Review by Neo368

"Kain returns for another round of bloodletting"

Fans anticipating the latest game in Crystal Dynamic’s Legacy of Kain series finally have a chance to try the developer’s revitalization of its cult hit.

Legacy of Kain: Defiance ties together two famous vampire series, Blood Omen and Soul Reaver, into one engrossing game. Gamers are invited back to the medieval realm of Nosgoth to once again follow the epic tale of series namesake, Kain, on his quest for power and salvation. The fifth in its line, Defiance solves problems that plagued this action-adventure series from day one, while still delivering the expert story long time fans expect.

Along with furthering the story, Crystal Dynamics, with publisher Eidos, hoped to capture new blood (pun intended) in the form of casual gamers, while accommodating the high standards of hardcore fans. In this regard, Defiance delivers excellently by blending in enough back-story to educate and intrigue newcomers and supplying the heavy plot series veterans crave.

Previous entries saw bland combat and enigmatic, often boring block puzzles. Defiance stirs up the usually mundane game play with a bevy of special moves and streamlined brainteasers. No longer will gamers sit through hours of grueling game play just to engage the next story driven cut-scene.

The graphics also received a noticeable boost from last year’s Blood Omen 2, which appeared on both the Playstation 2 and Xbox game consoles. Crumbling vampire ruins, archaic mansions, and shining strongholds showcase the power of next generation graphics with crisp character animation, outstanding particle effects, and huge, detailed levels. Also note that Defiance runs nearly identically on both consoles, without any downgrading to suit the particular specifications of each platform.

Voice acting, always one of the series’ strongest assets does not disappoint. The voice talent of Michael Bell and Simon Templeman, who act out the parts of Kain and Raziel respectively, bring the characters out of the screen and into gamers’ imaginations.

Though supporting voice work on the part of lesser characters is also noteworthy, Templeman’s and Bell’s various exchanges, specifically a debate within a burning cathedral near the game’s end, transcend all other series moments, guaranteeing recognition among video gaming’s most memorable scenes for years to come.

The music sounds as good as ever, with plenty of gothic melodies to keep players in an atmospheric mood. However, seasoned fans will hear many tracks recycled from previous series entries. While it is disappointing that there is not much in the way of new music, the composers found excellent ways to implement the tunes in various situations.

All is not well in the world of Nosgoth, however. While much of the game is revamped, some dark clouds still linger over the virtual landscape.

The biggest issue lies with the in-game camera. While previous games stuck with the standard “follow” camera common in most third person adventures, Defiance aims for a more cinematic experience, with a static camera giving areas a stylistic flair. While the gothic architecture is showcased is stunning angles, actual playtime becomes frustrating, especially during the more heated battles of the game’s final levels. Where its predecessors gave the player a perfect view of the action, Defiance has gamers fighting an enemy from off-screen more than a few times.

Another gripe deals with enemy variety. While diverse during the games beginning areas, it does not take long for gamers to notice enemy models reused, albeit with a different color scheme.

Replay value is lowered by the linearity of the levels, but gamers will want to play this through a few more times, if only for the wonderful story. After beating the game, the extras section is completely unlocked. Within, players find voice acting out-takes, concept art, and other neat little series Easter eggs.

When stacked up, the minor problems cannot detract from the positive experience gamers receive from Defiance. The story and acting is top notch, and the fast paced game play keeps players on the edges of their seats from start to finish. With Legacy of Kain: Defiance, Crystal Dynamics delivers a game for anyone that has anyone who picks it up playing to the bloody end.

Final Tally
Graphics: 9/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Sound: 7/10
Replay Value: 6/10

Overall score (not an average): 8/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/21/04

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