Genre : Action
Developer: Terminal Reality
Release Date: October 12, 2004
Occasionally, an average or mediocre game, of any genre, can be pulled through its problems on raw charm and shock value. A decent protagonist, an interesting storyline, funny or particularly memorable dialogue, or the ability to do faintly unrealistic and shockingly gory things to people can make up for a host of problems.
Exhibit A: BloodRayne. A button-mashing action-platformer (that damn graveyard level was platforming, and I will brook no argument) with sketchy graphics, missions that ranged from braindead easy to ungodly difficult, and eventually repetitive gameplay, BloodRayne managed to eke out a fanbase by the strength of its main character and some interesting level design.
Exhibit B: BloodRayne 2.
To be fair, BR2 is an improvement over its predecessor in countless ways, from gameplay to graphics to sound to script. The problem is that in a few important areas, it has the same problems that BloodRayne did, which turns what could’ve been a perfectly solid action game into an exercise in frustration.
First, the good news. Rayne’s got a much more varied moveset. Her old one-move wonder fighting style’s gone, replaced with a series of combo strings vaguely reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden; she now wields blades, harpoon, guns, and kicks in a fluid and adaptable style.
You have a lot of offensive options, ranging from a pair of new multipurpose handguns that feed off human blood to an improved harpoon that can knock items down or send victims flying in whatever direction you choose. It’d be nice to be able to pick up weapons from your enemies, especially in some levels where it looks like you’re raising a lush garden of dead men’s shotguns (seriously, they land and stick handle up in the ground, like it’s been a good crop this year), but Rayne’s arsenal has enough tricks in it to keep most people – and by that I mean most sociopaths – happy.
Rayne can still leap onto unarmed enemies and feed off them, thus restoring her health. While you’re there, you can also opt to use one of eleven different fatalities, instantly dispatching the enemy in ways that range from expedient (Rayne flipkicks the poor schmuck away) to gory (Rayne impales her enemy before punching his body and head in two separate directions) to really gory (the victim gets bisected up the middle).
Gun-based fatalities reload your guns, while the gore-based ones refill Rayne’s Rage meter. Rage is what powers your supernatural abilities, such as Blood Fury (which swaps the Rage meter for health and ups your defense). In other words, they’re not there just to be there, which I like. They’re genuinely part of your in-game strategy.
As in the first game, you’ll earn new moves and abilities by advancing throughout the game. This ranges from powers like Super Speed, which lets you move faster than most enemies can react to you, to new firing modes for the pistols. I particularly like Blood Hammer, which turns your guns into something not unlike a double-barreled rocket launcher. You can also level up the guns by, well, shooting a lot, thus improving their ammo efficiency and rate of fire.
Rayne’s basic mobility’s also improved. She’s lost some of that insane jump height – one of the odd things about BloodRayne was that she could do twenty feet from a standing start, easily – and retains her vulnerability to water (I wonder how she bathes), but she’s been studying acrobatics. You can swing or climb on poles, flip upside-down on them to use your guns, or slide down railings with blades extended like a serial-killer version of Jet Grind Radio.
There’s also an experience system in effect. By killing enemies in new and exciting ways, you earn Carnage Points; earn enough Carnage Points, as represented by a sliding icon on your health meter, and you’ll get more health and Rage. Basic fatalities will fill the meter a little bit, but to earn the serious points, you have to get inventive. Most areas are full of potentially lethal dangers – open flames, live wires, long drops, unattended heavy machinery, running turbines, pointy sticks, propane tanks – and if you can manage to introduce an unwary opponent to these dangers, you’ll get more Carnage Points than if you’d just taken his head off.
This system is also used for the game’s “killing puzzles,” events in which a given obstacle can be circumvented by throwing two to six opponents into the guts of a running machine. It only occasionally makes sense, but as you might know, I am not in the habit of questioning any event that encourages me to jam somebody’s head into a log chipper.
The opponents in question are the minions and allies of Rayne’s half-brothers and sisters, the other offspring of her vampiric father, Kagan. Kagan himself is dead, killed in an explosion shortly after the events of the first BloodRayne. Rayne’s spent the sixty years between then and now systematically hunting down and killing Kagan’s other offspring, both by herself and as an agent of the secretive Brimstone Society.
In the modern day, Rayne and her partner, Severin, infiltrate a party held by a vampire lord, and find that Kagan’s surviving offspring are all coming together in one place. A plan is being put into action, one that’ll cover the world in darkness.
Rayne, of course, opts to intervene, which starts off seven levels of bloodshed, explosions, and horrible things being done to people on purpose, set in locales that range from the hallways of a lavish mansion to the slowly mutating ruins of a city park. You’ll be up against vampires, dhampirs, and their literally never-ending horde of minions, but you’ll also face custom-made mutated freaks, demons, and individual vampires’ custom-made elite warriors.
The problems officially start now.
BloodRayne 2, in its second half, shares one big problem with its predecessor. Here, as in the first game, there are several fights that can only be won via cheating, divine intervention, or an utterly perfect run, made without any mistakes whatsoever.
In BloodRayne, the big offenders were the second-to-last level in Argentina, which was exploding randomly, and the fight with the final boss. Here, there are a few killing puzzles and boss fights that’ll give you a hard time, especially once you reach the Twisted Park.
One early platforming sequence can’t be performed unless you have Rage to burn on a jump, and the game makes you burn all your Rage immediately beforehand. You can get just enough Rage off killing the local enemies to try the jump once, which means if you blow it, you’re hosed.
At another point, you’re supposed to solve a killing puzzle despite an inability to harpoon the enemies that’re appearing. (You’re supposed to stun them with gunfire before harpooning them, but if you’re out of ammo or you run out of ammo before completing the puzzle, you’re also out of luck.)
A few bosses, especially early on when you don’t have as many offensive options (i.e. the Kestrels), are still subscribing to the “rush ‘em and slash madly” school of combat design. This is insane, and once again, you’ll need more luck than skill to pull out the win.
Stuff like this is compounded by the lack of a “restart from last checkpoint” option. That, and a couple of other glitches and questionable decisions mar the game. At some point, the Carnage Point system will probably glitch and give you all the upgrades at once, it’s really easy to get Rayne caught in midair, and the enemy scripting breaks when you think about doing it. Enemies often walk through walls, ignore you, or are immune to your attacks for no particular reason.
(Just for fun, the game’s “unlock everything” cheat code also unlocks the debug console. If you want, you can play the game without bump-mapping or textures, or watch the AI script in action; this may be the only game in existence where the enemy’s AI actually includes the phrase “Ow f—k!”)
One boss fight requires you to break an object that can only be destroyed, for whatever reason, by the harpoon; I wasted a lot of time and ammo on it before realizing that. The lock-on command has a sense of humor, and usually targets everyone and everything but what you want it to target. Several of the later enemies, like the shadow ninjas, are capable of instantly breaking out of your combos to hit you with an inescapable, unblockable combo of your own.
Once you’ve beaten the game, BloodRayne 2 is essentially over. There are no additional difficulties, and while there’s a lot of bonus content (a BloodRayne movie trailer, several alternate outfits, the ability to go back through the game with all the upgrades, a lot of production art), none of it does much to make the game different or warrant a replay. It’s good to drag out once in a while for a stress-relieving minion massacre, but that’s about it.
If there’s going to be a BloodRayne 3 -- and between the feature film, the comic books, and this game’s ending, I presume there will be – Terminal Reality needs to do a little more bug-checking and a bit more tweaking to the gameplay. They’ve got great level design, they know good voice acting when they hear it, and they’ve got a good plotline developing. A future game could use more defensive combat options like counter moves or quick dodges, a reliable circle attack (the Silver Circle works okay here, but it’s too easily stuffed), and about five more levels.
BloodRayne 2 is a fun, challenging game for the first three stages, with varied gameplay and a likeable heroine. (I have a soft spot for any video game character who mocks the gameplay trope she’s currently exploiting; Rayne won me over when she muttered about the predictability of one of the killing puzzles.) Once you get beyond that point, you’ll find it increasingly frustrating… or you’ll start cheating madly in the name of basic survival. If you’re willing to forego the cheating and practice at the game until you can beat it honestly, then BloodRayne 2 will make an okay purchase. For the rest of us, it’s a fun rental.
Score : 7.8/10
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