Once again, yet another game brings us the ability to kill the eternal enemy of WWII, the Nazis. I can't really say that I am complaining, as I love killing Nazis in games. Maybe it is the style, maybe the old-fashioned mixed with new that tends to keep me going, but whatever it may be I never get tired of slaughtering them by the dozens. Thankfully, BloodRayne allows me to do that for entire levels, which is probably the main reason I stayed interested throughout.
This game by no means hides its intended audience, featuring huge amounts of blood, tons of limb-cutting, mutations, and plenty of blatantly overt sexual references. The first few are quite nice and have some great details, but the forced sexuality - chests jiggle often for no reason and drinking blood tends to sound like a porno movie - is often hysterical thanks to how poorly it's done. All of this aside from the breasts bit is part of the primary combat system, which is focused on melee and a dash of surprisingly weak guns. Really, almost all the combat is best done up-close, as none of the additional weapons deal as much damage as one might think. They tend to be better saved for boss battles or killing out-of-the-way enemies, although even then only if you absolutely must have range. The control is nice, simple, and very responsive, although the hit detection could use a bit of work. Slashing away tends to net hits about two out of every three swings and enemies can be hit outside the animations, and vice versa for you. It is not too much of a problem at first, but some of the enemies later on can be a tad bit annoying thanks to that.
Neither health nor weapons is never in short supply, and both come from the same source: anything that walks on two legs. Thanks to the vampiric heritage of our red-and-black leather-clad Rayne (how does she fight in those heels?), she can refill her health whenever a human or zombie is nearby by feeding on them. One of the nice things about this is that despite the obvious problem of it leaving her open to attack while drinking, if done standing up Rayne can use the draining body as a shield. If the victims happen to be holding a weapon, they will drop it and it gets added to her arsenal of up to six guns (plus grenades and a "special" gun). Melee is performed through two gigantic arm-blades, à la Battle Angel Alita, which cut through most anything, especially limbs. Pressing madly on the left trigger accomplishes that quite easily, and becomes even more powerful as Rayne learns more moves throughout. She also obtains various vision modes as the game progresses, but in terms of gameplay, those are useless 95% of the time and are there simply to look good.
The progression of the levels is perhaps where BloodRayne falters the most. It starts off with a series of what amounts to training levels as well as an introduction to the story, but none of them are all that interesting. The whole beginning is pretty bland and dry; my only desire to press on came from knowing Nazi killing was ahead. After some levels in a dark and murky Louisiana, the game switches time frames and locations and really starts to pick up. From here, Rayne's mission is now specific kills: she's given a checklist of Nazis to slaughter and is sent off to track down every last one. I found this to be much nicer then even random slaughter, whereas I am now tearing through enemies to find one in particular instead of blindly killing masses just for the heck of it. This checklist deal constitutes the majority of the rest of the game, and gives an odd sense of accomplishment each time another leader gets knocked off. Unfortunately, the levels dip back down into annoyance and mediocrity when the game hits a portion best likened to the end of Half-Life. It picked back up afterwards, but I was scared for a while that a crappy alien-style set of levels was going to infect the end and leave a bitter aftertaste, but was glad to find I was wrong.
One of the oddest things about BloodRayne is how the graphics are backwards in terms of technical design compared to most games. Almost all of the characters models are merely decent, but the textures on all except the main characters are horribly blurry and low-res and clipping is insanely rampant. This is especially odd considering that the details they placed everywhere are so well done, including everything I stated before. Soldiers can have their helmets knocked off, cloth whips around and can be shredded, and almost every object can be destroyed or broken. It seems so weird compared to many games these days that do their best to create incredibly detailed models and good looking textures but ultimately result in a sterile environment with little interaction.
The voices are another oddly ranging subject, which go from good to bad to good but recorded badly. A lot of voice-acting is merely decent, not going for cheese but clearly not top-of-the-line either, although Rayne's uttered quips during combat all seem to have been made too close to the microphone. This makes it sound exactly like it was recorded into a microphone, whereas everything else sounds perfectly normal. Next, in the "Why Aren't I Used to This by Now?" department, all of the Germans speak perfect English, but of course do so with merely an accent. In true comic-book form they still utter German every once in a while dripped here and there when yelling or for random terminology. Subtitles with actual German would have been great here, but then we probably would also need an explanation for why Rayne speaks German and English. On the bright side, having pure English did allow them to slip a few extra voice bits in, including a pretty good joke that can be overheard if Rayne sneaks up on some guards.
Really this game simply needed some more time to tune and polish, and then it could have been much more solid. As it stands it was good fun slaughtering Nazis, but not great enough that I feel pressed to return too quickly after beating it. I liked the design and their attempt at mission variety was actually good, unlike most action games. Too many try their hand at not making every mission the same thing but ultimately just end up creating something horrible, boring, or plain out frustrating. BloodRayne kept every mission goal-oriented enough to make me feel like I was actually progressing, but never let up on the pure action in doing so. I am simply thankful they did not want to try any protect or sneaking missions, I hate those like the plague in games where one should be doing nothing but blowing things up. At least the developers realized that when making this, and certainly made it an enjoyable trip.
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· · · MechDeus