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.


  • Kobi Andt

    For the few that care (like me!) This game is also for some bizarre reason on the Wiiu.

    • Miliardo

      … That’s one way to keep supporting your console. Nintendo is the Fairy Godmother of Strange Decisions.

  • I’m actually a tiny bit surprised you expected it to be good. I mean, roguelike elements (as in random level design) don’t sound like a good fit to a proper survival horror (the genre, not the “scary game with survival elements”, I mean), which is all about fantastic level design and enemy placement by hand, just like Metroid or Souls, and very tight mechanics (what Capcom used to perfect in their best years, and kinda regained partially in RE7).
    Still, this looks like it could’ve been at least curious, not utter shite.
    P.S. Also, I still like tank controls, if there’s a reason for them and they’re done right. Which rarely ever happened, but hey.
    P.P.S. Cure is a great title. For a band. I must fight this sickness, find the… vaccine?

    • Your wolfsdengaming

      I think randomized dungeons could work in a horror game in a scenario where it could actually be random. For example, a horror game where there’s a “nightmare” version of the real world, and the nightmare version is partially randomized. I threw that idea together, but I’m sure someone could throw a better idea in a traditional horror game if they put their mind(s) to it 😉

      • That’s why I specified “survival horror” as “the genre”. Not just a “horror/scary game”. It is possible to make a nice horror-themed game with random elements, sure. And not make it Daylight too. Just not the survival horror. Same with Souls, or Metroid or even an IGAvania – you can build a game based on *some* elements of those with random roguelike logic, but it will be essentially a completely different game with some of the key mechanics from the games it copies. Like combat and enemies, but not the exploration. Exploration, but not the story. Etc.

  • Polishfury5000

    I would love to know the levels of play-testing that goes on in games like this. It’s self-published, so they wouldn’t have had a third party breathing down they’re neck. Were they really so pressed to release that even a single day couldn’t have been spent playing the game?

    It seems most of the problems stem from controls, inflated enemy health pools, and weapon rarity, among other balance issues. I’m not a developer, and have no idea how to program, but those seem like simple problems to tweak.

    Even if you can’t afford to hire play-testers, developers have to have friends who’d act as interns to make sure your game is winnable and balanced before it ships out.

    • When making a game, novice devs tend to blur the lines when it comes to difficulty and presentation, simply because “they know how it works, it’s easy!”.

      Rarely do they have a friend or relative sit down and play it, and learn from the actions their relative takes. So now, too late, they might learn for their next game that players will not be as intimate with the game as they were while making it.

      (I learned this myself when I first finished making a game, and am now dealing with others who haven’t learned it yet…)

      • Kev’ Bryant

        This. Very much this.

        I think they “play test” it themselves and because they are used to the game, it isn’t actually tested for anything.

      • Andrzej Sugier

        As someone who self-published a game before for next to nothing, I can give two reasons for that:

        1) By the time we were done we’ve played the game so much even one more minute of it could potentially make me vomit my intestines out

        2) Our regular play tester were so good at the game that adjusting difficulty based on any input they made was very risky.

        Same goes for testing the early game. We used our casual/noj-gamer testers to design tutorials, and soon after that their input was no longer truly fresh, and balancing early game experience had to be done pretty much by the ear.

        Man, experienced testers are really valuable people, kudos to any QA proffesionals reading this.

  • Terriosaurus Hex

    Hah! I saw this plop out on the store a while back and the first thing I thought after reading the description was “ahh, somebody thinks they’re going to weasel their way in to the nostalgic crowd through this back door, eh?”

    The thing is old resi evil has aged terribly to anybody but the hardcore fans. I played them all at the time, enjoyed them too. But not anymore. These developers have taken the worst aspects from limitations of that period while failing to see what positives where there. They’ve created a thin veneer, a surface dressing to cynically draw in those with nostalgia for that moment in gaming. Let not yeself be manipulated in such simple manners, understand and resist these tricks! 😉

  • Gaijin-

    Man, all these crappy games finding their way into the playstation store make for an unsettling phenomenon, to say the least.

    • Rachel McVeigh

      Completely agree. We rely on Sony & Microsoft for at least some type of quality control and they have been failing at that recently.

      • Django

        It’s got so bad even Nintendo went out of its way in their recent video to say that it’s Switch indie offerings would be curated.

        • Rachel McVeigh

          yeah, like that reasonable expectation is now a selling point.
          Steam is a shite show Sony & Microsoft don’t be like Steam

    • Regular Joe

      To say the QA testing is shit on console is a testament to the fact you don’t play on console.

      1. 3 games thus far have gotten past in comparison to Steam what? 50,000 at this point.

      2. The 3 shit games are so buried in the 3rd party games and 1st party games that make PC player’s kinda jealous.

      It’s 1 over 1e10(100) the level of shit on Steam. Which is so small and immeasurable you may as well call it nil.

      • Anton

        I think his point is that this is a bad precedent and a possible bad sign for the future. Not everything is about platform wars.

      • BornFlunky

        I dunno. “3” sounds like a number that’s quite measurable. Comes between two and four, half of six, etc.

        Also, calm down, Sparky. Everyone in this comment section is just worried about whether or not this is the beginning of a trend.

      • Gaijin-

        Which is, if I had said that.

    • Benj

      You might say we need a… vaccine for them.

  • Thomas Kolev

    Fun fact, vaccines are weakened versions of the pathogen of a disease, it’s more complicated but bear with me, meant to strengthen your immune system. If you give a vaccine to someone who is already infected you would actually make it worse.

    • RedWolf

      Another fun fact: vaccines do not cause autism. They just don’t.

      • Thomas Kolev

        Yeah well, that’s just obvious for anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together.

        • Luke Fletcher

          It’s sad that we live in a world where people don’t have the brain cells to realise how faulse the “vaccines give autism is”.

          • Gaealiege

            It’s primarily housewives married to highly educated men within the tech industry.

            How’s that for super embarrassing?

      • George

        That’s what big pharma says…better watch out.

        ******That was a joke****

      • Allan Weallans

        And what if they did? I mean, they don’t, but what if?

        I’m autistic, and it’s not super happy party time, but every day when I wake up autistic I thank fuck I don’t have polio.

        That’s the stupidest thing about anti-vaxxers: Even their made-up consequences of vaccination still aren’t as bad as the consequences of not vaccinating.

        • RedWolf

          I’m autistic too, and I’m sure glad that smallpox basically doesn’t exist anymore.

    • Em

      Few vaccines these days contain anything live, just the antigen. So they can’t make the situation worse. Rabies is “cured” by giving a rabies vaccine. (The hope is that the vaccine primes the immune system in time for it to do something. Doesn’t always work.) Tetanus vaccine is also often given post-infection.

      • Kev’ Bryant

        The ones my baby daughter just had did. We were told by the nurse to be super careful. I was thinking “It’s poo. Of course I’m super careful!” No one wants poo in their mouth (again). Especially plague-ridden poo.

        • Aristatide

          My own limited experience suggests that sometimes babies don’t give you a choice. Of course, telling you to “be careful” doesn’t matter at this point: one does everything one can to avoid being the subject of targeted fire from a proto-human anyway, but still shit happens.

          • Kev’ Bryant

            Git gud nooblet! ;op

  • Thom

    Always knew these days would come. Nostalgia for crappy early 90’s visuals. Even then as a youngster I knew games like Yoshi’s Island would be far more deserving of their timelessness.

    • Rob

      It is weird. You can do some amazing stuff in 8 and 16 bit *now*, for example, that they couldn’t do at the time (likely a big factor being available memory) which will both look good and still retain the feel of those games. If you’re going to do 1st generation 3d, do it as ff9 did, not ff7.

  • Anton

    …the Republicans made a horror game about vaccines?

    No, actually, that makes perfect sense.

    • Benj

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

    • BomberJacket

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

  • Hunter Mearo

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

  • James Bixby

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

    • Luke Fletcher

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

      • James Bixby

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

  • BomberJacket

    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

      One word:

  • Neto

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

  • moviereviewrsports

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

    • Landy Alexander

      The what? Is that a console or something?

      • Luke Fletcher

        i’ve never heard of it. 🙂

      • Wolfie

        I think it’s a 3DO thing?

  • George

    This was a funny review! Thanks!

  • Lloyd

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

  • …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

      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?

  • Austin_sj

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

    • Meyneth

      Please vacate the premises immediately with your terrible puns.

      • Chris Schwartz-Brown

        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…

      • 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.

        • Wolfie

          To be fair, puns tend to be rather infectious.

      • C. Peter Roberts

        Don’t let things like vaccination puns needle you.

  • Muddy Scarecrow

    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 than they’ll ever be.

  • Grim

    RNC? So this is all Reince Priebus’ fault?

    • diamond

      I was thinking the same thing LOL

  • diamond

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

  • MinUscule…

  • Lance Snead

    Jenny McCarthy! LOL

  • MJC

    “Vaccine Review – Jenny McCarthy’s Worst Nightmare”

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

  • Christoph Brinkmann

    Just a reminder that tank controls are shit.

    Tank controls are shit.

    Thank you for your time.

    • diamond

      Yep, that’s why I hated RE 1-3.

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

      • Ibi Salmon

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

    • TheMagicLemur

      I’ll pay it forward.

  • Martina Veselá

    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

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

  • sillyskeleton

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

  • Raging Raving

    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.

    • Luke Fletcher

      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.

    • TheMagicLemur

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

    • dennett316

      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 too, and while the aiming was limited, it introduced a skill and tactical element in letting you pop heads with well timed aiming, or take legs off to let you escape. The combat was undoubtedly relatively clunky, but the games were perfectly balanced around it, imo.

      I’d love to see a modern old school survival horror….fixed camera, full 1080p pre-rendered backgrounds full of detail and modern polygonal character models.

      • Raging Raving

        Well put and yeah I see your point 🙂

      • Nathan Stapleton

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

  • La Chica Incognita

    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?

  • FuTeffla

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

  • RifleAvenger Sashiro

    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 terrible while wasting good ideas.

    • BAH!

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

      • RifleAvenger Sashiro

        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!

          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

            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.

  • Blk Mgc Maverick

    Dank controls>Tank controls

  • TheMagicLemur

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

    *rim shot*