(Observer (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) For several dozen entries during its long history the Castlevania series has charged players with pursuing and vanquishing Dracula. And, over 27 years, Castlevania's protagonists, the Belmont family, shone at the task in 2D but floundered when they came to hunt their vampire prey in the third dimension.
With 2010's Lords of Shadow, however, Castlevania seemed to have found its 3D footing, delivering an elegant game-world that weighted Lords of Shadow 2 with both promise and expectation. Not only was the formula to be refined and reworked but it was also to offer, for the first time in the series, the chance for players to assume the role of Dracula.
Unsurprisingly, then, Lords of Shadow 2 is a macabre hack'n'slash adventure, where frenetic melee combat and platforming dominate the gameplay - as with its predecessor. But this time around the game flits between Dracula's gothic castle in the past, and a near-future metropolis built on its ruins, presenting a world more open than 2010's linear-leaning effort.
Sadly, uninspired level design, awkward stealth sections and monotonous missions mean Dracula's playable debut underwhelms. With time the game improves, and the combat - balanced, demanding and dramatic - is enjoyable, while elsewhere it does have its moments but on this form it seems Drac himself might have been better treating the spotlight as he might the cursed sunlight.