Review by BloodGod65

"It’s Raining Blood… And Meaty Chunks"

Judging by how many games involving World War II are released, it would appear to be one of the most popular settings in the industry. This probably has something to do with the idea Nazi's as the ultimate bad guys; nobody likes them and nobody is offended by their violent demise. Vampires also seem to be pretty popular, although they don't get the video game treatment as often as one might think. And it almost goes without saying that everybody likes a scantily clad hotty for a heroine. I can only assume that the creative minds at Terminal Reality had come to these conclusions before they started developing BloodRayne because the whole concept revolves around a pretty young vampiress slaughtering lots of Nazis.

But as the story goes, Rayne is actually only half-vampire, a dhampir, created when her vampire father raped her mortal mother. Rayne isn't too happy about all this, though the player is left to wonder if she's more pissed off about the rape or the fact that her daddy was never around to give her hugs and kisses… Nevertheless, Rayne is actively hunting her father for what we're left to assume is some sort of extravagant vengeance. But the whole back story becomes irrelevant after Rayne is inducted into the Brimstone Society, a sort of supernatural secret police, as Agent BloodRayne. She's then sent off on a series of missions that involve putting an end to the Third Reich's supernatural ambitions. The story ends up being a rather listless foray into pseudo-historical elements of the Third Reich because the game only stops to dish out some random plot element every hour or so.

Listless is not a word that could be used to describe the actual mechanics driving the game. In fact, it is probably more energetic and fast paced than any other action game I've played in months. After the introductory Louisiana levels that have Rayne slogging through the flooded bayou, trying to avoid the water (apparently vampires are allergic to water. I can only assume Rayne is one smelly girl…) while beating down enemies at a relatively relaxed pace, things ramp up in a big way. The Brimstone Society drops her into a Nazi base in Argentina with a list of officers that need to be eliminated. From there the game becomes an absolute bloodbath. BloodRayne is designed to be played at breakneck speed, so players will find themselves making Rayne dash from area to area while slicing and dicing everything that moves. In the end, the game is little more than an extended spree of homicidal butchery.

Thankfully Rayne is quite up to the task of cleaving through entire German regiments due to a combination of her agility, fighting prowess and the two massive blades attached to her forearms. Taking advantage of these killing implements is as easy as smashing a single button, while Rayne performs acrobatic combos. Of course being a vampire brings an entirely different set of abilities to the table. Rayne has astounding jumping capabilities that can get her out of harm's way when the need calls for it, or allow her to reach an out of the way enemy. As a vampire, her most important trait is the ability to latch onto an enemy and suck his blood, thereby replacing her own health.

Rayne also has several different vision modes that serve different purposes. The first of these is aura vision, which casts a dark haze on the environment while illuminating enemies with a glowing aura that shows their health, as well as highlighting objectives (even if they're located behind numerous walls). This is the most useful of the vision modes as there is no map with which to navigate. The second is the requisite Matrix time-slowing knockoff. Oddly enough, this is almost entirely useless because Rayne is slowed as much as her enemies, which defeats the purpose of the ability altogether. Finally, Rayne gains access to a zoom ability that lets her get a close up view of areas and enemies, but there isn't a single instance where this is necessary or even useful.

It's at this point that I'd like to point out that BloodRayne is a spectacularly violent game (though if you've been paying attention you might have guessed this by now). This should really come as no surprise, given that the title of the game is pronounced “Blood Rain”. And at times, you might be fooled into thinking it really is raining blood. As Rayne fights it's not an uncommon occurrence to see the limbs of an enemy chopped off, heads sliced in two and entire bodies cleaved in twain, all leading to spectacular geysers of blood which cover everything in the vicinity.

The game kicks it up another notch when Rayne enters Blood Rage mode. While engaging in melee combat, the Blood Rage meter fills up. When activated, a red haze descends over the screen and Rayne goes into berserker mode. While in a Blood Rage, Rayne moves faster, inflicts more damage and cleaves limbs from bodies like a human chainsaw. After the Blood Rage ceases, Rayne is usually the only thing left alive.

Though close quarters combat is the most visceral way of engaging the enemy, guns are always an option. Rayne is capable of carrying a huge arsenal on her person, and she can dual wield almost anything she picks up. However, there is no targeting reticule so guns auto-target. This means Rayne chooses her targets based on proximity, which can be frustrating if you want to hit an enemy you don't want to get close to, but Rayne keeps aiming somewhere else.

From the description thus far, you might be thinking that BloodRayne is a game of extravagant violence and high entertainment. I'll concede the violence, but the entertainment value falls short. This is due to a variety of factors. While combat is gruesome to watch, it just isn't that much fun to partake in. All the wanton carnage is accomplished by mindlessly smashing a single button and as long as Rayne is near an enemy, they'll get sliced and diced without any hassle. There's also a woeful lack of enemy types, so Rayne spends most of her time beatig down basic infantry grunts. Level design is also a contributing factor to the game's mediocrity because most missions take place in labyrinthine, nondescript German bases. All these things add up to make a game that is quite repetitious and boring to play.

There are also a few other issues to address. The difficulty level is usually very easy, and is a contributing factor to how quickly most players will be able to blaze through the levels. The vast majority of the enemies are very weak, and even when Rayne is taking a beating she can just jump on one, suck him dry and continue fighting. In the few cases difficulty ramps up, it actually becomes a frustrating issue because hordes of enemies start mobbing Rayne. Should Rayne die, players will get to witness the sheer dunderheadedness of the design team at Terminal Reality as death means starting a level over from the start as there are no checkpoints. Not to mention that every boss encounter in the game is tacked into a level, so dying during a boss fight means getting to go back through the entire level. Can I get a hurrah for idiocy in game design? Didn't think so…

Visually, BloodRayne continues the theme of blandness. Since the majority of the game is spent in nondescript military bases, most of the environments are made up of endless gray corridors and large rooms filled with crates and catwalks. At the very least, I can say that the textures look a lot better than expected. But that's a relatively low peak in a valley of mediocrity. Rayne's model is not exactly detailed, especially for having to look at her for the duration of the game, although there is some comic relief from an unexpected source. For whatever reason, Terminal Reality saw fit to endow Rayne's lady parts with their own crazy physics. In cut-scenes, her breasts bounce and jiggle so much you'd think they're trying to escape her vinyl halter top.

Thinking that this mold of substandard design will somehow be broken by the audio will only lead to disappointment. The music is a sort of pseudo-industrial metal that works for a character wearing a vinyl outfit and stiletto heels, but it conflicts with the WWII setting. Rayne's voice actor sounds bored and aloof, although it seems fitting for her character. Even so, her one-liners are the epitome of stupidity (“Hush baby, what would the neighbors think?”) and repeated far too often. The rest of the voice talent is merely average, though occasionally funny like when Rayne mounts a soldier to feed and he screams “Get it off me! Get it off!”

THE VERDICT
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there's really only one word to describe BloodRayne – mediocre. Everything about it, from the story to the gameplay, from the graphics to the audio is thoroughly unimpressive. While I can certainly get behind the concept, the execution is sorely lacking.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 06/26/09, Updated 07/06/10

Game Release: BloodRayne (US, 10/15/02)


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