STAFF REVIEW of BloodRayne (Xbox)

Wednesday, November 13, 2002.
by Queasy Buddy

BloodRayne Box art Although it?s not often that we think of vampires as being good and helpful to humans, BloodRayne is the exception. Between the two world wars her goal is to kill the enemy Nazi soldiers and the horrific creatures they create in order to save humanity from various supernatural threats. This obviously is no easy task, but luckily this blood-sucking chick has some amazing fighting techniques that appear unstoppable. The world may not need another scantily clad anti-heroine heating up the scene, but don't let that sour you too much on BloodRayne. This here is a balls-out action game, every minute of which is packed to the gills with maddeningly fast combat. The controls are such that you'll be able to execute a mad flurry of melee attacks one second, and unload a clip on multiple targets the next. And make no mistake -- the ability to do this is deathly important considering how intense the battles can get. Your vampiric abilities make the ensuing bloodbath all the more thrilling as they allow you to feed on enemies (and shield yourself with their bodies in the process), divine the locations of mission objectives and slow down time, just to mention a few. But the one shortcoming is the fact that hand-to-hand combat, BloodRayne's meat and potatoes, lacks impact. It's less like you're hitting live enemies and more like slashing at thin air with adjacent enemies spontaneously erupting in hemorrhaging gashes. (Oh yeah, BloodRayne is also shamelessly bloody, so stay away if you're a squeamish gamer.)

Her primary weapons are her blades that are attached to her arms and many combos can be pulled off depending on the situation at hand. Additionally, she can pick up guns and other weapons that are dropped by enemy soldiers. A great feature is that it?s easy to use a gun and then blades immediately after one another, as they are controlled by separate buttons. Throughout the game, her health must be maintained by sucking blood from victims, but if she sucks too much blood, look out! The first blood-crazed mode in which she can do a far greater amount of damage is called bloodlust, and as if that isn?t enough, it?s possible to go into the even more frightening bloodrage mode. Also, similar to the slow-motion feature found in Max Payne, gamers can slow down time and easily dodge enemy fire. This is obviously very helpful in game play and there are other similar supernatural abilities that she has as well. Another problem is pacing; when BloodRayne simmers down, it really simmers -- expect to do a ton of backtracking when your objectives aren't immediately evident. But just on the strength of its spastic gameplay alone, BloodRayne inspires repeat visits. After slicing off the legs and one arm of an enemy and watching him pathetically attempt to drag himself to safety before delivering a bullet to his head, it's obvious that developers, Terminal Reality, have not held back. "Bloodrayne" truly earns its M rating. When not being sucked down the damphir's throat, blood flows from severed limbs and dissected bodies. The language is also undiluted, with no obscenities being censored. So many games use gore and obscenities so clumsily that it is very refreshing to come across a title in which the blood only adds to the enjoyment of play. A large selection of firearms and explosives can be found or taken from dead enemies. However, most of the time, gameplay resorts to hand-to-hand combat utilizing the unique bladed weapons, chained harpoon, and viciously spiked heels. The action moves at a frantic pace, with the player constantly taking on multiple enemies. Although many enemies can be avoided or outrun, confrontation is encouraged. Enemies are the source of both weapons and health. Level design is very good, with few tight spaces where controls are at their least satisfying. Even at the standard levels, "Bloodrayne" provides more than enough challenge to satisfy almost any gamer. For those feeling ambitious, a hard difficulty setting all but ensures failure.

Because of the Infernal Engine that was used, the environments are very exotic and extremely well done. With the third person perspective, and nice camera placement it?s easy to spot enemy at all angles. The AI characters are very human-like and their behavior is very realistic. The levels and the objects found within them are very interactive and have a unique feel. Appropriately, hitting walls results in marks on the wall and so forth and sometimes these tactics are necessary to complete missions. Visually the game is dark and grainy. Character models are very blocky, but still carry a lot of style. The movement of the game mimics the rigidity of the models. Very rarely will an animation, once started, be stopped, giving the game a very stilted look at times. Unfortunately, this makes most of the cutscenes and some of the gameplay feel just a little stiff. There are a number of visual treats that save this title. Visual effects are used well, especially those used as a function of gameplay. The smoke and fogging used for atmosphere is effective as are the explosion effects. Most impressively executed are Bloodrayne's special visions. Night vision, slow motion, and sniper vision all look very slick, and Terminal Reality has skillfully made them much more than just gimmicks.

The sound in "Bloodrayne" comes off like much of the rest of the game, with both good and bad aspects. The sound effects are suitably gnarly, with severed limbs and the sucking of blood being described well in the soundscape. The music is really an ambient track, without any true character, but providing something other than silence to kill by. Of note is Bloodrayne's voice. Her in-battle quips come off as perfectly arrogant and devious. Her moans of pleasure as she sucks an enemy dry do a lot to establish her sadism. Her enemies, on the other hand, don't have much to say, and players will soon notice that every German has the same voice when begging someone to "Get her off me!" The music within the game is not very inspiring. In fact, it is a mix of techno and some rock elements (we all have different tastes in music of course). So more than likely you'll be turning the music down and just listening to the action. The action is very entertaining to listen though at some times. For instance, when you jump on a Nazi and start sucking his blood, you can hear him going "Get off me! AHHH!!!" and other gasps and gurgles, which give you a bit of satisfaction. One gripe is the fact that the germans speaking English in a german accent, which really took away from the experience. But this happens in a lot of games so people don't have to sit and read subtext all the time, so it's both a good thing and a bad thing, just depends on your taste. Sound effects from the guns within are not the best or very realistic in some cases. Some even sound the same to each other or just modified versions of the same sound. The same goes with explosions, they just don't have enough....umph to them. All in all the sound served its purpose. Not much more...

Although it delivers adequately in so many areas, so much of &qu could stand for a bit more polish. The slick character design and brutal gameplay should be praised. However, stiff animation and chunky battle controls prevent this game from getting a better score.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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