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The GoodThere are two things that stand out about Rayne, mostly because they tend to jiggle when she moves. If she’s standing still, you might also notice her fetishistic outfit and your attention may be drawn towards the long blades strapped to her arms (or the multitude of guns that appear when needed). If she’s smiling, you’ll notice fangs. Or rather, you’ll feel fangs as she launches herself at your neck.
Rayne, a half-vampire (Dhampir), is recruited by the Brimstone Society to fight evil based on some killer moves she executes in the game’s opening cinematic. As a half-vampire, she’s a best of both worlds scenario, combining vampiric strength, speed, and senses with resistance to things that would kill a regular vampire outright, like water. She’s not immortal, suffering damage from attacks true vampires could shrug off, but she can replenish her health by drinking blood. While she’s not a clichéd “last, best hope,” she’s definitely the type of thing you’d want to throw at the Nazi war machine.
Ah yes, Nazis. If our grandparents knew what we know now, one wonders if they would have so bravely faced the Third Reich. Hitler, it seems, was close to resurrecting various demons, creating superweapons, raising the dead, and obtaining the Lost Ark of the Covenant. BloodRayne covers all of the above after a dismal opening set in 1930s Louisiana.
BloodRayne, a game that feels like it’s interviewing for a job it really doesn’t want, certainly doesn’t care about first impressions. This third-person, action adventure game shuffles the player off to a flooded Louisiana bayou, teaming Rayne up with Mynce, a more experienced Dhampir, who shows Rayne the ropes. Here, among the various tutorial elements, are irritating jumping puzzles forcing the player to avoid life-draining water by leaping from roof to roof or using telephone lines as tightropes. In this bleak landscape, Rayne fights off mutated humans and fleshy spiders—the results of a voodoo ritual gone wrong.
After the end of the Louisiana levels, the first of BloodRayne’s three acts, the game picks up five years later with Rayne infiltrating a Nazi compound in Argentina. The game really does pick up. Rayne is now a supernatural assassin, tracking down Nazi officers and killing them while mutilating any opposition in her way.
Rayne is a killing machine. Players can make a good deal of progress simply by pressing one button which causes Rayne to leap onto an enemy and drain their blood. In case of heavier resistance, Rayne is also armed with the aforementioned arm blades, which scythe through the air cutting off arms and slicing off heads. Like Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion, Rayne can harpoon enemies at a distance and bring them in for the kill (this is very useful against Nazi jetpack troops). Rayne also uses guns she finds along the way (and the game has one of the smartest auto-targeting systems I’ve seen), including antitank rockets and grenades. Last but not least, when Rayne’s blood meter (charged during combat) is full, she can unleash devastating high-speed attacks making minced meat of all but the toughest opponents.
In terms of vampire skills, BloodRayne can leap like a Jedi, fall almost any distance, and move much faster than most opponents. Her strongest abilities deal with the way she perceives the world. There’s a standard view, a vampiric night vision mode which reveals enemy biosigns and the location of mission objectives, and a slow motion mode—BloodRayne’s version of the ubiquitous “Bullet Time”—which is almost dreamlike. As Rayne moves through the game she gains other abilities, resulting in game play that gets better as it goes along.
Fighting endless Nazi hordes might sound repetitious, but BloodRayne finds a balance between basic puzzle solving and combat. Sure there are many Nazi grunts, but they are easily dispatched. Soon enough, Rayne encounters Nazis trained to fight vampires and the Nazi officers Rayne targets often lead to challenging boss battles. One brute trapped me in an engine room and could destroy most of the level trying to get me. Other noteworthy villains include a Klan-themed Nazi armed with a Gatling gun and a descendant of the vampire queen Erzebet Batory. Every “boss” has a unique fighting style with weaknesses the player must discover and exploit. Of course there are plenty of supernatural villains, too.
Level design is top notch. While Louisiana is visually bleak, it is well laid out and has an undeniable atmosphere. The Nazi compound in Argentina feels like a massive fortress and includes diverse areas which don’t recycle the same design themes. With a game that climaxes in an ancient castle pulled from Nocturne, BloodRayne has many surprises for the player in terms of missions, opponents, and plot. This is enhanced by a save system which would normally frustrate me. While you can’t save anywhere, the game is broken down into over forty levels with save points at the levels’ end. Thankfully, most save points are available *before* boss battles rather than after. There were very few levels which I needed to try and retry and their completion (usually) was quite rewarding.
The BadI don’t think I can express how much the Louisiana levels hurt this game. It’s almost along the lines of Daikatana’s swamp levels, acting as a spoiler. These levels set a bad tone, indicating that the game is full of jumping puzzles—which it isn’t. One skill in this section: tightrope walking along telephone lines, barely surfaces during the rest of the game. It’s amazingly unfocused—human spider zombie thingies created by voodoo? Bah. Poorly voiced Cajuns begging for help? Double bah. Massive amounts of health stealing water? That’s just dumb.
Rayne’s default attack is a mixture of blade attacks and kicking. Repeatedly pressing attack performs a pseudo-combination move, incorporating both types of attacks, but kicking is so ineffective it ends up being a waste of time. Since one button performs all the melee attacks, it’s really just an exercise in button pressing (not mashing, since you really can’t mash a shoulder button).
I found large portions of the game to be playable only in the game’s slow motion mode. Slow motion allows for strategy while real time play relies on twitch reflexes. When you are up against a boss or a flock of feral vampires, slow motion often provides a much needed balance. Of course this artificially extends the game’s length while making playing less edge-of-the-seat.
The Bottom LineBloodRayne was a strange experience for me. I absolutely hated the beginning, grew very interested during the middle portion, and was let down by the game’s end. Rayne, herself, is part of the problem. Nocturne featured a similar character, Svetlana Lupescu, but used her more effectively. There is no insight into Rayne’s character or origin, other than the fact that she follows some moral compass.
Rayne feels like she was designed by a committee for fourteen year old boys. I cringed every time she flicked off a monster. Also cringe worthy is the fact that right bastard and incompetent director Uwe Boll is wrapping up a film based on this game set faithfully in eighteenth century Romania and costarring Meat Loaf.