As a gaming franchise, BloodRayne hasn't seen much in the way of gaming action since BloodRayne 2 hit the consoles. Since then, the PSP game got canceled, and the announced 3DS title has been put "on hold." Sure, there were the three Uwe Boll-produced films, but most players wisely ignore those. Given this storied past, most companies would have thrown in the towel, but Majesco is taking another bite at the franchise with BloodRayne: Betrayal.
Developed by WayForward Technologies (best known for developing Contra 4), BloodRayne: Betrayal is an all-new adventure for our half-human, half-vampire heroine. This time around, she's helping the vampire-hunting Brimstone Society find and destroy a mysterious underground castle that is serving as a vampire base. By "helping" the Brimstone Society, we mean she's doing most of the work.
The first thing you're going to notice about BloodRayne: Betrayal is the art style. Going for an animated look, the visuals are strikingly stylized, with a strong emphasis on making Rayne stand out from the pack. The Rayne shown on the title screen looks like she could have stepped right out of an anime movie, and the detail carries over to the player character. Although she's quite a bit smaller in-game, Rayne is always the center of attention with her vibrant red hair and stiletto heels.
Enemy characters are also detailed, with the game slowly introducing new opponents as you traverse through the levels. Each new enemy has a specific type of attack that defines the character. For example, the first opponent Rayne deals with is a blond-haired man who wields a gun. Others we saw during our time included a killer frog, an underground creature that walks on all fours and has blades for arms and a busty woman in a corset dress who attacks by launching ricocheting gears from her hand fan.
To fend off these foes, Rayne has a number of attacks including a blade swipe, guns, a foot stomp (quite literally killer heels) and, of course, her bite. The blade swipe is a direct attack that is always available, and it allows Rayne to juggle her opponents. For example, it is possible to launch an enemy into the air with a swipe and then take another swing to knock him or her forward — just like hitting a baseball. Rayne's guns are extremely powerful, with the ability to take out multiple enemies in a single shot. You are limited by ammo; however, enemies always seem to drop plenty of it — at least in the early levels — so it never feels scarce.
Rayne's bite allows for two different types of attacks. The obvious one is simply draining an opponent's blood. This requires the opponent to be stunned, but it is an instant kill while also restoring some of Rayne's health. The second type of bite is the infection. It also requires the opponent to be stunned, but it does not kill right away. Instead, it poisons the opponent. Poisoned creatures can still attack, but Rayne can make them explode at any time. They essentially become walking bombs. Poison a few, and you can set off a chain reaction that clears the screen.
With solid art direction and multiple ways to dispatch enemies, BloodRayne: Betrayal's success is going to hinge on its level design. During our time with the preview build, we noticed that the early levels seem to hearken back to old-school brawlers in terms of design. You'll move forward to a certain point in the level, a number of enemies spawn and then you must kill them all before moving on. This is fine as a gameplay mechanic, but if it becomes the primary obstacle, we fear the game may start to feel a tad repetitive.
Thankfully, some levels feature boss fights, such as the mechanical crab that we encountered. The trick was to disable each of the monster's legs before its bladed saws could do in Rayne. Taking out the crab with Rayne's blade took some work, but her gun destroyed the crab's leg joints in no time.
Going by the early levels that we saw, individual sections of BloodRayne: Betrayal aren't terribly long, so the developers opted to encourage replay with the inclusion of a scoring system. Simply completing a level isn't likely to earn you many points. On a first run through the game, most gamers will probably get the lowest score ranking. To do well, you must defeat enemies quickly (by making masterful use of Rayne's combos) and minimize the amount of damage that you take.
BloodRayne: Betrayal is an interesting addition to the BloodRayne franchise, and it seems designed to appeal to score attack players. If arcade-style action and leaderboard ranking is your thing, it'll probably be right up your alley. The full version of BloodRayne: Betrayal hits PSN and XBLA next week. Check back then to see if Rayne's latest outing is a succulent adventure or if this is one well that has been sucked dry.
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