The early 2000s were a great time for campy, ass-kicking vampire media. Kate Beckinsale busted heads as mysterious vampire enforcer Selene in Underworld; Wesley Snipes once again donned the mantle of half-vampire, half-human, all badass vampire hunter Blade in Blade II. It was also around that time a sexy, leather-clad half-vampire with flaming red hair named Rayne made her bloody videogame debut on PlayStation 2 in BloodRayne. Wielding her signature twin arm blades and a hodge-podge of deadly firearms, she hacked, slashed, and dismembered her way into iconic videogame heroine status. Fast forward almost two decades and retro enthusiast publisher Ziggurat Interactive is trying to pump new blood into the franchise with a host of reworked console ports.
While not a remake or remaster per se, ReVamped is a souped-up port of the original version. While smoothing out the technical nuts and bolts, they also upscaled the cinematics while adding higher resolution, supporting up to 4K. The lighting, textures, and effects also got touched up, resulting in ReVamped being the best-looking version of Bloodrayne out there, plus it runs flawlessly. The thing is; even though the framerate is stable and the graphics are crisp and clean, BloodRayne is still a nearly twenty-year-old game and it shows. The models aren’t too bad in most cases, but the backgrounds are where the limitations are felt most. It isn’t a deal-breaker: just don’t go into it thinking you’re going to get a next-gen experience.
BloodRayne is set in the span of 1930-38 and is about a dhampir (half human, half vamp) who attracts the attention of the Brimstone Society while hunting down vampires in order to find her true father. Dedicated to taking on supernatural threats to humanity, they recruit Rayne with promises of helping her find her wayward vampire sire. After a brief time jump the game starts proper, with Rayne and her mentor Mynce scouring a town in Louisiana for the source of a disease that is turning humans into mindless Mutates. Think disfigured, zombie-like abominations. This is the first of the three parts that make up the game; the other two take place in a secret Nazi base in Argentina and then a final showdown for the fate of humanity in a vampire-infested Nazi castle Gaostadt. Without giving too much away, the gist of it is that the Nazis are trying to gain power through the occult; specifically, the artifacts of the original devil Beliar. Nazis are gonna Nazi, am I right? The whole supernatural Nazi element pushes the story into campy action flick territory and I’m totally down with that, as it fits perfectly with the stereotypical sexy femme fatale that Rayne embodies, even down to her quips while dismembering her foes.
While the game is a horror-themed 3rd person action game, it isn’t scary at all, falling mostly into the blood and gore side of the genre. You'll move from level to level slaying a variety of bad guys, following your various objectives and punching the occasional switch or two. Rayne’s main (and most deadly) weapon is her twin arm blades. These bad boys slice and dice and generally make a bloody mess of enemies. Literally. Expect to see body parts flying around and blood spattering the walls, especially when Rayne is enraged. Dealing damage and filling up the bloodlust meter sends Rayne into a rage at the push of a button, where time slows down and she unleashes devastating attacks and increases her chance of chopping enemies to pieces until either the meter runs out or once you tap the button again. It is incredibly satisfying to use and the meter fills up easily, so you can use it frequently. And since Rayne is so in touch with her bloodsucking heritage, it makes sense that she regains health by feeding on the bad guys. She can use this ability on almost every enemy except for bosses and the Daemites, which are like big floating heads on a worm-like body. The Daemites like to force themselves into the mouths of humans to tap into their brains and spinal cords to control their host, lovely little fellows. Early on Rayne gets a harpoon to let her pull in people at a distance to feed on, but it’s kind of a pain in the ass since there isn’t any type of lock-on system for it, so if you’re zipping around quickly in the heat of battle it will probably take you a few tries, but at that point you’ll be close enough to eat anyways. Sucking the blood of your enemies leaves you in a vulnerable position since you can’t move while feeding, but you can turn and place your victim’s body between you and the gunfire so you can eat in peace.
In addition to your melee blades, you will find plenty of guns to use. Firearms use a soft auto-aim feature so regardless of where you look, Rayne will aim in the general direction of the nearest baddie. You can carry four light guns, two heavy, one special (sniper, panzerfaust), and a couple of grenades. The combat is supposed to be fast and frenetic, and the way the gun system is handled is a product of that reasoning. You will never have to worry about inventory management or ammo counts and reloading. You automatically pick up whatever is nearby and Rayne will seamlessly fire until empty, drop ‘em and start firing the next gun in line. Instead of selecting an individual weapon, you can switch between which group of weapons you want to be equipped with. As you progress through the game, Rayne will unlock vision abilities that offer up some kind of advantage. Aura grants you night vision while lighting up nearby monsters and objectives. Dilated slows everything down Matrix bullet-time style, allowing you to flip around shooting and dodging like you were Neo himself. The last vision ability you receive comes near the end of part 2 and allows you to zoom in and shoot like a first-person shooter for better sniping, but there is very little reason to use it at this point. To be honest, I barely used any of these vision types aside from the time dilation, and even then that was used sparingly since I never found much of a need to slow things down.
One thing about BloodRayne that might catch new players off guard is the controls. While it is technically a third-person game and you may be inclined to use a traditional third-person control method, it is detrimental because it slows down your ability to run around slashing your opponents. Rayne is meant to be a lightning-quick, ruthless and agile fighter who doesn’t stand still and exchange blows but rather lashes at enemies and moves out of the way of their bullets and melee. You need to be constantly moving and attacking in multiple directions and since the guns and melee buttons are assigned to LB RB, you should use the first-person control scheme so you’re able to simultaneously move, strafe, and attack while adjusting the camera with the right stick. Even then the controls are awkward, since mashing LB as fast as you can while moving the left stick is uncomfortable, to say the least.
While BloodRayne: ReVamped clearly shows its age, it still has that little something special that endeared it with a generation of gamers. With Ziggurat bringing it back from the dead with their PC and console upgrades, who knows? Maybe a whole new generation will fall in love with the Nazi slicing, vampire dicing adventures of Rayne.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6.5/10
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