Levine
Obscure for the PC takes you on the adventures of a group of mischievous students at Leafmore High as they uncover the mystery revolving around a plague known only as the Mortifilia. As they struggle to survive, this horror title will only scare you with its buggy control scheme, terrible camera angles, and levels that are more than easy to get lost in. If you look at screenshots from the game it may look promising, but once you get your hands on this debacle your prospects for an entertaining horror game will fly out of the window.

First and foremost, this third person survival-horror title suffers from intractable menus and an even worse system for character control. Not using the mouse on a PC game was a bold, but daring, action to take, especially for a game that involves shooting. Because of this, it’s near impossible to quickly search for an item or weapon, and it also makes the whole fighting system seem very elementary. Instead of having some type of backpack screen where you could quickly click on an item and use, you have to activate the menu by holding down the “Q” key and then proceed to use arrow keys to search through the list. Likewise, if you need to switch weapons during a battle you will need to hold down “E” in order to trifle through your inventory. As a result, there will be numerous times where you will find yourself flailing through your supply in the midst of battle. However, the poorly designed menus are nothing compared to the horrid camera angles and the troubling character control. As you travel down a hall the camera will be aimed at an angle, making it impossible for you to walk in a straight lane. More importantly, sometimes you will not even be able to see in front of you, and as you walk blindly into the darkness it is very easy to be blind sighted by a demon. When you explore various classrooms and other parts of the school you will have to investigate every nook and cranny to make sure you didn’t miss a thing, but again the cameras will hinder you efforts. There are even times when you can see an object, such as ammunition, but will not be able to take it no matter how hard you try. In one instance, a med kit was lying in the corner of a bathroom, and the urinals blocked out the characters from being able to grab it. While it more than likely is possible to grab such items, you shouldn’t have to struggle to perform routine tasks. Towards the end of the game you will finally be able to become accustomed to the controls, but with a campaign lasting only 4-5 hours you shouldn’t have to spend most of your time learning how to play.

While the foundation for Obscure was poorly developed, the storyline allows for a nice flow between levels and environments, but there are still several gameplay bugs to be worked out. As a close group of students simply set out to find their missing friend Kenny, they get themselves into a whole mess of events involving an infectious virus from Africa known as the Mortifilia. Whether you prefer to travel as a scantily clad rebellious girl or as one of your typical preppy male models, you will find that each character has their own special aptitudes that include special attacks and skills, such as lock picking. While it is possible to beat the entire game using the same two characters, switching between characters can make the game a lot easier than it has to be. On your adventure, you will roam the halls of Leafmore High as you collect tools and clues about the plague and its cause. If you don’t meticulously search every room, you could missing as small as a screwdriver and immediately be halted on your expedition. Unless you overturn every room you enter, you will more than likely have to backtrack your footsteps until you come across what you are looking for. Because you have the entire campus, aside from a few rooms, at your disposal from the beginning, searching for one specific item can become very irksome after a long while. Weapons, such as flashlights, guns, and lasers can be used to destroy any of the demons that you encounter. Apparently, the light is very harmful to the infected creatures, so smashing open windows to allow the sun to shine on them is actually quite helpful. You will have the basic melee attacks with bats and crowbars, but it is very hard to remain unscathed from physical combat. Long-range weapons, like the pump-action shotgun, are much more effective in blowing your enemy to pieces. No matter how you choose to fight, the battle system relies on a lock-on system instead of requiring the gamer to aim on their own. In battle, your only real strategies involve taking a few step backs if the enemy nears and running away when you need to reload. Unfortunately, the fights don’t vary much from the beginning of the game. There are several puzzles scattered throughout the school, most of which involve finding hidden items or keypad combinations. Although they aren’t mind-boggling, some of these challenges showoff the creativeness of the developers. Generally speaking, throughout Obscure you will spend most of your time wandering aimlessly with the help of a hand-drawn map as you collect an array of special artifacts.

Visually speaking, Obscure doesn’t suffer as badly as it does in the gameplay category. The character models look fairly realistic, and the monsters are even hideously ugly and almost vomit-inducing. The latter levels taking place in the basement below the school have walls smeared with blood to bring out a chilling horror tone. The cinematic sequences are very impressive and help transition you between levels. Although the movies are at a low resolution, you can still appreciate the time and effort put into every drip of blood pouring from a monster’s mouth. Lighting effects are also nicely done, as you can see from your flashlight and open windows. Some of the drawbacks include awkward character animations. The students will reload their guns by rubbing their hands against their pants, and they will also obtain health pickups without actually having to touch them. Objects will often go through one another as well. The same animations are constantly used for attacking as well, making your character look absurd when he is striking an enemy repeatedly. Aside from these few minor bugs, Obscure’s graphics help to exemplify the overlying sense of horror.

Regarding the audio performance, Obscure is filled with bone-tingling sound effects and an overall frightening experience, but the neophyte voice actors take away from the game. Although Obscure only has 3 title tracks, including a song from Sum 41, it proves that you don’t need chart-topping songs in order to bring out the right sound for your game. When traveling throughout the school, if the background music isn’t completely silent you will hear music from a children’s choir in Paris, which is eerily haunting. You will literally jump out of your seat as a hidden monster comes bolting out of a corner and shrieks at you, which will more than likely set you off in a panic. Despite Obscure having some exemplary horror sound effects, the voice acting is terrible. The characters rarely show any type of emotion or feelings, and even when their close friends they hardly grieve at all. Instead of having a voice filled with intimidation, the students will sound almost cheery with their common clichés. The voice actors make the game feel more like a harmless adventure instead of a struggle for horror which is the sole cause for Obscure’s mediocre audio consummation.

By no means is the multiplayer the main focus of the game, nor is it satisfactory for any gamer. You have the option to allow a friend to play along with you on the same monitor using a different set of controls. You both share the same screen with the same camera angles as well, which further adds to your control problems. It is still challenging to navigate through the halls, and the battle system is unchanged. The only difference is that the other person traveling along with you is now a human instead of some computer. Having two player capabilities would have been nice for an online or even a LAN mode, but requiring the person to be right next to you doesn’t have a very strong effect.

In conclusion, Obscure for the PC is a poorly crafted third person adventure game that could use many improvements. From the buggy control schemes to the monotonous gameplay, any gamer will be left with much to be desired. While the ending cinematic did hint at a sequel, we can only hope that any future installments will work out the many follies found in Obscure.