It’s almost Halloween, and what better way to capture the spirit of the season than to revisit a tale of murder and revenge, betrayal and destruction set against a backdrop of supernatural apocalypse and vampirism? Sure, it might sound like the plot for something out of Hollywood, but it’s actually the setting for the BloodRayne franchise. The last time we saw the redheaded half-human/half vampire, she was taking on Nazis and their vampiric cohorts in 1930s Germany. So what’s an anti-hero like her to do when the war and the threat is over? Well, you grab your blades and you gear up to join her next adventure in BloodRayne 2.
More than seventy years have passed since BloodRayne managed to exact revenge on her vampiric father, Kagan, for slaughtering her entire family. Since her victory, however, she’s been quite busy hunting down her “siblings”. See, in his absence, the rest of her father’s offspring has gathered together to form the cult of Kagan, who are dedicated to worshipping his memory and carrying out his work. But this isn’t simply an honor society; the cult is working towards unleashing a vampiric disaster on the world by unleashing a thing called The Shroud. While that doesn’t sound particularly frightening, the effects of The Shroud are: dispersed into the atmosphere, it blocks the sun’s rays entirely (kind of like the initial plan the humans came up with in The Matrix), allowing vampires to walk around in the daytime without fear. Needless to say, the world would be completely helpless to the hordes of vampires free to slaughter all day and night long. Rayne is dispatched by the Brimstone Society to halt the cult’s plans.
Two things helped to separate BloodRayne from other action characters: her extremely distinctive agility combined with her intimidating “wrist blades,” large scythes that ran the length of her arms. This has actually been significantly augmented in BloodRayne 2, as her leaps and in air somersaults seem to propel her a good fifteen to twenty feet in the air. She can use this dexterity to grab onto poles (which Rayne will swing from to reach new areas or perch from to attack enemies from above) or fences (that she’ll climb and bounce off). This nimbleness also translates into some highly acrobatic maneuvers, such as tightrope walking or railsliding, a Tony Hawk-esque grind down railings that also provides flexibility to attack targets at will.
Rayne’s attack skills are somewhat more diverse as well. For instance, she will still have to replenish her health by feeding on opponents. However, she’ll be able to chain her feeding attempts into much more effective finishing combos. There are 12 separate fatalities that Rayne can trigger, including bone breaking kicks and decapitations. She doesn’t have to physically touch an opponent to kill them either. Her harpoon can strike enemies from a distance, allowing her to fling them into traps or impale them on environmental objects. She’ll also receive a special pair of guns, the Carpathian Dragons, that are vampiric themselves: drawing on blood to provide “ammo”, Rayne will need to feed her guns by drawing blood from victims or be subjected to using her own health as a power source each time she fires.
Rayne can use her blades to clear surrounding enemies away from her, or inflict serious damage on targets, splashing blood and limbs in large arcs. These and other brutal acts add to her carnage meter, which extends her life and gives her more time to trigger her vampiric powers, which feeds off her fury meter. All of these abilities can be upgraded two additional times, and are pretty diverse skills like enhancing the damage her blades cause, moving at faster speeds or sending a spectral copy of herself to feed on opponents.
While the powers of Rayne feel completely appropriate to a vampiric character, there are two major issues that revolve around these supernatural abilities. For one, it’s possible to continually replenish your meter by triggering a skill and walking into a room filled with opponents, restoring a lot more fury to your bar than what’s originally used. In this sense, it’s rare that you’ll never be able to use these skills when you need them. What’s more, these powers, along with Rayne’s blades and other abilities, are so extremely powerful that the gameplay really becomes extremely easy. Plus, you won’t even need to use all of the skills to make your way through the game, which speaks to the lack of difficulty in the game. While it doesn’t take away from the story (indeed, the story is one of the strongest points of the game itself), it does make some of the combat extraordinarily repetitive and simplistic. Considering that most of the thugs thrown at you are basic thugs futilely punching and kicking at you (would you seriously give fodder like this a chance against a woman with two foot long blades?), it’s not surprising that you’ll cut a large bloody swath through the game. That’s also not too hard, since the majority of the AI is truly dumb as a brick, with most of the enemies running directly at you.
Even when they start picking up weaponry to try to even the odds, Rayne still can overpower them with a well placed harpoon shot, which forces them to drop their weapon and turns them into a rag doll for your amusement. In fact, you can use the harpoon to “freeze” opponents so you can set them up for a quick feeding, fatality, or whatever. This imbalanced play detracts from the game significantly. The other serious hiccup with the game is the lack of direction. There are way too many times that the game will not tell you enough about what you need to do, making the limited directions way too vague to be effective. For instance, the first time that I picked up the controls, I ran into a section where it said “go to the staircase”. Considering the fact that the entryway to the stairs blended in with the background and the walls, it took me at least five minutes to find the right way to go (and that was one of the easier miscues I made). It does manage to draw out the ten hour or so game to a potentially longer experience as you try to figure out just what you need to do next.
One of the few things that can be said about BloodRayne 2 is that it’s a nice looking title. The character model for Rayne looks extremely detailed, as do the character models for some of the main enemies. This does extend out to some of the backgrounds, many of which demonstrate plenty of breakable items. Most of the detritus scattered about from breaking objects usually stays on screen, along with the streams of blood from fallen opponents. Unfortunately, many of the basic enemies that you’ll fight are pretty generic looking, so you’ll often find yourself fighting off what looks like the same opponent (or type of opponent) many times through a level. There’s also a significant issue with clipping, with both Rayne and opponents getting stuck in walls or other objects quite often, which can be slightly difficult when you need to eliminate a specific number of opponents via trap or other means. There are also a few odd animation moments where attacks just don’t move together smoothly, making actions by characters seem slightly jerky.
Vocally, there’s a decent amount of acting done by the characters throughout the game, headed up primarily by Rayne herself. There are a number of snide quips and comments that she’ll make that seem in character with the take no prisoners attitude of the character. Again, the thugs who’ll try to sound tough don’t sound particularly good, but then again, they’re simply blade and fang fodder. The soundtrack is decent as well, although you will find the few songs found within the game to be somewhat repetitive and stale after a while.
BloodRayne 2, while not a huge leap for adventure gaming or even the franchise itself, is a good action title that will amuse players for a while. You’re not really going to find a lot of replayability with this game, but for the story and the action itself, it’s entertaining. If you’re a vampire or action junkie, you’ll probably dig this, but other gamers might want to look at this one as a rental before picking it up.