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Written by Kevin Kennedy, @thekevmiester
Bloodrayne 2 continues the story of Rayne, the Dhampir (half human, half Vampire), as she works with the Brimstone society to deal with the Vampire menace, whilst also dealing with some personal issues. The sequel changes much of the formula of the first game, but is still very much a hack and slash adventure game maintaining it’s gothic undertones and heavy gore. Let’s find out if it improves on the original game.
Rayne is on a quest to kill her extended family after the chance of killing her own evil father is taken from her. On her quest for “vengeance” she starts to unravel a plot that suggests a Vampire attack on humanity itself is imminent. Tentatively working with the Brimstone society through her partner Severin, Rayne hunts down her “half sisters and brothers” before they can carry out their plan.
While the story is more on the forefront this time around and is a little better, there isn’t much to grab your interest. Rayne’s motivation feel rather weak and passionless to begin with as the major threat and most interesting aspect of the story is promptly removed early on and isn’t to be seen again until the final act. As such it’s almost like the first game, where you chase people down simply because you can.
Things start to get a bit more interesting towards the end, but by that time the tale is finished. The final cutscene hints to a story which sounds far more interesting than the previous two games (despite the only “sequel” being an XBLA title from 2011 with loose ties to the series at best). A major problem is that the story is lacking in any real charm, wit or personality, much like the characters themselves.
The character of Rayne is defined a bit more this time around. She still sits awkwardly between a “quiet, gothic girl” and a “feisty, uncontrollable teenager” but at least we get more of an idea of what she’s like. The only problem however is that she simply isn’t interesting. Her lines still aren’t delivered with much emotion and even if that were the point, she rarely has anything of merit to say. Her occasional banter with her partner has glimpses of characterisation in it but overall Rayne feels like something of a blank slate.
The enemies attempt a sort of demonic playfulness but are largely forgettable. You’ll run into them, banter ensues, then you fight. In a few scenes, there are glimmers of depth to the characters as there are talks of backstabbing and betrayals, but for people who are supposably your (kind of but not really) family, they may as well be the faceless Nazis from the first game.
To sum up, the story is better than the first game, but still not very memorable or worth telling. The occasional moments where Rayne seems remotely likeable are far too rare.
The combat system has almost been completely changed this time around and to be perfectly honest, the changes are for the worst. The first game may not have been perfect but at least it was responsive, made you feel quite powerful and had a decent pace to it. This time however, the combat is much more designed with a one-on-one mentality, bizarre given how many enemies there can be. The responsiveness and fast pace are replaced with clunky moves and frustration. Frankly, it’s very poor.
You’re hits barely seem to register, even when in “blood rage” mode. In the first game you could cut off three limbs in one combo, now it can be a challenge to even land a hit. I’ve nothing against a bit of challenge in my games, but to change so much and replace what worked with such a slow cumbersome system is baffling.
The few improvements on the first game (quickly turning human shields, a few more options with what to do with them and quick kills) are squandered on this game as the whole mentality has changed. I mentioned in my Bloodrayne review that all you can really do in combat is attack an enemy until they fall, after which you attack the next enemy. Though that game had a smorgasbord of options when compared to the sequel. At least before you had a bit more freedom to run about environments, here you are pushed down narrow hallways and simply asked to kill the same enemies for roughly 8-10 hours. It starts off boring and ends up frustrating.
I haven’t even touched on the game’s most common mechanic. Every so often, you will find yourself in a room with a limitless supply of bad guys. The only way to get out is to toss an enemy towards a certain point in the room with your harpoon chain. This weapon is hardly precise at the best of times, but add consistent enemies that keep flooding onto you, suffice to say it can be frustrating. I hope you like the segments though, because the game reuses the mechanic Ad Nauseum, to the point where it makes no sense. Need to get through a gate? Well better destroy the nearby printing press machine then which will cause a chain reaction and blow something through the gate.
Another new addition are the platforming elements which bare a striking resemblance to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, as you swing on bars, shimmy up poles and leap off walls. That’s where the comparisons end though. Platforming is dreadful; awkward, unresponsive and clunky. A frequent problem I ran into involved jumping off poles in completely the wrong direction for no obvious reason.
At times it feels like a coin toss, sometimes you’ll make it, sometimes Rayne will shimmy around and leap off a building. At it’s best, you’re doing simple forward flips which are easy enough, though even turning while swinging isn’t as easy as it should be. At it’s worst, however, it borders on unplayable. I slowly learned to grasp things, but I still held my breath every time I jumped.
The setting has left the 1930’s of the previous game and is now set in the present day. You’ll hardly get a chance to explore “not New York” though as you’ll spend the most of your time in dank dark alleyways, sewers and generally anywhere that keeps you feeling cramped. A boss fight near the end comes off as a breath of fresh air as you fight on a skyscraper, whizzing about on foot-rails that give you a nice view of the city (akin to a segment from Infamous).
Somewhat of a shame, as we begin the game in a fancy looking mansion, with Rayne wearing a sleek dress, but the game quickly devolves into the sewers, filled with plenty of drab colors and repetitive enemies.
The repetitive design in one thing, but we are often being told of more exciting things going on while we trudge along. Vampires are supposably revealing themselves to humans in an all out war. Police are called out and frantically fighting all over the city, yet you’re stuck in the sewers, fighting some giant fish thing that shoots acid from it’s tits.
As with before, the sound design is mostly unremarkable. There are quite a few awkward silences but nothing stands out as being too dreadful. In-fact, probably the best part of the game comes near the end, when for some reason the foot soldiers you fight have hilarious gangster voices. Like a mix between Vinnie Gognitti from Max Payne and Gilbert Gottfried. Between yelling something about having new shoes, asking if you have a boyfriend and, my personal favorite, “I’m going to kick your ass until you make me a sandwich”, it was the most enjoyment I got out of the game. Unfortunately, I don’t know how intentional it was.
If the best thing I can say about a game involves the voice acting of the foot soldiers, then you know the prognosis isn’t good. The first Bloodrayne may not have been perfect, but it had it’s moments and in short bursts could even be fun. Bloodrayne 2 on the other hand is a completely joyless experience. The game is functional at the most minimum level, though is never fun or enjoyable in the least. Even for those hoping for a “so bad it’s good game” should move elsewhere (I’d recommend Mission Impossible on the PS1 or Vampire Rain for that), Bloodrayne 2 is just plain bad.
The Final Word: A dull, repetitive, joyless game.