Fighting and platforming is hard, but Rayne is still great fun despite the changes to her appearance and game style.
Rayne has been recruited by the Brimstone Society to investigate some vampire goings on at an underground castle, but really the story is irrelevant because there's so little of it. The whole game looks like a comic book, complete with comic-style writing in the menus and speech bubbles when someone is talking, but no actual voice-overs. Rayne herself is easily recognisable; her outfit design may have changed but is still the same colour, and she still has the same hairstyle and hair ribbons, and appears younger than before. Other characters are rendered using the same style as are the environments and everything looks very colourful and attractive.
The game is split into 15 fair-sized levels and Rayne gets about by using the coffin rocket. Basically, the coffin rocket is a coffin, has twin rockets on top and a drill underneath (because it's an underground castle, see?) and it marks the beginning and end of most levels. Rayne can even kick the doors off when she enters a level with the right timing. Checkpoints are marked by a large blood fountain that restores your health on contact. Once in a level, Rayne can run, jump and attack in a variety of ways, including ground and air blade attacks, head-hops, ground pounds and a dash move that briefly makes you invincible to most attacks and can also be performed in the air. Being half-vampire, Rayne can bite human-shaped enemies and suck their blood to restore health. An interesting feature that has been added is when Rayne bites an enemy, she can release them early. This infects that enemy (with what exactly?!) and remote-detonate them to injure or kill other enemies. And if there's an enemy out of range, you can always fire her Magnum pistol to knock down everything in its way. The number of bullets you have is limited though, so you can't be too trigger-happy. You face the odd enemy in the level, but more usually you face them in sections of the level that confines you to the area on-screen until you kill every wave that appears. When locked in to a combat area, you can earn bonus points for clearing all enemies quickly, and also for not getting hit. Clearing a level quickly and with minimal damage earns you bonuses on top of your level score. The higher your score the higher your rank, which incidentally are posted on-line on leaderboards.
BloodRayne: Betrayal is a hard game, in both combat and platforming. It's not as hard as, say, Ninja Gaiden or Demon's Souls (not by a long way) but at first it does evoke the same "learn fast or die often" feeling. It's made so partially by the fact that moves cannot be interrupted (the key is not to button-mash), and also the sheer challenge the game sometimes throws your way. The first enemy type you encounter right at the beginning of the first level can hit you with a sword up close. But it's a bit of a surprise when one suddenly pulls a pistol and shoots you from across the screen while you're trying to hack a second to pieces. The enemy variety is decent but their attacks are entirely different, forcing you to keep an eye on all the enemies on-screen to make sure you're not caught out. Fortunately it doesn't take long to learn the controls (and incidentally not all the controller buttons are used) so dying often shouldn't happen to you once you get into the swing of things. You will get hit often though, until you learn you can't interrupt attacks with a dash.
In addition to all the combat Rayne does a fair bit of platforming, and not just jumping from one platform to another and the odd wall jump and backflip. Okay that's how it starts, but later you will have to learn to string jumps, dashes, wall jumps, mid-air blade slices and head-hopping off flying bugs just to keep yourself airborne. And there's even a frustrating battle that occurs against two pairs of flying enemies in a locked-in area over a pit, with only a disappearing platform and small bugs to head-hop off. Trap variety is also good considering they also rely on a number of common elements, just like enemy encounters, but the mixes and placement constantly keeps things different. The castle is not above suddenly sending huge buzz-saw blades rolling towards you down corridors either and green acid pools will bring Rayne's journey to an abrupt end. Game loading times however are so short they are almost unnoticeable and are hardly worth the BloodRayne symbol appearing on-screen.
The game relies on a handful of decent musical tracks to carry it through, although they do start to grate after you've heard them two-dozen times. The only abilities you unlock as you go are the Solar Cannon that activates switches and fries enemies, and raven form which allows you to fly and access small spaces. Smashing certain relics and treasures earn you extra points, and those of you who are intent on gathering everything, there are vampire skulls to collect. Every five you pick up will earn you an upgrade to either your health or Magnum ammo. Bosses are not that frequent and don't require much brainpower, but are interesting in their own right and do require you to stay on your toes.
Ignoring the previous games, BloodRayne: Betrayal is a difficult but stylish looking game that slickly combines combat and platforming. It gives you a variety of moves, enemies and traps and presents them in new and interesting ways. The story is very light, but the focus is on the gameplay. It is fiendishly difficult in places, but if you keep your eyes open and don't get carried away with button-mashing, Rayne can flow very nicely from one encounter to another with quite a lot of grace. And blood obviously.