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Soul Reaver: Why it deserves a remake

We take a retrospective look at a PS1 classic...

Yeah, okay, so vampires are everywhere these days. Between R-Patz's glittery perfection and True Blood's flesh-flashing sexiness you can't move for beautiful undead. Although that's all the more reason to bring back this lost classic. The market's hot for vamps right now and Crystal Dynamics' open world mix of puzzles, exploration and combat would plug the need nicely.


It sees you roaming an open, crumbling world called Nosgoth. With vampires the dominant species, their souls are trapped, unable to be reincarnated and causing Nosgoth to rot and decay. The set up sees Raziel initially as one of the head vampires, but after evolving wings before his leader, Kain, he gets the bones ripped from them and is thrown into the Lake Of The Dead. A few thousand years later with Nosgoth all but destroyed Raziel is resurrected as a soul-consuming wraith by a powerful Elder God and told to sort the mess out.

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SHAPE SHIFTER

It's a simple enough plot - get revenge, kill everyone. Easy. It's big 'thing', though, was that as a spirit Raziel can shift between the spectral and material worlds. The two planes are similar but subtly different and not only does it look cool as the environment warps around you but it's also crucial to the gameplay - walls might shift to reveal platforms, or ledges might swing into jumping range. And if it looks good on PSone then imagine how it could look on PS3.

As you explore and search out the various vampire leaders (who by now have mutated into monstrous creatures) the atmosphere sucks you in with some excellent sound design formed from a dynamically shifting, moody score and effects. The scripts and acting are also incredible. Raziel is full of weary, aged fury while the voice of the unseen Elder God booms out with a spectacularly commanding presence. Visually it's striking too. Even now the stylish enemy designs and locations look a hell of a lot sharper than many games of the same age.

The real reason it deserves a remake, though, is that it was way ahead of its time. The gameplay varies beautifully between combat, exploration and problem solving. If you want to look to something similar now, God Of War III would be a good start. Aside from the revenge-fuelled plot the game design template's almost identical. You slaughter enemies with a variety of grizzly kills - impaling vamps one minute, burning them or throwing them into sunlight the next.

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Even when you get the Soul Reaver, a mysterious spirit blade a lot like a ghostly lightsaber, you'll still return to these moves because holding a struggling monster aloft on the end of spear just never gets old. Strong puzzles break up the combat too. Not just 'put the block on the switch' affairs but massive environmental brain teasers like moving burning urns to burn away the supports for a hall floor, or opening valves to play atonal chords on a huge cathedral-sized organ.

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