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Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Terminal Reality
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:
Vampires, giant spiders, Nazis... and then it gets weird! Bloodrayne is aptly named, for the showers of blood and guts that accompany you everywhere you travel in the game. A really interesting experiment, and one well worth playing if you like a heavy dose of action.

The graphics are very well done, to the point that most elements of this 3D Action game can be destroyed, marked up or otherwise affected. Hanging fabric ripples and moves realistically when you walk through it, and if you slash it with your swords, it rips in several different areas. Slash the wall, and you'll see a mark. Slash a bookshelf and the books fly everywhere, torn to shreds by your sharp blades. Hell, even billiard balls can be knocked off the table and shot across the room! Many of the special effects used to illustrate Bloodrayne's heightened senses look awesome. At least one or two of them actually add a great deal to the gaming experience by really complementing gameplay. The others are cool, but mostly just eye candy. Not that I don't mind a little eye candy. The contortions Bloodrayne goes through in the normal course of her adventure are so wild as to be almost over the top. For instance, leaping onto a soldier and sucking his blood completely looks like some twisted love scene, and usually the guy fires his gun right before he dies. Fires his gun and expires... Man, someone really pushed it on that one. Still, the sexual innuendo is subtle compared to the foul language Bloodrayne uses and her teasing comments. The 'F' word makes an appearance, and although you may be a bit shocked by some of the content, the voices are done well. The enemy chatter is especially involved, and gives a sense that the AI is better than it really is.

Many of the usual camera issues plague Bloodrayne, including complete lack of any intelligent camera control. Buggy edge detection can leave you stuck or at least swimming in a solid wall, which is more than a little annoying, and the ability to pull off special moves is sometimes hindered by obstacles blocking you in ways you can't seem to avoid. Frustration was a fairly common factor of play, but the frenzied action may pull you through the rough spots. Also, the engine does a great job of rendering realistic effects for objects, as mentioned above, but it isn't matched by a consistently high visual design for characters and levels. As you get close to characters, you see how little detail is used to flesh them out, and I'd compare the overall effect to any standard FPS. Throw in all the little visual effects as Bloodrayne uses her special powers and you've got some pretty things to look at. The whole package is enticing, if a bit indulgent visually.

If complicated games with thousands of pages of dialogue and lots of fancy upgrades and build-your-own editors don't thrill you anymore, you might be in need of a mindless killing spree. Better still, if the last Soul Reaver left you cold and craving some vampire action, you'll find the real thing here. I'm still a little fuzzy on the story, but it involves a direct rip from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' Nazis obsessed with anything that could offer Hitler victory are searching for occult memorabilia, breeding genetic monstrosities and basically just doing what Nazis do best. Luckily, Super Agent Bloodrayne has been put on the case and is determined to stop the Nazi threat. The game starts in Louisiana and takes its time introducing all the critical things you'll need to master Bloodrayne. Battle, exploring and inventory control are all touched on, not in some sterile lab environment, but out in the field. The bloody field... An entire town in the bayou has been infected with some strange disease, turning the people into zombies and creating hordes of monsters that (my theory) may be twisted, transformed 6-foot crawdads. You'll get a nice taste of the action playing through several stages, and if you're good you'll gather a ton of weapons and learn some special moves.

Bloodrayne is interesting as a twist on the usual vampire-killer game because she is both a killer AND a vampire. And not that cool, pensive vampire we saw in Soul Reaver either... Bloodrayne is about as pensive as a pair of brass knuckles, and still definitely cool. The character isn't developed much, but the special powers you earn as you go through the game add to the net effect.

In some ways, this is a variation on the old Final Fight formula. Wade through wild beasts and zombies, slicing and shooting your way to the objective. Defeat a boss and move on. Luckily, it works out to be much more interesting than that. Sure, you spend most of your time kicking ass. If a particular objective involves finding a secret area, you can switch to Aura Sense and see objectives clearly in front of you as a blue glow. Follow the glow and find the objective. You can even see a little arrow showing whether the place you need is above or below you in the small radar finder you have in your H.U.D. on screen. Bosses are tremendous, and the enemy action is smart enough to keep you very engaged. Weapon pickups and the ability to quickly cycle through lots of weapons keep battles exciting even when you've faced off against the same enemy a jillion times. And, when Bloodrayne loses enough health, she doesn't reach for a healthpack or anything cheesy like that. No, this vampy bitch will grab you and suck the blood right out of you, using you as a human shield during an intense gun battle. If that's not adding insult to injury, I don't know what is... The action-driven gameplay will hold a special place in the hearts of those who don't care a lick for games that last 50+ hours and have you scrolling through lots of text and reconfiguring items. If your favorite gameplay action is reconfiguring someone's head through a wall, you're gonna dig Bloodrayne.

Multiple difficulty settings accommodate novice players, and with the 'M' rating it's safe to say few young kids (without a fake I.D.) will be playing Bloodrayne soon. Still, the real question is whether casual action fans will enjoy this fast-paced game. Even the first boss fight (awesome!) proved to be very manageable with a little thought and some steady button pushing. But, that was just the first boss... Enemies really gang up on Bloodrayne, and she has to use every single trick at her disposal in the later levels to survive. Drinking blood is a neat trick, but when 10 guys are shooting at you and you're losing more blood than you can drink, you'll understand why entry-level gamers may hit a wall in the later stages of the game. Luckily, there are plenty of save points.

Game Mechanics:
The coolest things in the game are really the gadgets and goodies Bloodrayne pulls out of her bag of tricks during battle. She can jump super high, strafe and perform some impressive aerial maneuvers, but the real good stuff comes when she causes enough carnage to enable her Blood Rage ability. With a button press after you see your blood lust meter has filled and a message on screen says you can 'rage,' Bloodrayne gets all nasty and starts tearing around (still under your control) doing insane attacks, cutting humans into lots of little pieces and causing damage to boss monsters at higher levels. Apart from this earned mode, you can eventually switch into other view modes that slow down time, letting you dodge bullets and come up behind humans before they even have a chance to let out a yelp. You can also go into a sniper mode, but since Bloodrayne isn't a giant robot you'll need to have a sniper rifle available for maximum effect.

The weapons feel more like what you'd expect to find in a FPS, with over 30 different pieces you'll use during the game. Bloodrayne can carry up to 8 weapons at a time, and switch between them according to light (pistols), heavy (rifles, machine guns), explosive or Special weaponry. If you run out of ammo, you'll just switch to the next available weapon, and getting another weapon or reloading is accomplished by killing enemies and walking over the gun icon you'll see when they fall. If guns fail, Bloodrayne always has the twin blades attached to her arms that cause tons of friggin' damage and a harpoon she can use to reel in enemies and drink their blood. It's all easy and elegant and geared toward maximum carnage with minimum effort expended. Perfect esthetic for an Action game, don't ya think?

Bloodrayne might only be an adrenaline rush of a fighting game from start to finish, but it does a damn good job in that department. More depth in story or more varied missions would have elevated a simple shot in the arm to a contender for mass consumption. Like Shinobi, which basically translates the pacing and frenzy of the old-school to a new 3D landscape, Bloodrayne offers a lean, quick jolt of action that comes across like a triple shot of espresso compared to most of the so-called 'action' thrillers on the market.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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