Review by LordShibas
"Rayne Is Back and Better Than Ever"
As the mainstream gaming audience currently goes crazy over gems like Ninja Gaiden II, I sit in my house, still eating away at my backlog of un-played games. Most recently, I had the chance to finish up Bloodrayne 2 on the Xbox. Despite being a 4 year old game, Bloodrayne 2 actually shares quite a few similarities with Ninja Gaiden II and while playing through Bloodrayne 2, I often wondered if Itagaki was a closet fan of Bloodrayne 2.
Ninja Gaiden II's incessantly violent and brutal gameplay style seems to be ripped straight from Bloodrayne 2. In other words, during the course of Bloodrayne 2, limbs will be flying everywhere, you will be using finishing moves on enemies in a brutal fashion, and this will produce exorbitant amounts of blood.
Evasion tactics are very similar to Ninja Gaiden II and Rayne has as many moves and combos as Ryu Hayabusa, if not more.
Okay, enough comparisons, onto the game at hand. I played the original Bloodrayne a while ago for the Xbox and I was pleasantly surprised by it. The game ends in a cliffhanger, and a sequel was no doubt in the cards. However, playing the original Bloodrayne is by no means a pre-requisite. The first few cut scenes in Bloodrayne 2 do a great job of bringing you up to speed on the story, and then you are quickly taken to the tasks at hand.
For those who are not familiar at all with the series, I'll explain a bit more. You will be playing as Rayne. Rayne is a sagacious Dhampir. A Dhampir is: the child of a vampire father and a human mother, with vampire powers but none of the weaknesses. So basically, she's a half vampire with some really cool abilities and powers.
Rayne is chasing after Kagan, who is her father, who killed Rayne's mother, and is an overall evil guy. (these are not spoilers, it's talked about in the opening cut scenes)
Along the way, Rayne will run into many of Kagan's minions and direct descendants. Meaning that most of the boss fights you have in the game will be with Rayne's bloodline relatives. For the most part, I found the boss battles to be rather easy and un-inspired, but there are a few which will catch you off guard and really test your abilities to use all of Rayne's powers and abilities.
Rayne has many moves at her disposal to get rid of the enemies. Rayne has blades which protrude from her arms, she has a wide variety of kicking combos, she can take out enemies with special vampire guns, and she also has a spear which she can fire out to subdue and disarm enemies. She can also use many environmental hazards to kill of enemies and sometimes even manipulate the environment to make it become a tool in her arsenal. This would include pulling down a hanging truck to smash enemies, collapsing a gazebo to have it crush the enemies underneath, or cutting down other large objects which can potentially fall on enemies.
Rayne can also feed on enemies to re-gain her health, or she can perform one of many fatalities on any given enemy that will either boost her Rage Meter or give her more blood ammo for her guns. The special Carpathian Dragon guns that Rayne acquires use blood for ammo, and you will be able to drain blood from enemies in order to get more ammo for your guns via Rayne's execution moves. So basically you won't be scouring the environment for dropped weapons and ammo, your enemies will produce ammo for you.
The game follows a simple path where you will need to complete a certain objective, but you will have ancillary tasks along the way which must be completed in order to continue. Don't let the multiple objectives fool you though, this game is 100% linear and you have little room to stray from the beaten path, which I didn't mind too much since most of the game is about the fun combat and tearing enemies to shreds.
I found Bloodrayne 2 to be a very good game, and found that it improved on its predecessor in almost every way. Here is a more detailed look.
Graphically, Bloodrayne 2 is much improved over the original Bloodrayne. The character models look much cleaner and Rayne looks better than ever. Unfortunately, she wears the same outfit for 90% of the game, but there are costumes that you can unlock after you beat the game.
When you start out the game, Rayne is in a mansion, snooping around at a high roller's party that has ties to Kagan's bloodline. Initially, she is wearing a dress and it looks quite cool. As you go through the tutorial, the dress's fabric moves beautifully and it's one of the first things that caught my attention about this game.
The starting environment looks great. The mansion is littered with all kinds of stuff that Rayne can destroy and practice her moves on. Oh yeah, almost all areas of the game have destructible environments that really help the game feel a little more alive. File cabinets can be smashed, glass can be broken, and pretty much anything that is not nailed down can be manipulated in some way.
There are also a good amount of lighting effects in the game. Much akin to the Splinter Cell series, windows will allow light sources to shine through and opaque surfaces will reflect them, making for some nice shadows.
The beginning mansion scenes also have a beautiful floor which is made of reflective glass. The glass mirrors the exact movements of Rayne and looks very convincing.
After the opening mission, the environments hold up well, but some get a little repetitive, the sewers in particular. For the most part, the environments are quite specious and interesting.
I've deducted a few points from the graphics since the game tends to stutter a bit when there are quite a few enemies on-screen, but this doesn't happen all the time.
The story in Bloodrayne 2 continues the story from Bloodrayne, but as I said previously, the opening cut scenes will bring any newcomers up to speed and you will have a grasp on the story in minutes. You will be chasing after Kagan and his vampiric vocations to destroy the human race and envelope the world in The Shroud, which is a thick, chemical cloud which hangs far above humanity, to produce a sun block out. This will allow vampires to move around at all hours of the day, hence creating total anarchy.
The supporting characters really make the story interesting and the villains really do have great designs, especially Ferril and Ephemera. Ferril is a vampire that has a clear, one colored body that has constantly changing and whirling tattoos all over her body. Ephemera is a dark vampire that is a master of the shadows, and when you fight her, you will need to use your cunning to destroy her sources of shadow power before you can truly begin attacking her. The cut scenes between missions show the interactions between the enemy foes and they are a joy to watch. Deception and back-stabbing will take place within the group, and you will want to keep playing just see what ends up happening to the enemy characters.
You will get briefings from Severin, a former member of the Brimstone Society that he and Rayne were kicked out of. The interactions between Severin and Rayne are good, and they often have witty things to say to each other to try to lighten the mood.
The story comes to a conclusion at the end, but most definitely there is plenty of material in the ending for a sequel.
Overall, not bad in the story department, but nothing too over the top.
Sounds and Music 8/10
Much like the graphics, the music in Bloodrayne 2 starts off with a bang, and kind of trails off from there. While in the opening mansion mission, you will be going about your business with opera music from the party blaring in the background. If Bloodrayne 2 taught me anything, it's that cutting up enemies with opera music in the background is beyond epic.
After this, you will be fighting in a western bar, which has appropriate country music playing in the background, another nice touch. After this, the music becomes more ambient and doesn't really differ all that much, but it's still not bad at all.
The sound effects are all done well for the most part. The slicing and loping off of heads by Rayne sounds great. Smashing through the destructible environments produces appropriate sounds, and walking on different surfaces makes different sounds due to Rayne's heels.
The voice acting is for the most part pretty good. Rayne is not as foul mouthed as she was in the first game, and she leaves the F-bombs to the enemies, which they are not afraid to drop.
The gameplay in Bloodrayne 2 is changed for the better since the first Bloodrayne. Instead of the R trigger being used for attacking, now the face button X is used for attacking. I found this to be a great improvement since pulling the R trigger for combos often felt clumsy and inaccurate.
The L trigger is now used as an enemy lock on, and doubles for blocking as well. While in the lock on state, Rayne can throw out her spear, which serves many functions. If the spear hits an enemy with a weapon, it will disarm them, which is a big help. If the enemy does not have a weapon and is hit with the spear, you can quickly toss an enemy in any direction that you choose to. This is great for throwing enemies on large pointy objects, through glass windows, into fires, or off of high areas for a quick kill and a Carnage bonus.
When you score Carnage Bonuses, your Rage Meter will increase. The Rage Meter is a special meter right below your health meter that allows you to launch your high level abilities. There are quite a few more than in the previous Bloodrayne. In fact, you acquire so many of them throughout the game, that I flat out didn't even use some of them.
Rayne still has her standard Blood Rage mode, which will allow her to basically go into fury mode and wipe out a ton of enemies at once, or it will allow her to go toe to toe with a boss character and not be knocked down.
There is also Blood Fury mode, which is an upgraded and more powerful version of Blood Rage, but it depletes the Rage Meter at a quicker pace.
Dilate Perception makes a return as an ability and allows Rayne to slow things down much like Bullet Time from the Max Payne series. There are also two upgraded version of this as well.
Add these special abilities with Rayne's standard moves, and she is a killing machine, often overpowering her enemies to an un-fair degree. The game tries to even things out by throwing 4-5 enemies at you at once, but they can easily be divided and conquered, especially if you utilize the spear at a distance.
The fatalities are neat, but the novelty wears off after you have seen them a few times. After a while, you will only use the fatalities for the desired results and not their aesthetic value.
If you use a Gun fatality you will get more ammo for you Blood Guns. Any other fatality will help build your Rage Meter.
While the Rage Meter and the fatalities do liven up the game, I found myself taking out the regular enemies with little problems, and saving my Rage Meter for bosses. This allows you to take down the bosses fairly quickly, and kills some of the challenge in the game.
The difficulty also ramps up for the last few chapters. You will no longer be able to disarm enemies with your spear, and you can only feed on enemies from behind. It throws a monkey wrench into things for a bit, but once you get used to it, it's not that bad. I found that simply jumping over enemies and feeding did the trick most of the time.
While the gameplay is improved for the most part, the game is a tad buggy. Sometimes when jumping through un-even environments, Rayne would get momentarily suspended in mid air and get stuck. After a while it went back to normal. I've also heard other stories about people getting stuck on the environments and having to re-load a save, but I never ran into this.
The camera is good for the most part and pretty much gives you free manual reign over the camera, kind of like Splinter Cell. However, sometimes when you get thrown into a corner while fighting, the camera will not pan out and will be stuck on a close up of the action. This can easily be fixed by jumping out of the corner.
Aside from the bugs, Bloodrayne 2 holds up well. It's fun to play and I often found myself pressing on even though I knew I should stop.
Longevity and Re-playability 7/10
I was able to get through Bloodrayne 2 in a little under 10 hours, which is a decent amount of time for a third person action/adventure game. The game remained interesting all the way through, but you can pretty much catch everything on the first play through.
You will unlock some extra costumes when you beat the game and a few other things, but they are time wasters at best. Just to let you know, some of the extra costumes are really cool, you should check them out. I especially liked Schoolgirl Rayne and Cowgirl Rayne.
In spite of this, it's a fairly short game and there are so many ways to dispose of enemies, that you may find yourself playing it again just for the thrills that the game provides.
Bloodrayne 2 may not be the best thing out there, but it sure is fun and entertaining. Any fans of vampire games or third person action games should give it a try.
Fans of the original Bloodrayne owe it to themselves to pick up the sequel. It's much improved over the first game. Now if only we could get a Bloodrayne 3 on a next gen console sigh. One can dream.
My review score 8/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 06/30/08, Updated 08/28/08
Game Release: BloodRayne 2 (US, 10/12/04)
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