Added to the lair: 4/18/18
Genre: Survival Horror / Action
Developer: Terminal Reality
Bringing your nightmares to life
Nocturne is one of those games that makes you ask "How have I never heard of this?" It didn't sell well and it's not very well known, which is a shame because it's actually quite good. If you're a fan of survival horror, especially, this is one you need to check out.
You play "The Stranger" - slayer of all things supernatural, and member of The Spookhouse, a secret government organization tasked with investigating various supernatural phenomena (ala X-Files) and battling the forces of darkness. Vampires, werewolves, zombies... they're all here. The stranger's background isn't really explained, but you get the distinct impression that this guy has seen and been through some serious shit. He's grumpy, rude, trigger-happy, and doesn't take any crap from anyone. He could have easily amounted to an eyeroll-inducing edgelord, but thankfully there's enough dry, biting wit (and caustic humor) to much of his dialogue that he's actually a pretty entertaining character. The obvious film noir and Shadow influences earn him a few bonus points with me too.
The game is broken up into four acts, each focusing on a different mission, and they can be played in any order; though playing them in the standard order is recommended since they're structured chronologically.
It might not immediately grab your attention today, but the graphics are actually very good for 1999. There are a number of visual flourishes that were mostly unheard of at the time like cloth physics on The Stranger's trenchcoat, dynamic lighting/shadows, and complex blood spatter effects. Graphically, the game has actually aged quite well. The lighting and atmosphere are really on-point.
Gunplay is somewhat unusual for the genre in that it uses an autoaim mechanic where dual-wielded pistols can independently target enemies - think Drake of the 99 Dragons except not terrible. It works, generally, but it takes a little getting used to. It's pretty essential though, because the fixed camera angles can be a bit problematic, often obscuring off-screen enemies; this is somewhat standard for Resident Evil and its ilk, but Nocturne has a higher focus on combat than a lot of games in the genre, and some enemies move rather quickly. The standard keyboard and mouse control scheme feels rather odd, but thankfully the controls can be rebound to Xinput devices like 360 or XB1 controllers, and I highly recommend doing so if you have the option.
There are some puzzles, but they're generally pretty light. Unfortunately, there's also some platforming which is frequently pretty terrible - thanks in no small part to the aforementioned camera combined with The Stranger's rather inept jumping ability. Be sure to save often, as dying from falls will be a not-exactly-uncommon occurrence.
The music is decent but often repetitive. The soundtrack seems to be comprised of just a handful of songs. Voices, thankfully, fare much better. There are a few questionable ones here and there, but by and large they're quite good; albeit on the pulpy, campy side which seems completely intentional and fitting for the tone they're going for.
An interesting side note here is that Terminal Reality really wanted to make a sequel but, given the game's poor sales, one never came. Despite this, they made a couple other games which are ostensibly continuations of the game without being explicit sequels - the first of which is Blair Witch: Volume I - Rustin Parr. Despite the name, it has greater ties to Nocturne than Blair Witch, and actually features several characters from the game, including "Doc" Holliday (who is the protagonist this go around), Svetlana, and The Stranger, and even directly involves The Spookhouse as part of the plot. You may notice a few similarities between Svetlana, Nocturne's half-human half-vampire dual-blade-wielding babe and Rayne from BloodRayne - that seems to be intentional, since BloodRayne supposedly started out as a Nocturne sequel before it was reworked, and some early production shots show Rayne's appearance to be practically identical to Svetlana's. Some locations, characters, and even the Yathgy Stone featured in Nocturne are present in BloodRayne.
Despite some missteps with the camera and platforming, Nocturne is a good time and worthy of your attention; especially if you're a fan of horror.