An action RPG, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing makes its way to console nearly four years later after being originally released on Steam in 2013. Starring as the son of Van Helsing (also called Van Helsing) you will journey to follow in your father’s footsteps, assisted by a ghost called Katherina.
Two things jump out immediately – the voice acting is quite brilliant, and the game is quite similar to Diablo 3 (also originally released on PC, and followed by a console adaption). For what is essentially a budget title, the voice work is great. It sounds crisp and clear and you can see that actors have really got into their characters which helps immediately flesh out the story and set the scene.
Throughout the game, you’ll experience this at play best with the banter between Van Helsing and Katharina. Despite being a ghost she is pretty funny and keeps Van Helsing on his toes. Other characters you encounter have a great sense of humour about them; often resulting in funny lines delivered which help draw you into the atmosphere.
Despite a good intro, it becomes apparent that Van Helsing has suffered with controls at the adaption from PC. Rather than taking a similar approach to that of Diablo, the left stick is used to control your character but the right stick is unused. Instead, the targeting is directed by the way in which you are looking, and directed towards the closest enemy. Whilst this feels fairly sensible at first, it quickly becomes a hassle as you want to specifically target different enemies for your own benefit.
Got a tough monster throwing stuff at the top of the screen, but some smaller ones charging? You’ll have to take those out first. This is an odd decision with no option for an alternative and quickly turns Van Helsing into a bit of a pain to play. No amendment is made either to the user interface – at least I’m assuming not by how small the text is and how unclear it is to navigate. Clearly designed for a mouse interface, adjusting your equipment, comparing it to loot you collect, managing your perks, your stat upgrades and Katharina’s is an overwhelming experience which whilst you get used to it, is very easy to overlook elements.
Another casualty of the control scheme is that because you aim while looking, you can’t walk backwards and fire forwards. At points you will get many, many enemies on screen at once. Your challenge is to fire at them, run away, turn around and fire again. It just feels like an old mechanic which has not adapted to the times and would have made this a whole lot slicker.
Despite this, the atmosphere remains with a great soundtrack supporting the voice acting, and some decent if static and perhaps a bit uninspiring visuals. They do the job but the graphics team didn’t quite manage to make the landscapes pop the same way the audio team has done getting it to really catch your ears.
Puzzlingly, co-op is online only rather than same screen which seems like a bit of an omission given how well suited this would be to same screen co-op action. Different class options and characters at least give some depth and replay value, allowing you to tailor your monster slaying to ranged, melee or more magical combat methods.
One of the biggest surprises I had with this was that there is what is essentially a tower defence mini-game which you unlock part way through. A grid based system helps circumvent the dubious control system slightly, and it has a surprising amount of depth as you equip and spec out your base, stopping monsters from attacking it. It could easily have been supported into a full release and is a welcome benefit to be found here.
Ultimately, Van Helsing will probably placate those desperate for more action after exhausting Diablo 3 on console. For those that haven’t, they would be better to start with Diablo unless you’re really after the Van Helsing lore, in which case this may do enough to satisfy you.
Reviewed on PS4