Bloodrayne's an odd little game to be honest, neither a platformer nor an adventure; it's pitched between both genres. It contains a lethal dose of action and the central character is a Dhampir with some incredible paranormal powers - and hardly any of the weaknesses of her father's species. Born to a human mother, and a Vampire father agent Rayne works now for the mysterious Brimstone society in the years between the World Wars. But she is still haunted and consumed by the desire to find her father, perhaps to ask him why or even to kill him.
But before that she has bigger fish to fry, for the Nazi's have a secret paranormal operations group who are known as the Gegengheist Gruppe (Anti-ghost group) - the GGG are assigned the task of seeking out a supernatural means to bring Germany to power. And this is where the main bulk of the game takes place, after the simple training mission and the game's first mission set in Louisiana. But the game while being good, isn't great, it's a game that unfortunately does not quite hit the mark.
Especially on the PS2 since it is the weakest of the platforms, and almost feels a little rushed. Compared to the other platforms, but its still a pretty solid game and lots of fun - and in the end, that's really what counts. Bloodrayne's levels are divided into sections - some of which are larger than others and packed with things to kill - and really that's the driving force of the game. And there are many ways to off the opposition (Consisting of Zombie-like creatures and Nazis mostly) for Bloodrayne is imbued with heightened speed and a deadly arsenal of combat moves (Which increase as you play the game)
I must mention that the CGI in Bloodrayne is very well done and from the opening cinematic to the ending, all of the same quality, my firm favourite being the middle cinematic - you'll see the one I mean I'm sure when you play the game. But talking of the game, it's time to take it apart piece by piece and examine it. Firstly we'll start with the combat system.
Combat: Fluid and pretty well done, Bloodrayne's combat system feels pretty intuitive with a large range of combat moves and they link into some pretty effective combos. As the game progresses, Rayne can perform more and more moves with devastating effects, chopping her enemies into salsa. Get injured in combat and well, you can always leap onto a foe and chow down, for she is part Vampire and the animations for doing so are pretty cool to watch. As you fight you build up Bloodrage that can then be unleashed to a whirlwind of psychotic combat skills, time slows down partly for her and the screen tints red. Anything Rayne hits with her deadly silver blades is turned into meaty chunks and flung about in visceral bits and pieces.
I'll note here that the gore levels in Bloodrayne are pretty sick and the games full of claret - pints of it, spurting from severed limbs and mutilated corpses. But the game keeps everything fast flowing and arcade like so it's not as bad as say, Resident Evil. The enemies can be chopped into little bits though and that should please the violent crowd who like to unleash physical harm to nasty undead and naughty evildoers. Also Rayne can pick up and use all of the weapons in the game, so not only is she armed with huge razor sharp blades that are attached onto her arms - she can lay waste to her enemies with a variety of period firearms too.
Overall, the Combat system is pretty easy to use and once you're familiar with it you'll find that it can be quite fun to let lose the Dhampir mincing machine.
Animations: One thing that seems to put a lot of people off is the fact that the characters move a little too fast, they seem slightly less than human. This is all right in the terms of Rayne and her friends, but when you're dealing with Nazis I don't think it is. I think the problem is this - Rayne's animations and speed of her movement makes her look like a kewpie doll on acid, especially in certain cutscenes. Now I know she's supposed to be a Dhampir and have Vampire blood - but this kind of thing has raised some criticism from other people who've seen it. But overall the animation in the game is good; the death animations are wide and varied - coupled with the very slick dismemberment system this certainly will appeal to the hack/slash crowd of gamers.
She has a wide variety of aerial and fairly graceful moves, attacks, some of which are worth finding out as you play the game. I've never really liked going into too much depth and listing them out. Rayne herself is decently animated and when she goes into one of her long combos, the effect looks impressive.
Weapons: Guns, lots of Guns, that's right - it's stacked to the brim with firearms. The only problem is that they're all the same ballistic based guns; this tends to put a lot of the 'I like cool weapons' crowd off. There's the odd Panzerfaust and Panzershrek but even these weapons of mass destruction are not as great and getting in hand to hand and tearing people to bits with Rayne's deadly blades.
Additional to those rotating blades, Rayne is also armed with a Scorpion 'Mortal Kombatesque' style hook and chain, great for reeling in distant victims to take a nibble from. And she is a messy eater, when she chows down she sprays pints of claret across the floor and walls. Not really the most dainty of creatures, but that's really down to the fact that I suppose she hasn't got the time to dab her lips with a little hanky at the end of every meal - especially not in a firefight.
While you're busy eating from a Nazi or one of the many other creatures in the game, you can steer them around to act as a human shield. While you can't actually move them back and forth you can rotate them and line up your guns for some sneaky feeding-shot action. If things get too dangerous, you can also dismount and if you're lucky the being often will be so freaked out (especially if close to death) they'll run off.
Watch out also for neat little touches like Nazi guards running off when you sever only a hand, it's not hard to do, but they leave bloody trails that are easy to follow.
Powers: What Vampiresque game wouldn't be complete without the selection of supernatural powers? Rayne has a few and they're not exactly the most staggering in the world, but each of them has a function and they work very well. She has the power to see auras; this is used to find your way around the levels to your next location and your next target (These act like mini-bosses almost) that you must kill. The aura vision also shows the state of the target, aware, not aware and of course if they're injured or healthy.
She eventually gains the power to dilate time, and unlike Max Payne, this time dilation has no timer at all. She can keep in this state for as long as the player desires, everything slows down ala 'The Matrix' and you can dodge bullets and get behind some of the weaker opponents to deliver a sneaky nibble or two.
Extruded vision is another power Miss Rayne gets as well, her eyesight allows her to zoom in on distant targets and when coupled with a Sniper Rifle, it can make short work of far away sentries. Very important as some of the weapons have greater damage than others, and Rayne is not immortal.
Graphics: This is where the PS2 version of Bloodrayne falls down compared to the other platforms. It doesn't have the same flair as the others and certainly can't compete with the gorgeous bump mapping of the Xbox or the PC versions for instance. While the game also has some issues with camera and framerate on my beloved console, these are let downs that knock the game's score down I'm afraid, while I am the first to say that gameplay should come first - there must be a balance between gameplay and aesthetics. So there's nothing wondrously special about Bloodrayne graphics on the PS2 or nothing that wholly ruins it, I'd say they're about average for the game and coupled with a decent level design they bring the game out of the ranks of 'seen it all before' and into the bracket of 'ooh that looks nice'
It features some gorgeous locations and they are well put together, it's a pity the texturing wasn't done better and the game's cut-scenes weren't polished in game. It's pretty neat to be able to leap extremely high and land on some of the rafters and architecture. Before now I've gotten up to maddening heights, and as long as Rayne doesn't fall into a bottomless pit, she can land and take no health damage whatsoever. This makes some exciting gameplay and some spectacular acrobatic stunts.
This is all down to the architecture of the game's exterior levels, especially the giant German Castle at the end of the game. Seen in so many screenshots of late.
Sound: Rayne's moans as she feeds and the screams of the guards and punctuated by the hammering Sonics of gunfire. The sound is pretty good and the dialogue is ok, no award winning performances from the Voice Actors but nothing wholly cheesy either. So the game has decent sound, spot effects and makes good use of environmental audio and distorted sound in dilated time.
My final thoughts with Bloodrayne are that it's a fun and engaging action game with piles of bodies and dismembered corpses. The only criticism I have against it is the inclusion of a few levels where you're required to revisit those skills that made you famous in Half Life. Yes, I'm speaking about the dreaded 'Alien' jumpy world. There's one section of the game that's devoted to finding a certain artefact and it seems to have been hidden in a massive sprawling complex of lunatic jumps and leaps. Now Rayne has supernatural powers and can jump really high, but there's nothing more frustrating than having to climb up to the top again when you miss the last jump. This would have worked for a game that allowed you to save when and where you wanted, but Bloodrayne only saves properly between levels.
(The PS2 version has just dropped to £20 so it's now quite a bargain.)