Bloodrayne 2 (Video Game, PC)

I’ll be frank, I’d never looked twice at the Bloodrayne series until Bloodrayne 2 landed on my doorstep. The adverts didn’t seem to stress anything more than the looks of their main character, but having now played the sequel, I feel like I was missing out on something rather fun.

Bloodrayne 2 is what you’d call an action adventure. Think God of War or Devil May Cry. Lots of killing, a smattering of platforming, minor puzzle solving and a story to tie the whole thing together. While it has varying levels of success achieving those different elements, the one thing it gets right is the most important. The combat.

But I’m jumping the gun here. For anyone unfamiliar with the storyline, Rayne, the main character is a half human half vampire; a dhampir. This means she can suck the blood of humans and vampires to recover when injured, and it also means she can perform all kinds of neat acrobatics (though flying or turning into bats and the like is left to the full blooded vampires). Her choice of revealing, and to be honest rather restrictive looking, outfits is never explained of course.

The story goes like this:

Rayne’s “father” Kagan, was a bad man. A vampire and a Nazi. He didn’t just rape and kill Rayne’s mother, but in order to insure she would come to him, he killed every member of Rayne’s family. That turned out to be a bad idea, as Rayne decided to go on a killing spree, track down Kagan, and kill him off.

She succeeded, and that was the game called Bloodrayne.

While the original took place in the thirties, the sequel takes place in the eighties. Unfortunately, while the graphics of the game are actually pretty top drawer in quality, that doesn’t translate into something that looks like “Miami Vice” with vampires, or at least The Lost Boys. A missed opportunity then that it should look like every other gritty urban game environment.

It also doesn’t mean you get a new wave soundtrack. It’s the same kind of techno gothic electro rock that you’d expect from action packed vampire movies in the post-Blade world.

Rayne has spent the last fifty years tracking down and killing every member of Kagan’s family, and Bloodrayne 2 kicks off when she starts getting the impression that the vampires are up to something. The story is unfortunately, arguably the weakest point of the game. For me, a story should provide motivation. I should want to save the day, or keep my character alive, or solve the mystery, or have my vengeance, but Bloodrayne 2 doesn’t really give me that kind of feeling. It leaves the game feeling rather shallow at times, but fortunately, the combat is satisfying enough to make up for that.

See, combat in Bloodrayne 2 is kind of different. In most games, the fun of the combat comes in the moments between the first and last blows of any given fight. You might be rewarded with a cool decapitation, or as in God of War, or a choice of finishing move, but in Bloodrayne 2 the focus of the combat isn’t the fight itself, but how you end it.

If the person is armed with a melee weapon you can jump on them and suck their blood for a health upgrade, or spear them with one of the two great big blades attached to your forearms and raise them up high for a “rage” upgrade, or stab them in the face and chest with your guns to refuel them, or slice them in half, decapitate them, partially decapitate them, or tag them with your spear, and fling them into a wall, of a cliff, or onto some helpfully placed pile of spiky things or a wood chipper or…

Well you get the picture anyway. Doing these kind of things usually ends up with large amounts of spurting blood, and severed limbs dotted around the place, and the game does a really good job at spurting blood. Do something fun like throw an enemy off a really high building and you might even be rewarded with a neat slow motion camera angle of their descent.

“Rage” allows Rayne to perform a number of special moves, though to be honest, the term “special moves” needs to be rethought, because like most every other game out there “special moves” means see in the dark and make enemies and objectives glow, bullet time, and super angry strong attack mode. There are a few others, but these too are more “seen it before” than special. Still, slow motion is a blessing, even if you only use it to watch the enemies flail and bleed and crunch as you cut through them like paper.

Rayne also picks up some guns shortly into the adventure, and while these add another option to the game, this is something that isn’t as well realized as the melee combat. It’s not broken or anything, it’s just nowhere near as fun. See, shooting an enemy from across the room is often going to see Rayne take more damage than if she were to just run up to them in slow motion and sliced them to shreds, and it’s also far less satisfying as they just fall over in one unsevered piece, leaking a lot less blood. Aiming is only done via a lock on system, so there’s no fun or reward for targeting any specific areas either.

Also, your chain is effective on all but the most remote enemies, making the guns seem rather useless. There are different modes and different powers, but since loading them up requires that you let them drain an enemy dry, instead of using that enemy to regenerate rage or health, unless the game is requiring you use them, you’re probably going to stick to the blades.

Sound effects are neither really here nor there, for the most part, and the music is fine, but not really anything that’s going to stick with you when you aren’t playing the game. There’s nothing wrong with game music that’s just there, but there’s a lot good atmospheric music can do.

The acrobatics that I mentioned earlier a bit stiff at times. While they’ve obviously based the game on the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time model, they’ve failed to capture the fluidity of that system. The pole swinging, rail sliding and wall jumping all work fine, and are unlikely to be a gripe you’ll have with the game, it’s just that Rayne looks so mechanical while performing them.

Puzzles are generally tied into the combat, and while occasionally a little obtuse, they’re pretty fun, requiring you to kill either a set number of enemies by flinging them to a gory death, or have a number of enemies being killed by separate things at the same time. It is at least different from the traditional key/door puzzles, and just seems to fit Rayne. She solves things by killing.

Control shouldn’t go unmentioned either; the camera is left totally down to the player either on the mouse or, should you have a pad, on the right thumbstick. Playing it with a mouse feels kind of weird, as if the game should be more like Max Payne and give you full aiming instead of a lock on system, and like most console ports it just doesn’t feel as smooth or fluid as it should. That said, it does work. I’m really not sure if I’d recommend you play this on a pad or a keyboard and mouse as both seem to work rather well. Personal preference really.

Saving is a gripe for me, as though each level features numerous checkpoints, they aren’t all save points, which means that if you have to switch the game off, you’ll often be faced with the choice of losing 15 – 30 minutes of progress or playing the game for 15 – 30 minutes more.

So in summary, BloodRayne 2 is a game with a fun melee combat system. It’s bloody, it’s sadistic, it’s good looking, and it’s fun…but it isn’t particularly challenging, nor the story gripping. Still if you’re a PC owner looking for an action adventure game play, then BloodRayne 2 is better than most.

3 out of 5

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