It's hard to get away from the feeling while you're playing Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood that it would have been more suited for the original Xbox or Xbox 360 generation. That might sound like a criticism, but while the game certainly feels a little dated and overly simplistic in certain ways, it's also a experience which feels focused and heavily weighted towards its strongest asset - becoming a werewolf and tearing enemies to shreds - which fortunately continues to remain enjoyable until the credits roll.
The premise behind Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood is that you're an eco-terrorist werewolf called Cahal who can shapeshift between three different forms at will. The first is his human variant, which is used for communicating with other characters, pressing buttons and engaging in some light stealth and ranged attacks. The second is the wolf, which is primarily useful for crawling through tight spaces, and the third and most prominent form is the werewolf, which allows Cahal to engage in rage-filled combat.
Encountering a group of enemies gives you the ability to take a stealthy and loud approach, and typically you'll find yourself mixing up the two, quietly taking down a few opponents before jumping into the fray and unleashing your inner animal. In this state, you can cause utter chaos to enemies and the environment around you, with multiple ways to vary up your attacks, such as dashing through the air and grabbing someone before executing them with your bare hands. You can also upgrade your abilities as you go, giving you more choice on how to tackle different situations.
There are a varied number of enemies you'll encounter, from simple guards to powered exoskeletons and automated turrets, and as you get later into the game, strategically targeting the most powerful of these opponents becomes crucial in order to stay alive. You also get a very welcome boost in the form of a Frenzy meter, which when filled, allows you to turn near-invincible and ultra powerful for a small amount of time, causing utter destruction to the environment. It's all consistently fun, and the controls are surprisingly fluid.
It's a good job the combat is as enjoyable as it is, because the rest of the game definitely falls flat in certain areas. Both the human and wolf forms work well enough, but aren't utilised to any significant extent, and there's little variety to the gameplay outside of combat. It's a testament to the quality of the werewolf segments that the game never grows tiresome despite the repetition, but you get the feeling more could have been done to add some puzzles or even some light platforming elements to break things up. As it is, it's very much a rinse-and-repeat formula of walking around, pressing a few buttons, dispatching some enemies and moving on.
The story isn't particularly memorable either, although admittedly we're not massively knowledgeable of the Werewolf: The Apocalypse universe, so some of it definitely went over our heads. But even so, the narrative, which focuses on Cahal's fight against the evil Endron corporation and the corrupting entity of The Wyrm, as well as a plotline surrounding his daughter, just seems to skip along without ever really sinking in its emotional claws, at least until the very final portion of the game. That said, there are some well-crafted cutscenes to enjoy along the way, complete with a couple of different endings you can encounter.
Ultimately, Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood feels like it wraps up at just the right time at around five to six hours, and we enjoyed it right until the last battle. But at a release price of £44.99 on the Microsoft Store, the game might prove a hard sell at launch. Given how enjoyable the combat is, we can definitely see ourselves going back around for another playthrough, but there's just not enough content here to justify such a high price tag.
We're stuck between a rock and a hard place with Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood, because while it definitely has its downsides (some of them potentially deal-breaking, especially if buying it at full price) we also enjoyed our time with it. Everything is built around its destructive combat, which remains engaging to the last, and if you're willing to deal with some average-at-best graphics, a mediocre story and a short running length, we still think you'll have a good time with this one. Give it a try, and it might just surprise you.