3D shooters seem to be a dime a dozen these days. Many bad ones, a good number of good ones, fortunately. As a matter of fact, lately (and this is a surprise for me) I can recall a lot more good ones than bad ones - that's fairly rare, I'd say. Sin, Half Life, Shogo and now Blood 2: The Chosen. All of these games introduced something new to the genre, as well - Half Life has a spellbinding story, Shogo has (in my view) the best engine around, Sin is just cool and Blood... well, Blood is somewhat of a different mix.
Mind you, that is not to say it's bad. Being based on the LithTech engine and developed by Monolith, who, as of late, continuously impressed me with quality title, it can't be bad. However, some things about it disconcert me, and lead to believe less production work has been put into it compared to Shogo - and that's a shame. Case at point: weapons. Shogo follows in the steps of Turok and the like, where switching a weapon is as close to the real thing as possible - up to the spinning of the dual pistols, Western-style. I suppose the folks at Monolith thought dual pistols were a rather cool idea (that was probably the only thing I liked about Rise of the Triad a few years back), so they re-implemented it in Blood 2. For some reason, though, the dual Berettas aren't spun in a funky type of way - they're taken out à la Doom. Not only the pistols, though - SMG and the flare gun are, as well. I'm not too fond of the SMG, either - the one in Shogo was silenced and wicked-looking, yet the one in Blood looks... it looks too much like a standard boring SMG. ... Original. The flare gun is somewhat neat, but again, that's variation on the grenade launcher theme - though I have to admit this is a better shot at it.
The graphics are quite nice. However, they also feel somewhat sub-par to Shogo - even though it's the same engine. A gamma correction control would be welcome, as well - the initial areas are way too dark, even on the maximum brightness setting on the monitor. I suppose it somewhat makes sense, as the areas represent dark back alleys - but at least some light would be welcome.
There are a few neat things that I find Monolith should be given credit for. You can hold the trigger on the machine gun as you're raining death on someone, and 'support' him on the bullets, meaning he won't fall while you hold the trigger. For a little while, anyway. So you get to do what Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro have been doing for so long. It's actually pretty well-done, and I don't think I've seen something like this in an FPS yet, ever. For some dumb reason, however, once a critter is dead, you can still shoot its body - and have it explode on you, leaving a 'Life essence' behind, which is technically a fancy-sounding (and looking) stimpack. Sorry, I don't buy that. Dead bodies should stay where they are - as well as (on a side note) skid marks on tracks in racing games, and other permanent damage effects. Then again, I suppose, the resources of the host system would be strained a lot more were they required to remember such huge (and mostly useless) things.
To add to the atmosphere, NPCs are included. Technically, NPC would be a somewhat incorrect term, as you don't interact with them - but then again, definitions of terms are stretched to even longer lengths these days (Java-compliant, anyone?), so I shall use it in this context. The story is told through engine-rendered sequences, complete with speech and funky camera movement. Talking to the so-called NPCs is usually neat, too - they pretty much never provide any useful info, but very often have a gag or insult to spice up your pixel hunt.
Since I mentioned pixel hunts, I should say that pixel hunts, key hunts, and door hunts are not Blood 2's fortés. To clarify, there are none - you don't have to go pushing every door panel for a hidden room, and you don't have to go through the insanely cliché and repetitive routine of finding the key, unlocking a door, finding another key and so forth (which, amazingly, some people still seem to enjoy). The quests are of a much more intellectually challenging nature, heightening the difficulty level with a flashing marker telling you to hit Tab and providing obscure hints of the 'This area is different. There are boxes of different heights. You have to be on other side of fence. Jump boxes, in a clever pattern.' type. The hints are of varied usefulness, with some being absurdly obvious, but with others being actually helpful. I suppose, as well, that Monolith got flamed slightly for the difficulty of Shogo's levels (which I, personally, found to be completely intuitive and easy to navigate - but there, where I saw logical to enter the third door, turn left twice, jump down and turn right, all in a multitude of paths, others may have not = room for flaming.)
The levels are fairly exquisitely designed. The textures on the buildings are quite nice, and there is a multitude of signs that call up a smile every once so often. The only problem is, in order to read them you'd have to be in the 'High' detail level - and for that you'd need a pretty nice machine. On my P200 with a Voodoo adapter, I can play perfectly at Medium level - but that doesn't leave much in the way of actual text on the walls. There are also a lot less graphics options than in Shogo - there's just "Detail - Low, Med, High" as opposed to object complexity, texture detail &c. that Shogo had. Quite a shame, as not as much tweaking is possible. I also liked the fact that the levels aren't some abstract extrapolations of the designers' minds, which either represent some authentic universe in the nth dimension, or just a twisted, broken, pizza-deprived mind of the lead level designer. They represent cities, subways, things real to us - and, while nowhere nearly as detailed as Amen's, they're believable enough.
The game difficulty is acceptable. It's a lot better than Shogo's, in any case. As a matter of fact, for a while I thought Shogo's AI was designed to be like it was - i.e. the enemies never ran out to fight you, they camped and waited for you to show up. It sure got me a few times - until I understood that all that meant was that the AI was horribly deficient. In Blood 2, the enemy performs that which is standard and expected these days - if there's a corner, he will run out from around it to fight you. Needless to say, standard defense works perfectly fine - you camp there until he shows up, and you make use of the trigger. A rather neat thing I found was that enemies rolled - and, unlike Unreal, they didn't roll every time - it seemed to be fairly random, which is a great feature.
Overall, I find Blood 2 to be a very entertaining game. While I do believe Shogo to be more detailed and finely crafted, Blood is a title well worthy of one's time. The story, graphics, and design present the player with many hours of fun gameplay, drawing one in until the climax of the story. And, it's powered by the LithTech engine, which, in my opinion (like I mentioned on multiple other occasions) is one of the best engines in the industry. Truly, a worthy contender.
Blood II is one of the more heavily anticipated first person shooters that was expected this fall. Using the relatively new Lithtech engine premiered just a short time ago in Shogo, it sets off to create yet another gorefest like its predecessor Blood. Blood was reknowned for its, well, blood and Blood II will be quite a bit more of the same.
It's 2028, about a hundred years since Caleb kicked the Dark God's ass in the first Blood. Everything doesn't turn out so hunky-dory for Caleb and he becomes somewhat of an outcast. The Cabal call him the great betrayer and decide they want to run things. He decides he better resurrect the other chosen, Ophelia, Gabriella, and Ishmael to go wrest the power from the Cabal. Along the way, he realizes that there's much more behind the Cabal than evil scientists creating an army of zombies and crazed psychotic lunatics.
For a first person shooter, this one's got a relatively singular plot line. It's not as adaptive as Shogo or Halflife, but this does go back to the FPS roots where plot doesn't matter. It's the killing that counts. It runs a lot like Shogo, with the ingame animations and cutscenes and it's thirty levels of some of the creepiest places I've played.
The Lithtech engine once again shines in Blood II. The levels are extremely well done and definately creates the spooky environment that fits Blood II like a glove. The lighting is spectacular, weapons are excellent, blood and explosions frequently left marks on many of the walls. Monolith has put together a great engine and hopefully we'll see it in a few other games down the road. It's nowhere near as bright and wide open as Shogo was, but that just wouldn't fit the enviroment. Blood II will keep you in tighter quarters as you make your way through the city, through many interesting buildings like the museum, into the sewers, and right into the heart of the Cabal. It's Direct3D and it supports up to 1280x1024 so it definitely will excel with the right system but will also run decently on lower end systems.
If the graphics aren't creepy enough for you, why not add a little music? The sound is great. It does its job of adding to the atmosphere. Each weapon has a distinctive and realistic sound effect. It just has great audio for going out and waxing a few genetically enhanced, wacked out zombies.
There's some decent gameplay here. Like I mentioned before, it's a little too straight and narrow for as the plot goes. It's not real different game wise from any of the other fps so other than a significant amount of killing, there's not a lot to set it apart. It is a great game like it's predecessor, but it's just not a standout. The levels are well designed and there's a good level of difficulty. It doesn't make you go around and search for keys like some of the boring fps, but there is a little button pushing and knob turning, be it well within reasonable limits. It does have some decent interactivity with the surroundings, like the phone rings and you can answer it. I also liked the ability to just go up and kill a civilian. You actually get rewarded with some health for rubbing out the "good" guys. I want to be bad bad bad! The atmosphere is well created and instills a level of fear, it's like Alfred Hitchcock gone extremely bad. Blood II offers a couple of different choices in game play. You can either play as Caleb, or you can play as one of the Chosen. It makes the gameplay slightly different but the storyline stays the same. Makes it a little fresher than having to play as a single character, but not much. Monolith did a good job with the weapons. The flare gun was my favorite, I just loved lighting zombies on fire. The Flayer and the Decapitator add a whole new meaning to the word fun. They also left in the Voodoo Doll from the original. You also will get a few interesting items to use like the eye, which is particularly useful for spying. The AI is notably better than Shogo, though it still doesn't reach the awesome complexity that Halflife has. I found myself running away from a few of the monsters only to turn around to find them still there. The major AI problem is that they don't open doors. They'll go through doors that automatically open, but they won't open other doors. Control is easily customizable so you can set it up to your favorite combinations. My only major gripe is that, like Shogo, the level load times are high. It takes about thirty seconds or so to load a level. Thats just a little too high.
It's pretty fun, lots of killing, relatively challenging, and it's got a killer environment. You can't ask for much more in a FPS. It's not the best FPS by far, but it does a great job. I didn't think it was quite as entertaining as Shogo, I think, mainly because it was dark and foreboding. It has a lot of levels so it should keep you playing for awhile.
The multiplayer is decent. It's laggy like Shogo was on modem connections, but it's got all the usual options. The weapons make it a little more entertaining then the average everyday shooter, but Quake/QuakeII are still the mothers of FPS multiplayer.
Blood II is a decent first person shooter. It can hold its own against the others this fall and allows gamers to see the "dark side" of the Lithtech engine. Monolith deserves some credit for using an engine to create two games that look and feel totally different but still have a good level of entertainment.
Highs: Convincing environment, looks and plays great, great weapons
Lows: slow loadtimes, laggy multiplayer