Blood Omen 2 Review (PlayStation 2)
Blood Omen 2 is a fairly straightforward action adventure game, only with a lot more blood and a better main character than you'd normally find in such a game.
Blood Omen 2 is about Kain, an arrogant nobleman-turned-vampire who first starred in the 1996 PlayStation game Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Its spin-off sequel was Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, an outstanding game that introduced a new main character and made Kain the villain. Last year's Soul Reaver 2 was also impressive, even though it still didn't tie up the story's loose ends. The new Blood Omen 2, on the other hand, returns to the 1996 game's storyline and takes place before Soul Reaver. That's pretty confusing, but Blood Omen 2 is itself a fairly straightforward action adventure game, only with a lot more blood than you'd normally find in such a game. Soul Reaver fans will find a familiar experience in Blood Omen 2, but the new game lacks the innovation and the surprising drama that made the Soul Reaver series great. There's still a lot to like about Blood Omen 2, though much like the original, its fiendish main character is the best thing about it.
Kain is the main character of Blood Omen 2, but he's not the hero, and "antihero" isn't the right way to describe him either. In Blood Omen 2, Kain is not heroic in the least. He's one of the only main characters in gaming who comes across as purely evil--he is not only a vampire, but also a savage killer. Interestingly, he still represents the moral center of Blood Omen 2--unlike his foes, Kain is thoroughly sincere and never minces his words, and in doing so, he remains a very intriguing protagonist. He is brought to life by the voice of Simon Templeman, who's portrayed him in all four Legacy of Kain games. Here, Templeman hams it up as good as ever, smoothly delivering Kain's lines in perfectly sinister fashion. With a couple of exceptions, the rest of the game's voice actors don't stand out as much, and the dialogue in Blood Omen 2--which is as long-winded as ever--generally isn't quite as engaging as that of the Soul Reaver games. The plot itself isn't particularly inspired either. Kain awakens hundreds of years after the events of the first Blood Omen, in a world occupied by both magic and technology. He reluctantly joins with a vampire resistance to restore rule over the world to the vampires.
The gameplay itself is reminiscent of Soul Reaver's, only stripped of Soul Reaver's more-original mechanics, though Blood Omen 2 does have a few of its own. Unlike in Soul Reaver 2, which emphasized puzzle solving over action elements, Blood Omen 2 is primarily an action game. As Kain, you'll have to slaughter countless human and inhuman foes with either your claws or a number of different melee weapons. Combat is pretty simple--at the touch of a button, you turn to face the nearest foe, at which point you can either attack or block. There's an optional blocking mode that forces you to properly time your deflections of enemy attacks, but you can also set it so that you can press and hold the block button to repel just about anything the enemy throws at you. You'll just have to look out for the occasional slow but unblockable attack, and since most enemies follow simple patterns, soon enough you'll learn to exploit them.
Aside from hacking at them, Kain can grab his foes, hoisting them up off the ground by their necks. Depending on which weapon he's carrying at the time, Kain can then perform all kinds of wicked acts on the struggling enemy. When he kills a foe, Kain can suck his or her blood, drawing it out of open wounds telekinetically. This restores Kain's health, and it gives him experience points that can increase his maximum health--so basically, you have to suck the blood out of every foe you kill. Tougher foes later on have lots of blood, so according to our best estimate, Kain will have guzzled between 3,000 and 3,200 gallons of blood during Blood Omen 2, depending on how many times it takes you to get through some of the tougher parts. How he retains his slender figure after drinking so much blood is anyone's guess. The blood-sucking effect is well done, but you'll have long since grown tired of it by the end of the game.
You'll often fight more than one foe at a time, and you'll notice then that the enemy behavior in Blood Omen 2 is a lot like what you'd find in a bad '70s kung fu movie--enemies attack one at a time and do nothing to help their buddies, whom you're pounding to death. Collision detection in Blood Omen 2 is terrible. Kain gladly attacks his foes while they're down, but only if they're at death's door--for some reason, you can't pursue your attack against a relatively healthy opponent whom you've managed to knock down. On many occasions, you'll see your attacks blatantly pass right through your foes, an effect that's most disappointing when your enemies somehow manage to crouch to avoid a vertical sword slash. What's also inexplicable is that while you can throw foes off ledges to their deaths, you can't just knock them off. Beyond that, Kain will have to fight a number of powerful renegade vampires during the course of Blood Omen 2, in multistaged boss battles reminiscent of those in Metal Gear Solid, only not as exciting. There's usually some trick you'll need to figure out to defeat these foes, and the fight becomes trivial once you figure out what to do. The minimal use of music during most of these sequences really detracts from what could have been some of the game's more intense action scenes.