Reviewed: September 19, 2005
Released: August 2, 2005
After an agonizing wait BloodRayne 2 has finally made the move from console to PC and the end results are somewhat of a mixed bag. For those who are out of the loop, BloodRayne is the sexy vampire agent who works for Brimstone Society. Just think Lara Croft with fangs and a sexier wardrobe.
BloodRayne 2 wisely adopts the traditional gothic stylings that make vampire lore so cool, taking us well beyond the 1935 WWII setting of the original game. Set in current times or perhaps a near-future, Bloodrayne, being a dhampir (half human, half vampire), is still going strong in a more modern setting.
Born of a vampire and a human’s “unholy union”, BloodRayne declared war on her evil father Kagan, a Nazi collaborator. With his death, her siblings maintained Kagan’s legacy, keeping evil in the family business, which culminates in their greatest scheme of world domination; The Shroud, a massive shield made up of millions of gallons of blood harvested from the homeless.
The game opens with the obligatory training level set at a fancy dinner party where Rayne gets to flex her bloodletting skills while wearing the latest in evening gown fashion. Not only does this show off the dynamic cloth modeling, but we also get ample leg and thigh exposure.
The console version of BloodRayne 2 had some of the best and most intuitive controls of any action game to date. It took less than an hour to master the controls and you were killing with maximum grace and style. While the PC version offers support for a gamepad, the camera control sucks (that’s a vampire joke) with only vertical movement.
Using a keyboard and mouse restores full camera control and you are free to map the limited controls to any keys you wish, but something just doesn’t feel right when playing with a mouse and keyboard, and it certainly doesn’t feel right with the gamepad.
While not an RPG in any traditional sense, players do get to “upgrade” their character by finding different weapons like the Carpathian Dragons, which apparently focus vampiric energy into actual deadly projectiles. Unfortunately, these guns don’t seem to have much of an affect whatsoever against enemies, so you’ll most likely rely on your trusty blades and harpoon for a majority of the fighting.
Take a look at the in-game move list and you will see dozens of different combos and moves available to our sexy little Dhampir. But while the list is long, and sports exciting names like Rising Thorn and Sinistral Bloom, in the heat of combat they all sort of look the same after a while, especially when your main tactic against bosses becomes dodge-and-attack, dodge-and-attack, blah-blah-blah. This takes the wind out of the sails of the whole “experience system” that rewards players with bonuses for especially fancy moves and attacks.
Although where you really get some sense of satisfaction is in the finishing moves and fatalities that Rayne dishes out like a heavily armed, psychotic gymnast. And I mean fatalities. There’s so much dismemberment happening on a regular basis you start to crave it, which is as disturbing as it is satisfying. Especially when you harpoon an enemy, yank them towards you, and watch them get Benihana’d like they’ve tripped into a Cuisinart.
As if the hand-to-hand combat weren’t interesting enough, Rayne also obtains various dark gifts that give her even more of an edge against her enemies. There’s (deep breath) the Blood Fury mode that increases both offensive and defensive powers, a time affecting mode that slows everyone else down while you whip around them like a tweaker with a set of Ginsu knives, a Ghost Feed mode that lets you suck blood from a distance, and a revamped Aura Vision that reveals important hidden portals, even from other rooms and floors. While these modes could’ve been left out, they do add a nice visual flair that’s hard to ignore.
Level design is fantastic with plenty of interesting locations full of gothic details and unique designs, many of which are obvious setups for the numerous arena-style battles you will find yourself fighting. There seems to be an abundant source of sharp objects lying around waiting to skewer a vampire.
Character designs are excellent with some amazing animation that is fluid and lifelike. Even in death, the rag doll physics are eerily realistic. Special effects are in full use with rich lighting and shadows, reflections, volumetric fogging and plenty of particle effects. Shadows are particularly important since Rayne must avoid direct sunlight on some of the outdoor levels.
BloodRayne 2 looks pretty good, but even at its best it just looks like the Xbox version running at higher resolutions. Sure, a decent PC can crank this game out at 1600x1200, which will get you some crisp graphics, and the textures show some moderate improvement, but the game still looks like a port and there is nothing visually here that outweighs the control issues which were flawless on the console.
The music ran the gamut from interesting and appropriate to some annoying heavy metal combat music I like to call “angry rock”. It’s not terrible, but it could have been better. The music that scores the cutscenes was excellent while most of the gameplay soundtrack is forgettable. Sound options allow you to tweak all the various sound levels, so you can tune this out if you want.
Sound effects kick ass even though most of the time you will hear the metallic whine of your harpoon followed immediately by the sickly wet crunch of an impaled target or the splatter noise of a dismembered body and the splash of a few gallons of blood as it paints the walls and floors.
Speech is phenomenal with great performance by all the leads and most of the supporting cast. There were a few bosses with some B-grade readings, but the banter between Rayne and her “handler” set the perfect tone for the game.
BloodRayne 2 is a fairly long game that just keeps going and going, probably a bit longer than it should. Gameplay gets a bit repetitive no matter how cool the levels get, even near the very end. I ultimately used a “god mode” cheat to whip through the final few levels just because I was bored with the incessant combat and wanted to see the story resolved.
The difficulty is pretty easy for the most part with the only real challenges coming from the sub-bosses and end-level bosses. The game has a tendency to give away a lot of the solutions to the environmental puzzles through cutscenes, so you know you are supposed to toss bad guys into the garbage masher or drop a chunk of wall on them.
This is the bloodiest action game on the market and one that any action gamer or vampire lover should play on at least one of the available formats. The best version of BloodRayne 2 is still on the Xbox. The controls are solid and the graphics, while not quite as good as they are on the PC, are still really good.
BloodRayne 2 could have been great if the gamepad support wasn’t so quirky, but the PC version is just too clunky to recommend unless this is your only alternative. Even so, there are better action games out there, and if you are just looking for a good vampire game then Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines should satiate your bloodlust.