Caleb has lost his touch
The GoodBlood II
came out around during a great year of FPS-making, which brought us such great titles as Half-Life
. It was also released around the same time as Shogo
; both games were being developed by Monolith
simultaneously. These two games have a lot in common. They were the company's first fully 3D FPSs, a testing ground for their new Lithtech
engine. While Shogo
was by far the more advanced, experimental game, Blood II
is a more traditionally designed, thoroughly old-school shooter in the same vein as its great predecessor
At first sight, Blood II
is essentially more of the same. Once again, you control the awesome protagonist Caleb, and once again, he'll crack wise about things he sees, his enemies, and your decisions. Unlike the first game with its "retro horror" theme, Blood II
is set in a dark, futuristic city, ruled by the ruthless Cabalco company. Blood II
offers a great variety of locations. You never know where it might take you next. The addition of sci-fi element allows a wider range of different scenarios; but of course, the familiar urban environments and the dark crypts of the original game are also there. From a mundane subway station to depressing sewer passages, creepy research facility, museum, and such interesting levels as the cathedral, Blood II
delivers a fine collection of diverse levels. Every time I was near a level completion, I found myself curious to know what the next level will look like.
Like the first game, Blood II
is full of black humor. Exploring every nook and cranny of a level often leads to hilarious scenes, messages or conversations containing delightfully evil jokes. Blood II
walks the humorous path further than its predecessor; despite the macabre environments, amusing scenes are quite frequent. The game now has cutscenes done with in-game graphics, and some of them are surprisingly entertaining (of course, in a campy, idiotic way, but that was the point!). In fact, the story of Blood II
is rather well-developed for a game of its type, with several key characters from the previous game appearing and acting during cutscenes and interacting with Caleb. Of course, the story is simplistic and messy, like in most FPSs, but the premises of a huge world-controlling corporation that grew out of an underground cult, the dangers of experimenting with dark powers and alike, etc., are enough to keep things going. Of course, the narrative also owes its success to the dark "anti-hero" protagonist, who is quite attractive in his own way, and definitely more enjoyable to control than the boring Gordon Freeman or the moron Sanjuro from Shogo
The enemies in Blood II
are either faceless Cabalco soldiers, or monsters, whose appearance is a plot point in the game. I must say that the new monsters are really very well-done; particularly horrifying is that little leech-like creature that leaps out of the water and begins to gnaw at Caleb's face. This was one of the most scary, disgusting monsters I've ever encountered in an FPS, up there with the spiders of Strife
and the headcrabs of Half-Life
. Blood II
has a huge variety of weapons, perhaps the largest one of any FPS ever. All the favorites from the first Blood
(fire gun, voodoo doll, tesla canon, etc.) are back, with a lot of new high-tech stuff to toy with. Nearly each weapon has two fire modes, and some weapons can be used in pairs. There are also some interesting gadgets to use, such as for example The Eye, which allows you to look through walls.Blood II
looks good. I don't know how anyone could have considered it ugly when it first came out. The graphics of Blood II
are technically much more impressive than the first game. The difference is so big that it's hard to believe only about a year has passed between the two. Twelve years after its release, it is clear that Blood II
has aged well.
The BadBlood II
shares a lot of its flaws with Shogo
. Both games leave the impression of something not quite finished, something unpolished, with too much attention paid to the new engine and not enough to gameplay depth. But while Shogo
can at least boast unusual features, Blood II
is as generic as it gets in overall structure.
The variety of weapons is enormous, yet only a few feel really satisfying. The new enemies are cool and scary, yet their AI is awful. The levels are varied, yet their design is not always optimal, and needless back-tracking causes eyebrow-raising. This can apply pretty much to everything the game does; there is a certain negative side to everything it does well. And there is, unfortunately, nothing outstanding about it. It is as if the game lacks that certain extra that would propel it above other games of its type.Blood II
had to deal with a problem that plagued many sequels in different kinds of art and entertainment: it is not as good as the first game. Sure, it looks better, and at first sight it takes in everything that made the first game so cool; but somehow, a lot of the magic has been lost in transition. The atmosphere is less convincing, the wonderful interactivity is all but gone, graphical detail is less intricate, and overall the sequel is inferior in most aspects that truly matter. I imagine that was the primary cause for the disappointment and the resulting harsh reviews by fans of the original game.
Otherwise, it's hard to pin-point severe flaws that truly cripple the game. It simply fails to bring anything new on the table. Blood II
really had a hard time competing with all those great FPSs that came out around the same time. Each one of them, even Shogo
, did something special, while Blood II
didn't. At the time when every other shooter and its cousin were madly trying to push the genre forward, Blood II
offered nothing but the tried-and-true campy, atmospheric FPS fun. This doesn't diminish the enjoyment that can be derived from the game, but with so much competition, there are few compelling reasons to go back to it.
The Bottom Line
While perhaps criticized too severely, Blood II
is still a disappointment. It offers plenty of old-fashioned FPS fun, and its diverse weapons and levels are a definitive highlight, but somehow there is little left to tie it all together and deliver a finely crafted product such as its predecessor. Lower atmospheric immersion and lack of polish prevent it from attaining the cult classic status the first game rightfully possesses.