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SummaryBloodrayne is fast, furious, gore & sexy. Could you want anything else?... Well, I would have liked...
The GoodThe first thing that pounces upon you when playing Bloodrayne is that it looks GOOD. There are a bunch of options available in order to enhance the graphic quality like environmental bump mapping, complex water reflections, or dynamic shadows (of course, this means you need to have a 100% DirectX 8 compatible card), there are a lot of different enemies, most of whom are very well designed, there are HUGE scenarios depicted with lots of small details, and —sorry, but I HAVE to say this— the main character, Rayne, is H O T.
The girl is by far the best bunch of triangles and pixels of all the game, featuring in her body more polygons than the whole scenario with inhabitants included, which translates in smooth forms, all covered in shiny black leather. Her dressing looks awesome (although more appropriate for a rave than a nazi hunting), and she has a strong and sarcastic personality. It's pretty amusing to hear her comebacks whenever an enemy taunts at her.
In its concept, the game has a number of similarities with NOCTURNE (a previous Terminal Reality game, survival/horror). For example, remember how in one of the missions we had a Dhampir girl (this is, a half-vampire) for a partner, who had two huge blades attached to her arms? Well we got to spot a fetiche for someone at Terminal Reality, since Rayne is also a Damphir girl, and she also has two huge blades attached to her arms. As also did the main characters in Nocturne, Rayne works for a secret organization dedicated to fight supernatural evil all over the earth. However, the style of the game is different, and Bloodrayne is a third-person fighter/shooter, like MAX PAYNE, BLOOD OMEN 2, or ONI.
A few times we are given clues regarding Rayne's search for information about her father, who is hinted to be a dangerous vampire. The game seems to have been thinked of as the first chapter of a saga, and Rayne looking for her father seems to be the main background-plot.
Despite a few minor twists, story-wise the game is pretty cliched, and it's nothing to write home about. The plot is just the glue to hold toghether all the carnage that goes on throughout the levels, and the many (MANY) gratuitous cutscenes full of innuendo and cleavage shots.
This "first chapter" is set sometime in the 1930's, where Rayne must stop the nazis from becoming a strong force, for which they are collecting a bunch of magic devices that have the power to resurrect an ancient demon called Beliar. The journey will take her from some swamps in Morton, Lousiana, to an underground nazi base located somewhere in the Pampas of Argentina, to an ancient castle in Germany. Each location is a "game stage", divided in a bunch of sub-levels with minor sub-bosses, and ruled by one BIG boss at the end.
Being a 100% action game, Bloodrayne shines by offering different fighting options.
- The arm-blades I mentioned above are Rayne's primary weapon, and the game puts a strong emphasis on using close-hand combat as much as possible, since by using her blades on enemies, Rayne fills up a metter called "Bloodlust". Once Bloodlust reaches its full, Rayne can enter in a frenzy state called "Bloodrage", in which the action is subtlely slowed down and Rayne's attacks become MUCH more powerful. Of course, this only lasts a couple of seconds, until the Bloodlust metter reaches zero again, but the metter can be refilled again. Bloodrage is a MAJOR help specially in boss fights.
- Anyway, Rayne has no regards in using fire weapons, and she has this amazing capability —which we are so used to see in videogame heroes— of carrying four pistols, three sub machine guns, one shotgun, one rocket launcher and a dozen hand grenades whithout slowing down a bit (there's a curious cheat, entering SHOWMEMYWEAPONS in the 'cheats' screen, which has the sole purpose of showing that Rayne is actually carrying all her stuff on her body). As also happened in Nocturne, Rayne holds one gun in each hand and she's able to spot two enemies at once. One interesting thing is that you don't get to choose the weapons to use one by one, instead you choose between one of four categories: light weapons, heavy weapons, grenades, and special weapons; and Rayne herself gets to choose which of the guns she currently has in stock do qualify in each category. She even disposes empty weapons and switches to the next best thing herself.
- Finally, as a half-vampire, Rayne can of course feed on most of her enemies, which not only replenishes her health, but also is a good way of quickly disposing a foe. To this end, she can jump on an enemy standing close to her, or she can use a long chain-harpoon to drag them closer. The animations when Rayne feeds are great, specially the shoot-harpoon/drag/kick-down/jump-upon/bite-neck/suck-blood one.
So, if we count together we have THREE different ways of taking down enemies: close-hand combat, bullet-shooting, and blood sucking.
As you may have already guessed —and as it also happened in Nocturne— Bloodrayne has an insane amount of gore. As you move on through the different levels and get to defeat bosses and sub-bosses, Rayne will add more "combo moves" to her melee attacks, so by the last levels each close-hand fight will end up with your enemy torn apart in a dozen pieces and a pool of blood under your feet. Bloodrage attacks are different from normal melee attacks, and also are upgraded, so you can imagine what a blood bath it turns out to be.
Furthemore, depending on the distance, angle, strength, and whatnot, with which you hit a given enemy, different effects are achieved. Among others, you get to slash, take off hats, take off guns, cut off hands, cut off arms, cut off legs, peel-off the skin of the face leaving only the skull, decapitate, cut body in half...
As if it wasn't enough, every stage has two different types of enemies (under each one there are a few variants of individuals); and they are enemies with one another, so more often than not you will get ot watch how the kill one another, or you will bust in the middle of a frenzy battle, adding to the confusion.
Finally, it's not only the enemies who will suffer from Rayne's rage: almost everything in the background reacts to your attacks. And I'm not talking about bullet-holes in walls or smashed crystals, RAYNE BREAKS STUFF! At the end of some specially intense fights, you will find out that the beautifully decorated room it all started in, is WRECKED, chairs in pieces, flags in rags, bookcases torn apart, books shattered, corpses, pieces of corpses, blood stains, empty weapons, and even columns almost demolished! There's a particular three-story room in which you actually get to tear down a whole catwalk system.
Another physical feature I loved about Rayne is her ability to leap. And note that I say "leap" and not "jump", because when you can hop up about two floors and a half, well, that sure qualifies as something MORE than just "jumping" in my book.
It's great when you are in the ground floor and start receiving fire from the floor above, then you hop up and land right beside the guy: "Hi! I couldn't hear you with all that gunfire, you were saying...?" :P
Adding to the gameplay, Rayne has three "special" types of vision: Aura Vision, Extruded View, and Dilated Perception, which can be used freely, once available, with no time limitation whatsoever.
- Aura Vision turns everything to different scales of blue, and allows Rayne to see her enemies shining through walls, much like some kind of X-Ray vision. When in this mode, the "current target" is indicated with a blue glow (whether it is a person, a place, or whatever), which is handy, giving an idea of which direction to go.
- Extruded View gives Rayne the ability to see at great distances and "zoom" on a given target. Obviously, this is meant to be used as a sniper mode.
- And finally, the big star is Dilated Perception, which becomes available right on the start of the Argentina stage. If you ever played MAX PAYNE I can explain it with two words: BULLET TIME. OOooooooooohhhh yes!!
Those who didn't play MAX PAYNE (should do it RIGHT AWAY!) perhaps have seen the movie The Matrix, and the way the camera slowed down every now and then during action scenes. Well, Dilated Perception makes Rayne insanely fast for her enemies, which is represented for the player as a slowing down of the world. In this mode you get to do any combos you would like all around and over an enemy or a group of enemies before they can even understand what is hitting them. Of course, Dilated Perception also allows you to perform some other cool stuff, like to actually dodge bullets.
Finally, among A LOT of cutscenes with in-game graphics (as said, STUFFED with innuendo and gratuitous breast footage), there are three pre-rendered cutscenes (intro, middle of the game, and outro) which are probably the best I have seen in any videogame.
The BadSadly, almost every one of the "good points" has a downside attached.
First, the graphics. They do look good, and they look pretty great once you enable all the fancy stuff, but this comes to a cost, which could be a high cost depending on the technological level of the reader's hardware.
I played Bloodrayne in my PC with a Radeon 9000 card, and it runs SMOOTH, although bump-mapping with hi-res textures is pretty much a no-go (or at least a "s-s-s-stutter - go").
Then I tried the game in my sister's computer, with a TNT2 video card. It bounced back at the desktop, saying a Vertex Processing capable GPU was required. Well look at that, I thought, and I turned off bump-mapping, dynamic shadows, complex water reflections, and everything that made it look "DX8". I even turned off EVERY single quality enhacement option, just in case. I went down to 640x480x16.
"I want Vertex Shaders" was the sole answer.
Now, WHAT in God's Green Earth was requiring Vertex Shaders, I will never know. Once all the quality enhacement options are turned off, the game doesn't look mucb better than 99% of the games that DO RUN with a TNT2 chip. Furthermore, games like Alien vs Predator 2, Max Payne, or GTA 3, can be run on my sister's PC with full detail level (slow as hell, of course).
Maybe Bloodrayne is using Vertex Shaders for character animation, I don't know, you can't tell it neither by quality nor performance, hence in any case it isn't justified.
So, there we go with the same topic again. To the programmers: DO YOU JOB, GUYS! Use fancy features and extreme horsepower when really required, don't just lean on them to avoid optimizing code, goddamnit!
Now, character animation and controlling.
First, there's something wrong about the character animation. I don't know exactly WHAT it is, or how to explain it, but Rayne simply doesn't move right. She looks like sliding more than really walking.
Second, and one of the worst downsides, is the character control. It is pretty limited.
Even though we've got this high number of attacking options, and the fact that we get to perform more and more "combos", the thing is the combos are performed by Rayne herself, with no controlling them by the player, much the same as it happens in BLOOD OMEN 2. I would have preferred something like ONI, where you have two attack buttons and you get to make a lot of combinations in order to perform different attacks. In Rayne, you have only one "punch" key, you hit it repeatedly and the first hit will be slash, the second will be kick, the third will be scissor-slash, and so on... So, if you want to perform a scissor-attack, you NEED to hit the enemy three times, and by that point the guy might as well be already dead meat.
Also, as I said Bloodrayne is a fast-paced 100% action game, but this is a little annoying sometimes. You don't have a "slow down" or "walk" key, so your presence will be always noisy, and 99.9% of the time will alert everyone in the room. There's no way you can sneak from behind an enemy. This is pretty weird, since there is one attack (which looks pretty cool, BTW) that Rayne performs when she's close to an enemy that didn't notice her presence, but you are most likely going to see it in action like 1 or 2 times in the whole game. Even worse, in one of the cutscenes Rayne DOES sneak from behind an enemy, and it would be SO cool to be able to do so... (or to hide in the shadows, like she also does in that cutscene).
The fact that you get to replenish your health by drinking your enemie's blood is great, and the effect is MUCH BETTER done than in the BLOOD OMEN 2, but most of the times it makes the game stupidly easy, since this way most of your enemies are actually walking-medkits, and each one of them can fill your health metter ALMOST FULL. Without much effort, you are likely to go through the first two complete stages and half of the third one in one sitting, before you get to see Rayne dying for the first time. And I'm not exaggerating.
This is strongly affected by one detail about Dilated Perception. Since (unlike MAX PAYNE's bullet time) it has no time limit, you can go through the whole game in this mode, which makes most of the fights TOO easy.
The only REAL challenge in the game are the final two or three sub-stages, and the ending.
Oh-My-God, the ending. Here they went all the way through difficulty and came out through the other side. It is almost IMPOSSIBLE to finish the game without applying some cheat, and even in God Mode it is HARD. You get to face TWO final bosses at once, not being able to replenish you health, and the fight is time limited.
The games goes from insanely easy, to moderate, to a final encounter which is two steps from impossible. I hate cheating, but I needed to, as the final bosses were SO annoyingly hard.
One MAJOR downside is that Bloodrayne is SHORT. I completed it in less than a week, and I don't play more than 2-3 hours a day with my PC, and I'm always playing at least 3 games simultaneously. I didn't try yet, but I'm pretty positive that Bloodrayne can be beaten in one night, and this is almost unacceptable nowadays.
ONI took my brother two weeks, 4-5 hours a night to complete. THAT'S a challenge, and bang for the buck, which is pretty important too.
I won't go too deeply into the plot being naive borderline stupid, or the linearity issue, since those are pretty much to be expected in this kind of title, and nevertheless in its own linearity the game offers a few amusing challenges, like when you have to think of a little "strategic" approach to face certain bosses, or the level in which you get to ride a tank which resembles Robocop's ED-209; but the game is indeed linear and the plot is indeed naive borderline stupid.
Finally, In the vein of the game atmosphere I would have liked to see some romantic intercourse between Rayne and Mynce, but I admit this might be asking for too much, I can be a little unreasonable sometimes... you know, like the Pope can be a little catholic sometimes. :P
The Bottom LineBloodrayne is fast, furious, gore and sexy. Could you ask for more?
Well actually I could. Gameplay-wise, there's actually quite some room for improvement, and it tells.
Terminal Reality / Majesco clearly presented Bloodrayne as the first of a serie, intending Rayne to become sort of the new Lara Croft. I wouldn't mind to tag along with Rayne through four or five more games, but I REALLY would like to see some gameplay improvement, like the ability to sneak, and some more freedom of movement (specially in close-hand combat). One more "punch" key and the possibility to combine the two of them to perform combos would be great.
Nevertheless the game is FUN, it got me hooked up from beginning to end, and I felt quite satisfied once I beaten it (letting aside the fact that it's too short); which is of course the main target of a game. It's not a "new classic", but I will surely be playing it again soon.
Do I recommend Bloodrayne? Yes I do.