The Great War has never been that great when it comes to videogame spin-offs. Anything involving Hitler, the Nazis, Stalingrad, D-Day, or The Battle of Britain on the other hand and the market is as saturated as a Red army soldier who's just liberated Berlin. Anything featuring iron-clad Roman legionaries butchering tribes of illiterate sheepherders who've barely discovered how to dress themselves, and we're all clamouring for our debit cards. Scour your local game store for any World War One titles however and you'll be lucky to find anything more than some prehistoric title on the Red Baron or mediocre strategy game - unless of course, some helpful shop assistant happens to point you in the direction of Necrovision: Lost Company.
You really have to give credit to Polish developers The Farm 51 for at least stepping up and giving the World War One angle a go. Necrovision might not be the only World War One title to have emerged in the last few years, but it's the first contemporary attempt to really try and adapt The Great War into a first person shooter. But given the fact that WWI could never really work as a serious FPS because it would either consist of you sitting there for hours on end holding your finger down on the fire button and mowing down scores of hapless infantry. Or else walking very slowly through no man's land into a wall of heavy machine gun fire, it's understandable that The Farm 51 have taken some big liberties with history.
But what you're confronted with in Necrovision is a story and setting so ludicrous and down-right insane you're convinced the whole thing must be a joke. The voice acting is horrendous, the undead-Adolf Hitler-lookalikes who come at you wielding nail bats and large pieces of corrugated iron are hilarious - especially after you knee cap them with your luger, and see your character turning his pistol sideways like O-Dog from Menace to Society. 'What you say about ma mamma?' you shout triumphantly, and fell like playfully nudging one of the developers and casting them a knowing wink as if to say 'yeah, I get it', until you actually begin to realise you're meant to take the whole thing seriously.
During sporadic intervals between bludgeoning deranged, green-eyed German infantryman (who are victims of some sick experiment of something) you find Farm 51 spoiling your fun with these poignant letters from dead soldiers. You suddenly realise that Necrovision's genius for absurdity is actually unintentional. One minute the game has you sinking a nail bat into someone's head, and the next minute, it starts harping on about the reality of war, the pain, the loss, the suffering blah, blah, blah. But my advice is to just to ignore anything to do with the story - which becomes increasingly more bizarre - and just crack on with the killing, which thankfully is a blast.
The first three hours of the game is full of running in and around the misty trenches, occasionally wearing gas masks, and using an array of World War One weaponry to drop groups of mutated bosh. The choice of weapons is superb. From lugers to sniper rifles to chattering machine guns to grenade launchers, Necrovision sports an impressive array of Great War weaponry. Some can even be duel wielded which is a nice bonus, especially when you consider the number of melee weapons on offer. But that said, NV doesn't actually linger in about the trenches for too long, and pretty soon there's a big twist, and it's all for the better.
Without giving it all away, let's just say that if you things seem mad to begin with, nothing prepares you for what's waiting. Necrovision really starts to pick up when you get hold of the shadowhand (a melee weapon complete with some magic abilities), and then just goes all out mental when you find yourself battling a huge metal scorpion in a mechanical, robotic suit, and riding around on a big fire breathing dragon. The hordes of enemies come so thick and fast that by the end of the game your entire screen is filled by such a dense, marauding horde that you simply can't click the game mouse fast enough. But despite the fact that NV opts for quantity of enemies over quality of battles, it does reward perseverance with some brilliantly entertaining gameplay about one third of the way through
However, many gamers will find overcoming the initial three hours or so a struggle. Whilst the levels and baddies look quite good, the visuals are undermined by poor texture quality which makes for an underwhelming first impression. It also has a linear feel - reminiscent of some archaic Medal of Honour title - and irritatingly long load times. Early missions often involve tiresome tasks such as pulling levers which can be awkward to locate, and overall, the game' high difficulty can leave you struggling to maintain interest. On top of this there are various technical issues: the scenery seems oversensitive to passing enemies as often they'll get snagged, and the AI could certainly do with a bit more refinement.
If you take Necrovision with a pinch of salt and rise above its poor first impression, its occasional pretentiousness and its sloppy execution, you'll find that the game does redeem itself. The story might be as incoherent and messy as watching The World at War on magic mushrooms, but it does satisfy your itchy trigger finger and provides plenty of amusingly-gratuitous-violence. The big drawback is that Necrovision takes so long to properly reveal its true potential. And if historical realism, deep characters, polished gameplay mechanics and consistent storytelling is what you look for in an FPS, this is one avoid. But if guns, blood, gore, mechanical scorpions and riding around on dragons sounds like a good way to unwind after a hard day's graft, it's a great way to let of steam. Overall Necrovision is fun, entertaining and (as this is world war one how can I resist?) 'over the top'.