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SummaryBlood II is one hell of a disappointing sequel, but it's still fun enough at times to earn a pass.
- Good graphics and animation (for the time)
- Tons and tons of gore
- Some fun weapons
- Caleb is still a badass
- A few good jokes and eastereggs
- Some well done levels
- Has a fast pace most of the time
- Almost completely abandons the Horror aspect
- Generic world design and many generic enemies
- Unskippable cutscenes
- Some really awful levels that kill the momentum
- Some enemies are more annoying to fight than fun
- Completely uninspired, especially when compared to Blood 1
The Bottom LineThere is no questioning it, 1997's Blood is an underrated gem that just so happens to be one of my all time favourite FPS games, no ifs, ands, or buts. I'll even controversially go on record by saying that I enjoy it more than its more well known contemporaries such as Duke Nukem 3D, Quake and its its sequel. Don't get me wrong, those games are great - I just get more kicks from Blood.
Why? Well, for one - it satisfies my love of the horror genre, it had an incredibly atmospheric and nightmarish world that paid homage to horror classics from every medium while also creating its own twisted little circle of hell drenched in the eponymous bodily fluid. Secondly, Caleb is an Undead Cowboy who came back from the dead to kill a god. And he succeeded, all while making deliciously morbid quips along the way in a creepy but cool drawl. And the game, simply put, was just plain fun, challenging, and fast.
While it wasn't as well known as other games of its era, it was well received and grew a cult following large enough to warrant a sequel - which Monolith was quick to put together. Now, pay attention to the fact that I used the word "Quick" there. Admittedly this was a time when games took less time to make, and sometimes a quick sequel could work out. Sadly, Blood II: The Chosen is not one of the success stories. It feels as though more work went into its new engine rather than the game proper, and it is missing so much of what made the original Blood so charming in its own sick little way.
The game is courteous enough at least to keep Caleb more or less the same as he was in the previous game, and his morbid commentary and his sadistic growls and laughter still delight and there are some standout quotes, one of my personal favourites would have to be "It's Howdy-Doody time kiddies and the bad man has come to play!" upon entering your foes stronghold armed to the teeth. There are also still some delightfully weird instances, like a museum whose curator reminds you to keep your children leashed and muzzled or an old man who calls you to chastise you for using technology to kill a god when back in the day, they did it with their bare fists and liked it.
But such moments are few and far between, and then there is the simple fact that the world created for Blood II is incredibly mediocre and unmemorable. The world you explored in the original was so bizarre, twisted, and memorably fucked beyond all reason and it was one of the elements that helped the game stand out. In Blood II - you won't find any torture carnivals where you can play skee-ball with severed heads, train stations filled with Lovecraftian horrors, or even anything more than a passing mention of dark gods.
The game opts to use a more modern, semi-futuristic setting rather than the demonic wild west/turn of the century setting of the original, and while one could argue that such a setting is almost immediately less interesting - it could have been pulled off if Monolith had used their imaginations, which clearly had been vivid at one point judging by the original game. The game also opts for more realistic level design, creating a more cohesive world - which again, could have been done right. In fact if it had been as hellish and cool as the original games world, giving it such cohesion could have immediately made the game far more interesting - but instead we have to deal with typical red light districts, museums, and *bluh* sewer levels with valve puzzles.
At the very least, the core mechanics aren't that bad. The game isn't as challenging or well thought out as the original, but it moves at a decidedly brisk pace, has a veritable cache of weapons at your disposal, and its hemoglobin count is still through the roof. The lack of a true horror setting certainly does make it less violent than the original, but enemies still gush blood and you can still kick around their severed heads and plenty of weapons are at your disposal. It is also of note that you can play as one of the four Chosen, and they get their own cache of unique weapons later on in the game - and this is worth noting if not solely for the inclusion of one of the games few horror film homages, and arguably the most awesome thing in the game: The sentinel from the Phantasm movies. If you aren't familiar with the Sentinel or what it does, just go to YouTube and search for "Phantasm Sentinel" or "Phantasm Sphere scene" and you'll find it. Now, imagine getting to use one of those cranially intrusive suckers on your foes. It's as awesome as it sounds.
The level design itself is a bit schizophrenic, regardless of how bland and boring the settings and themes are - there are some pretty good levels, but some are really boring and they have a habit of popping in just when the game builds steam. This can be observed very early on in the game, when things are starting to get interesting - a long sewer level filled with valve puzzles and only two types of enemies (One type is pathetic as hell, moving really slow and wielding melee weapons that can only harm you if you willingly walk into them - the other type being cheap and frustrating with a two hit kill attack that is hard to avoid in the sewers cramped tunnels.) appears to completely bore you to death, save for one fun little easter-egg that pays homage to Aliens. Vs. Predator and reveals that the Predator has a fondness for the Skaarj from Unreal. Glad to see I wasn't the only one who saw the similarities to the Yaujta (That's nerdspeak for "Predator," it being their species' official name.) that the Skaarj had.
At the end of the day, Blood II is an incredible disappointment. I've always wondered why Monolith decided to take such a bland route after the insanity that gave the original its identity. Yet if you can look past its rather ho-hum aesthetics and design, it is still a decent shooter worth looking into if you like the golden age of first person shooters - but nothing more than decent.