Review by Nightfall

"All the Better to Slice You in Half With"

Bloodrayne 2 is a mixed bag. A good mixed bag. A bloody, misshapen, slightly alive mixed bag twitching in a dark corner and making small whimpering sounds before it sprouts legs and runs after you, shrieking in an ancient vampire language. It's got great killing action, a damn fine looking heroine, a cool story, gameplay that keeps you moving right along and simple, responsive controls. But it's also got mediocre graphics, horrendous voice acting, sloppy animations and some frustrating as hell boss battles. For fans of the first game, none of these negatives will matter. The game delivers what it promises: the chance to turn hundreds of enemies into gushing fountains of blood in a multitude of ways as the lovely and buxom agent Rayne. Any problems the game has take a back seat to the fact that this game is simply fun to play. It's a festival of destruction and carnage. You would be hard pressed not to enjoy yourself if you have any appreciation at all for mature gameplay.

Despite its problems, Bloodrayne 2 is a vast improvement over the first game. Although the graphics are nothing impressive, they do look much better than the first game's washed-out, colorless concrete environments. Rayne herself looks absolutely fantastic. Combat is much, much better now, and offers the player a ton more options in how to slaughter enemies. I was disappointed, however, to see that the height of her jump has been cut down to about one third of what it was in the original, and she no longer has some of her great signature moves like the rebound kick and the instant 180 degree turn. Another big difference from the first game is Rayne now has her own guns. No more scouring the environments for weak-ass weapons dropped by German soldiers. Her Carpathian Dragons have something like five or six different firing modes and each mode can be upgraded twice. They sound really cool, and some of the more powerful firing modes are just a joy to see and use. The environments are also now highly destructible, and serve as a tool Rayne can use to dispatch her enemies. Rayne's array of supernatural abilities has also been expanded greatly. Remember Bloodrage and Dilated Perception from the first game? Forget them. She can do way cooler and more powerful stuff now, although those two basic abilities are still in the mix. It's clear that Terminal Reality really went all-out to give fans an over-the-top experience this time around. They've got at least a couple people there that know what makes a game cool and fun.

The centerpiece of the game is the combat. Terminal Reality realized the combat in the first game was less than stellar, and they've completely overhauled it in the sequel. Rayne can lock on to enemies now, and she has a huge arsenal of offensive and evasive combo attacks at her disposal. You really get the sense this time around of how lethal her arm blades are. In the original, Rayne's blades were kind of weak. They only time they did any impressive damage was when she was in Bloodrage. Not so in the sequel. If you know how to use them well, you'll be carving vampires to pieces right and left. The impressive attack combos with the arm blades aren't the only thing improved about the combat system. Between her guns, her harpoon, her combo attacks, her special attacks, her supernatural vampire abilities, and environmentally triggered attacks, the player has a huge number of options as to how to dispose of enemies. Your biggest challenge will not be killing enemies, but deciding how you want to kill them. The enemies come at Rayne like a rushing river of blood through the whole game, but she is more than equipped to deal with their onslaughts. The gameplay never gets dull and the game manages to keep the killing interesting by providing you with new and unique ways to destroy and slaughter. The only complaint I have about the combat is some of the boss battles can be very frustrating, not so much because the bosses are that hard to kill, but because other slight problems make the battles more difficult than they need to be. For instance, in one boss battle Rayne constantly gets hung up on the terrain she is traversing. I mean, she can jump ten or fifteen feet into the air, but she can't just run up a hill or over a rock. In a couple of other boss battles, the imprecision in Rayne's jumping makes reaching higher areas a chore, which draws out the battle and puts Rayne at risk for more damage, or death. It's not that big a deal though.

Although it may seem odd to discuss voice acting so early in the review, I've got to get this off my chest and out of the way. This is one area in which the sequel takes a huge step backward from the original. The voice acting in the original Bloodrayne was one of the best things about the game (with the exception of the voice-overs for Rayne herself). While Laura Bailey showed what an amateur she was in the voice-over profession, the rest of the game's actors delivered top-notch performances (for the most part), especially the German officers. Enter the voice acting for Bloodrayne 2. I tell you truly, I have never before heard such horrible voice acting in a video game. The acting in this game is beyond atrocious. There are maybe five characters who are voiced with any skill: Rayne, Kagan, Severin, Xerx, and Ephemera. The rest of the acting is so bad it hurts my ears. Artificial, forced accents and stupendously inane dialogue that is totally out of character for vampires really bring down the bar on the acting quality. The first boss you fight has a horrible faked Transylvanian accent, like he's trying to come off as one of the vampires in those old black and white films who rub their hands together and say "I vant to suck your blood!" The Kestrel (bird-like dhampirs) sound like the actors were trying to squeeze one out while recording, and their dialogue comes off like it was written by a fifth grader. The "minion" vampires Rayne fights (the run of the mill pee-on vampires) don't even sound like vampires. They sound like a bunch of mentally challenged street gang members who were hired as extras for a vampire movie. And what's up with the stupid British accents? Seriously, if you've got a game with vampires in it, at least try to pay a little homage to the traditional character and mystique of vampires. Make them sound dark, ominous, mysterious, and daunting. Don't have them ranting on about wanting to teach in an elementary school after all this is over so they can help the kids and give something back to the community (yes, I actually heard that in the game.)

Ok, I'm through ranting about the catastrophic voice acting. I'll say a few things about the graphics now. Truly folks, we've got to give Terminal Reality a bit of a break here. Their thing is creating fun, engaging, violent games full of sex appeal. Awesome graphics have never been their forte (although Roadkill did look pretty dang good). My first impression of the graphics in Bloodrayne 2 was that they looked like low-end PS 2 quality. The game isn't a looker. Terminal Reality is just not into creating good looking environments, although this game does look much better than the first game. The emphasis with Terminal Reality in the Bloodrayne series has always been function over form. They shape the environments around the gameplay, not create amazing looking environments and then try to fit the gameplay into them. This is okay with me. After all, this is a dark game about killing, and the game's graphics reflect this simplified, straightforward theme. Agent Rayne does look incredibly good, however. Her body is much more curvy, feminine, and realistic compared with the Rayne model in the first game. The sprays of blood from slain enemies are copious and very effective, and it isn't unusual after a big battle to see the entire floor covered with blood. Rayne's animations in combat are just way too sweet. Motion capture was probably used for many of them, because they look so smooth and realistic. One animation that Terminal Reality did not get right, however, is the one for Rayne's jump and double jump. It looks awkward, stilted, artificial, and clumsy (how's that for some adjectives). There is some beautiful use of sourced lighting. The special visual effects employed when Rayne uses her supernatural vampire abilities look pretty cool. For instance, when Rayne uses Freeze Time, the blood gushing from enemy wounds remains frozen in mid-air--very cool. The models for the hordes of lesser vampires Rayne faces through most of the game are too generic---so much so that I couldn't even tell you what most of them look like. The models for the vampire bosses, however, are totally kick ass. Somebody deserves an award for the designs of Ferril and Ephemera. Ferril has these living tattoos that circulate around her completely naked body and Ephemera is like a walking shadow with enormous boobs and a sweet ass. Well done men, well done.

One graphical area in which Terminal Reality really screwed up is in Rayne's breast physics. Quite frankly, it's horrible. Their movement is completely artificial. Far from having the tantalizing jiggle that they did in the first game, they now possess some kind of AI of their own that makes their movement very unrealistic and totally unsatisfying. I don't know what Terminal Reality was trying to do, but I think Rayne's breasts are now a couple of egg sacs with pupating vampires in them, because once in a while they kick around a bit in really weird, sluggish ways. That's the visual effect her breast physics have. They don't jiggle, they slosh. Or, instead of bouncing, they smear into her dress in a way that looks like Rayne just had a partial mastectomy. Whoever animated Rayne's breast movements is probably of an alternative lifestyle, because not only do they have no idea how breasts really move, they obviously have no real appreciation for the utter glorious beauty of a jiggling breast. What's even more baffling is that in the Bloodrayne 2 Xbox demo, Rayne's breasts had an awesome jiggle. They danced and bounced around even better than they did in the first game. Why did they take this awesome jiggle out of the final game? I don't get it. Come on guys, when you've got a female main character this hot, her breasts are important. You know people are going to be checking them out and watching them move. In addition, the Juggy Mode cheat code looks ridiculous. They didn't even take the effort to blend her Juggy Mode breasts well into the rest of her model. You can see pointy edges and lines where the larger breasts "fit" over her normal ones. Terminal Reality really dropped the ball here, which surprised me, because they've always been so good about the sex appeal part of their games in the past. And don't give me any crap for talking about her breasts this long, because they are a huge part of her appeal as a character.

Disappointing breast physics aside, I was very pleased with the audio in the game. From the driving rock beats that play when Rayne is engaged in a major battle, to the massive explosions that rip through the environment when Rayne blows something up, to the sickening sounds of blades slicing through flesh, the game sounds very good. Rayne's Carpathian Dragon guns have a nice, powerful punch when they fire. The sound of objects in the environment collapsing or breaking has you looking about your room to make sure nothing has fallen off a shelf. I love the sound of the mounted machine guns Rayne occasionally commandeers. It sounds like a real machine gun, and it bounces around very convincingly when fired. The little sucking sounds Rayne makes when she feeds are much better than the first game. She sounds like she enjoys it more. I was a little disappointed, however, that they cleaned up Rayne's dialogue in this game. She's a good girl now, and no longer uses the f-word. In fact, she comes off overall as having a new attitude. It's almost like she's decided to take on a goody superhero role now, and leave her nasty, curse word laden, who-gives-a-**** past behind her. That's a shame. I liked her bad girl mystique in the first game.

In regards to the difficulty level, the game is pretty fair. The button combos are easy to pull off, and with all of Rayne's abilities, you shouldn't have too much trouble with most of the enemies. At about Act 7, however, the difficulty starts ramping up quickly, and from there on the game requires a wise use of Rayne's powers. There may be times when you'll say, "Holy crap, why did they make this so hard?", but they usually only happen when you're not using Rayne to the best of her abilities. Overall, I'd say the difficulty level is lower than the first game. It's challenging, but not infuriating.

I guess the ultimate test of how good a game is would be the put-down test. To what extent can you say, "Okay, I'm going to put this game down now and go to bed", and then actually do it? Well, with Bloodrayne 2, I couldn't do it. The game drew me onward and onward into new areas and new methods of destruction and mayhem, and I had a very hard time putting it down. The game never gets boring and it constantly rewards you with something amazing you just did on the screen. You'll be like, "Okay, I was going to put this down, but I've got to try to do THAT again!" And that's what really matters: having a good time. Despite its inconsistent quality (good in some areas but bad in others), Bloodrayne 2 is a perfect example of a game created by developers who really wanted the players to have a good time. Terminal Reality is in touch with what makes a game fun, and for that, I bestow upon them the highest honors.

Final Rundown

Gameplay: 8.5
Graphics: 7
Sound effects: 9
Music: 10 (kick ass rock beat!)
Control: 9
Story: 9
Difficulty: moderate, with occasional spikes of high difficulty
Good: awesome killing action and great flow to gameplay
Bad: breast physics, voice acting, sloppy animations in cut scenes
Should you buy this game: Oh yes, it's a keeper
Final Score: 8 (not an average of above scores)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/03/05

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