Vampires hold a special place in the mythos of pop culture. From their early days of elegance and Eastern European sophistication they have slowly devolved into the lusty dreams of Goths and sci-fi fan boys everywhere. Arguably since Wesley Snipes first strapped on the spandex for Blade the modern vampire has been a super slick killing machine – tainted by human blood to make him more accessible and scripted Hong Kong action style to a generic techno soundtrack. We’ve seen Underworld. We’ve unfortunately seen Van Helsing; and now we are treated to the latest emotionless, undead pretty face with Bloodrayne 2 – a dismally unoriginal follow up to a decent little action game.
Unoriginality begins early in this game. We all know that every vampiress has a dashing wit, a DD bust line, and a trench coat wearing sidekick with a passable foreign accent to be her guide. At least the first game added Nazi family members to mix for a little fun. Unable to come up with anything new and exciting for Bloodrayne 2 the writers have rehashed just about every horror clich? you can imagine. Your heroine’s family is still evil and plotting to take over the world, only this time it’s your seemingly limitless army of bastard half siblings laughing maniacally and devising ridiculous plot points. You know your storyline has been compromised when the great unmentionable evil presented by the villains is called The Shroud: a name synonymous with mediocre 90’s guitar Goth and doubtful religious relics in Italy.
Needless to say that storyline is not the game’s strong suit. Perhaps this could be forgiven if the game play was even the teensiest bit above average. There is nothing fundamentally horrible about Bloodrayne 2’s gameplay – if you are a die hard fan of the Legacy of Kain series. Just as in those vastly superior vampire titles, the gameplay breaks down into: hit a button, hit another button, hit two or three or twelve more and make a combo. Yes, you can auto-target enemies to make new moves, just as you could in Soul Reaver, or Zelda all the way back on the N64. You can kill enemies spectacularly at times in a few select ways. You can even go into a mindless blood rage and make mincemeat of the entire screen in a matter of seconds – not that you couldn’t really in normal mode.
That brings us to the next complaint – the sheer ease of gameplay. Normally, one would not complain about being able to enjoy a game with a minimum of frustration. However, usually one would actually want to see what happens next, rather than laugh at each successive ridiculous plot point. The game provides next to no fair challenge in terms of enemies or puzzles. In fact one could easily finish this game in less than 12 hours. It’s not exactly a fifty dollar value by a long shot.
The only thing keeping Bloodrayne 2 at said 12 hours is the occasionally controller-throwing worthy, poorly thought out jumping puzzles, and the inexplicably arcane methodology to dispatching bosses. Frankly some of the design makes no sense. Cut scenes attempt to be helpful in showing you the way through levels or bosses (hey, wasn’t that in Legacy of Kain too?) but they can also confuse and bewilder.
All right, the story is dull and the game play is average at best, surely there must be some redeeming eye candy. The graphics are certainly Bloodrayne 2’s strongest feature. Rayne, your creatively named main character, is beautifully modeled and moves fluidly. She hops around like the Prince in Prince of Persia and still somehow manages to be modest in her skimpy outfits. Stereotypical dark urban environments will make the fans of Poppy Z. Brite proud, but don’t particularly inspire. Once again, the graphics are nice, but feel borrowed from superior titles–shades of Devil May Cry and Resident Evil abound (and, if it hasn’t already been mentioned – Legacy of Kain).
While the animation of Rayne is lovely, many of the enemies are prone to glitches. Time and time again undead foes would just pop from the ground by magic. Perhaps this is their mighty vampiric power, or perhaps it’s just that this game was rushed and not tested thoroughly.
Sound wise, Bloodrayne 2 continues its trend of brilliant weakness by serving up insipid uninspired techno that would have been canned from even the Blade: Trinity OST. The voice acting is blah, apart from Rayne, and ads little to an already flimsy piece of gaming fluff.
What more needs to be said? Bloodrayne 2 forgoes the spunk of its predecessor in a vain attempt to update and build a franchise, and brings mediocrity to an all time record by managing to be absolutely average in every aspect except plot – where it manages to be different and be dismal. Save your money for a better female action hero, like Samus Aran.