Vaccine Review – Jenny McCarthy’s Worst Nightmare

This game runs the risk of turning even Bill Nye into an anti-vaxxer.

Developer: RNC
Publisher: RNC
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: February 21, 2017
Copy purchased

Vaccine is a brilliant premise mangled by a terrible videogame, a classic example of how execution is just as important as the idea.

This should have been a game I adored. Resident Evil reimagined as a roguelike with randomized hallways and the lingering threat of permanent death. Stylistically, the game apes Capcom’s survival horror classic right down to the mid-90s graphics, boasting archaic tank controls, fixed camera angles, and unreliable combat to really bring the nostalgia home.

Also it’s terrible.

Demonstrating only a surface-level understanding of survival horror, RNC drapes its game with all the aesthetic trappings but has very little substance backing up its style. This is a studio that knows very well what Resident Evil looked like, but doesn’t have a clue why it was actually enjoyable to play.

Protagonists aren’t just inefficient at fighting, they’re absolutely awful at defending themselves in tiny corridors and rooms where combat is often unavoidable. The generic zombies and rats – so gaudily designed they look like they belong in the original Alone in the Dark – are allowed cheap shots thanks to obscure camera positioning or the game simple deciding they get to break through an attack and latch onto the player for anywhere between one and four free attacks in a row.

Every single run ended the exact same way for me – chased down by some four-legged thing that is ludicrously fast and prefers to trap you in a corner where you can’t run away. Since it takes longer to die than you do, any battle inevitably ends with its victory – and it’s presented as a regular enemy that could spawn at any time.

I’ve died in the corner of a room many times to count. It’s far too easy for enemies to box you in, especially the aforementioned quadruped that is impossible to name more helpfully because it’s just a jaggy clump of flesh onscreen.

This is a game that can’t even get tank controls right. It’s not like they were ever good – certainly not good enough to be worth preserving in a game released past 2001 – but somehow Vaccine makes them even worse, increasing the truck-like swing of characters when turning to such a degree they’ll be veering left and right while trying to navigate the straightest hallways.

Poor bastards can’t even open doors half the time without struggling to face them correctly.

Despite its random elements, no single run of Vaccine feels unique or different. You start in the same room, given thirty minutes to find a vaccine for a friend who got vaguely infected by a vague infection. From there, you follow a pretty rote pattern of progress – the only thing that drastically changes is the maze you gotta draw in your head as you move.

Quite why you need a vaccine for somebody who’s already infected is anybody’s guess, but I guess Cure wouldn’t have been as cool a game name.

Seriously, if you need a vaccine after you’re already infected, then you’re not so much looking for a single shot as you are planning out an entire course of vaccine therapy. This is stuff still being researched and likely not what the developer had in mind when making this game.

Considering how violently your friend is vibrating in bed when a run starts, something tells me we’re well beyond the point of inoculation.

Anyway, from this starting room you always need to pick up the knife before manually equipping it from an ugly and uncommunicative menu that uses only miniscule highlighting to let the player know where on the screen they’re navigating. Get used to this laborious process, because you have to start every game this way.

It’s easy to miss this knife thanks to the game’s messy graphics causing objects and backgrounds to bleed into each other. My first few knife-less runs were even less fun than later ones, and those later ones have been miserable.

Once the knife is equipped, you’ll wander repetitive corridors and rooms looking for a gold and silver key, as well as learning what doors open and what doors don’t. There’s also something about interdimensional travel but frankly all the lore notes are so badly written I barely gave a shit about the story.

Frequent typos and eccentric sentence structures make whatever “story” this game has pretty tough to stick with.

Combat is a grueling and tiresome slogfest. Although you can find guns (if you’re lucky), the knife is your trusty standby, and using it is about as fun as licking a rain-soaked trash bag. You basically just hammer the attack button to swing ahead of you, stepping back every couple of swings so you don’t get grabbed and bitten. You do this over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

It’s not scary and it’s not tense. It’s just boring. Staggering backwards, flailing a knife around, hoping you hit something and that the dreary zombie-shaped splodge isn’t granted some free attacks just because the game felt like it.

Firearms provide some distance but aren’t reliable and deal disappointing amounts of damage. You’ll need to ready and fire them just like the original Resident Evil, hoping that your positioning will be enough for Vaccine to decide you scored a hit.

If you’re feeling tasty, you can lay down a proximity mine… that the creatures will not walk into. It’s more like setting a trap for your future self, as your forklift of a protagonist will inevitably veer into it later.

You’ll gain experience points for fighting monsters and – bizarrely – opening or closing doors, unlocking skill upgrades that might as well not be there for all the impact they have on the game. You can pump up your defense all you like, it won’t matter once you’re back’s to the wall and you’re being mangled by something found in Masahiro Ito’s reject bin.

Stats are lost when runs begin anew. If there are permanent unlocks on offer, I didn’t stick around long enough to see them, because this game makes me philosophically sick.

Healing items can be abundant or extinct depending on how generous a run feels, but they’re woefully crap regardless. Even the “big” health kits restore a miniscule amount of health, and since it’s almost impossible not to take damage thanks to ambushes and abundant enemy advantages, Vaccine is a battle of attrition designed entirely in the game’s favor.

It’s complete bollocks, is what I’m trying to say. I think of some of the great roguelike-inspired games of the past few years – The Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon, etcetera – as well as modern indie horrors such as Outlast, and it frustrates me how the Republican National Conv… sorry… how RNC could get things so drastically wrong.

Random elements drawn from a shallow pool that gets repetitive quick, permadeath that’s more annoying than thrilling due to sloppy combat and formulaic introductory sequences, such a glib disregard for balance that some runs will be nearly unwinnable by nature. This is how Vaccine fails as a roguelike.

I could tell you how it fails as a survival horror, but we’d be here all day. Suffice to say that hallways littered with the world’s least scary zombies and some skinless dog-boy that might as well wear a shirt reading “Game Over” isn’t my idea of a spooky time.

Someone should let RNC know that numbers flying out of the heads of everything when they take damage is rubbish in a survival horror, especially when they’re bright red or white and are bigger than a character’s mashed potato face.

Vaccine is shit, but it does say its own name in a creepy deep voice when you start it, which is the single thing it has over Resident Evil 7.

2/10
Bad

Leave a Reply

88 Comments on "Vaccine Review – Jenny McCarthy’s Worst Nightmare"

avatar
The Magic Lemur
Member

Well that’s two things called RNC that never produced anything but shite.

*rim shot*

Blk Mgc Maverick
Guest

Dank controls>Tank controls

RifleAvenger Sashiro
Guest
Given the whole section about how the devs don’t understand or don’t want to get right how vaccines work, but “Cure” would be a dumb name, maybe they should have called it “antibiotic.” Heck, with a premise that the disease in question is a strain that became immune to most existing anti-biotics via antibiotic abuse. Even add in the potential risk that treating your friend with this precious dose of one of the few left that does work could backfire and create a truly unstoppable variant of the plague. Then again, maybe not. Seeing as the game would still be… Read more »
BAH!
Member

Also, antibiotics don’t work against viruses, which I’m assuming is what the game uses.

RifleAvenger Sashiro
Guest

An implicit part of my suggestion was for it to be a bacterial pathogen instead.

I think viruses are so often overused in bio-horror though precisely because antibiotics don’t work against them, on the misunderstanding that bacterial infections are no longer scary as a result (to the contrary, antibiotic resistant bacteria are terrifying). That, or a very liberal reading of viruses rewriting the host’s cells’ DNA being used as a justification for mutagenic symptoms (though I fail to see how a massive bacterial colony puppeteering a corpse would be any less frightening).

BAH!
Member

Frankly, the bacteria route almost makes mores sense- in a “sci-fi” sort of way. Bacteria grow in colonies, which could (again, sci-fi) lead to a sort of complex organism acting as a parasite. Play fast and loose with biology and bam, you’ve got yourself a zombie.

Besides, fungus does it all the time.

Nathan Stapleton
Guest

Congratulations! I’m pretty sure you’ve both just spent more time thinking about this than the devs of the game did! Probably three of four times as much… time… as they did, honestly.

Stephanie Wilson
Member

*Was* any of the book worth anything, Jim?

La Chica Incognita
Guest

Maybe this game was meant to be a vaccine against shitty horror games with tank controls?

So…now when we see an obviously bad attempt at being a Silent Hill/RE/AITD clone we’ll be able to resist spending money on it. I mean that’s a good thing right?

Raging Raving
Guest

was there really a want for the return to Tank controls and Resident Evil esc shooting?, as much as I loved those games (and still do) the “combat” wasn’t exactly the best thing about them.

dennett316
Guest
I think the Resi games nailed the balance of the controls with the speed of the enemies and the damage you take etc. They also refined them nicely with things like the quick turn. From a fixed camera perspective, tank controls are the way to go. Some games have done it where the direction you go in changes when the screen flips, and that makes tank controls frustrating and damn near unplayable. Up being forward as a consistent thing is second nature for me. The old Resi games also had a nice lock on that helped quickly orient the player… Read more »
Nathan Stapleton
Guest

Does the Resi 1 RemakeRereleaseRerelease count? Did I do that right…? RE1 PS1 -> Remade for GameCube -> Rerelease PS3 -> PS4… I think that’s it…

Raging Raving
Guest

Well put and yeah I see your point 🙂

The Magic Lemur
Member

I guess if they want an ‘authentic’ experience. Always good to consider why such mechanics fell out of favor, though.

Luke Fletcher
Guest

loosly using the “wasn’t exactly” there, X3. the old games were great for so much but the controls never agreed with me. the combat used worked well for a bit of a scare but not much else after that.

sillyskeleton
Member

Long live tank controls! I’ll never stop waiting for God Hand 2.

Martina Veselá
Member

Tank controls can be good. Square Enix recently had a massive sale on Steam so I bought both the classic Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider 2, and 20 years since their release both games still play very well despite featuring tank controls.

Anyway, this game just seems to be completely pointless. People who want nostalgia will simply play the old titles that are nostalgic for them. Why settle for some inferior wannabe that’s trying to mimic your favorite game when you can have the real thing?

Matrim
Guest

Wait, TR2 had tank controls? How do I not remember that?

Christoph Brinkmann
Member

Just a reminder that tank controls are shit.

Tank controls are shit.

Thank you for your time.

Mila
Guest

Casuals >_>

The Magic Lemur
Member

I’ll pay it forward.

GMBigKev
Guest

Exactly. We’ve improved past the need for tank controls. Who the hell has nostalgia for the worst control scheme invented?

Ibi Salmon
Guest

Apparently some people have nostalgia for tank controls. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have this game.

Michael Prymula
Member

Yep, that’s why I hated RE 1-3.

MJC
Guest

“Vaccine Review – Jenny McCarthy’s Worst Nightmare”

This headline is the best thing to come out of this game XD

Lance Snead
Guest

Jenny McCarthy! LOL

zarathustra
Guest

MinUscule…
HTH

Michael Prymula
Member

I actually like Jenny as a comedian, she just has no business talking about science.

Grim
Guest

RNC? So this is all Reince Priebus’ fault?

Michael Prymula
Member

I was thinking the same thing LOL

MuddyScarecrow
Member
You know I had already been saying similar things about Silent Hill-esque homage games like “Back in 1995” and that other one that both me and Jim can’t remember the name of. It’s all well and all to make a game look like Silent Hill. But those games seemed to be using that as their only real selling point. When you actually play the games themsevles they’re just really shallow horror experiences that aren’t that fun to play. If I’m gonna be honest Lone Survivor looks nothing like Silent Hill graphically but compared to the other two it’s more SH… Read more »
Austin_sj
Guest

I’m not vac-keen on this game. Hahahahahahahaha!

Meyneth
Guest

Please vacate the premises immediately with your terrible puns.

C. Peter Roberts
Guest

Don’t let things like vaccination puns needle you.

Some Guy In A Waistcoat
Guest

But we’re just here to inject some humour into the thread. Maybe make a few jabs at the developer’s expense. Giving a booster to the conversation…

I’ll see myself out.

FireroseNekowolf
Member

To be fair, puns tend to be rather infectious.

Chris Schwartz-Brown
Member

If only there were some way to introduce a bunch of small, harmless, inert puns into a conversation like this to help everyone build up a resistance to future ones. There has to be a word for something like that…

Perry Martin
Guest

…Actually now that you mention it Resi 7 DIDN’T say the game title when you start it up. That’s a shame, really. I kind of liked that. It was charming. Perhaps they thought it just didn’t fit the tone of the game.

Also, I must admit I actually like tank controls. At least, when done in the style that RE4 and RE5 did them. When they’re well-programmed like they are in those games, I actually find them kind of natural and smooth. I have…no idea why. But the early RE tank controls? Yeah, those were awful.

Rob
Guest

Is it because instead of pre-rendered environments constantly flipping your perspective on direction, the camera is always to the player’s back, pointed forward, so “up” is always forward?

Lloyd
Guest

This is the first I’d heard or seen of this game, not surprising if really is that terrible.

George
Member

This was a funny review! Thanks!

moviereviewrsports
Guest

Also Jim this game is also on the fucking Wii U!!!!!;;;

Landy Alexander
Guest

The what? Is that a console or something?

FireroseNekowolf
Member

I think it’s a 3DO thing?

Luke Fletcher
Guest

i’ve never heard of it. 🙂

Neto Houraisan
Member

Sad to see an interesting premise like this gone to waste. 🙁

BomberJacket
Guest

What a shame. I was hoping this would be like an isometric camera version of Teleglitch. Why would they make a game like this if they didn’t know what made it fun?

Gergely Farkas
Guest

One word:
Money!

James Bixby
Guest

Whew! I didged a bullet on this one! Thanks Jimothy!

Luke Fletcher
Guest

were you thinking of getting it then?
i’ve gotta say the graphics made me interested just for nostalgic purposes.

James Bixby
Guest

Pretty much the same, I loved Resident Evil 1-3, and this seemend like a cool concept.

Hunter Mearo
Guest

Me and my other course-mates doing medical and pharmacological sciences may pick up a copy between us for a laugh one night.

Anton
Guest

…the Republicans made a horror game about vaccines?

No, actually, that makes perfect sense.

BomberJacket
Guest

With Trump in office, I wouldn’t be surprised if Andrew Wakefield gave the keynote the next RNC.

Benj
Guest

A think an immunologist making a horror story about Republicans would make more sense.

wpDiscuz