This stylish 2D action platformer is brutal, but satisfying combat and solid controls make it a fun experience.
+Fast-paced, solid gameplay & sharp controls
+Stylish new look with nice, gothic level designs and detailed parallax backgrounds
+Levels aren't that long, in regards to its hard difficulty
+Good Castlevania-like gothic metal soundtrack
+Almost nonexistent story
+Sometimes hard to keep track of Rayne on screen
+Very unforgiving overall; frustrations abound
The BloodRayne series hasn't exactly had a great track record over the years, but that's solely because Uwe Boll decided it'd be a good idea to adapt it into movies. The results, as you might've guessed, were just god-awful, forever putting a bad mark on the moderately well-received franchise. Developer WayForward (Shantae: Risky's Revenge, A Boy and His Blob) is striving to give this franchise some much needed redemption from the Boll movie travesty. With the release of BloodRayne: Betrayal, they're surely on the right track.
BloodRayne: Betrayal stars Rayne once again as she is recruited by the Brimstone Society to sabotage a vampire gathering. It doesn't take long for her to find out that her father, Kagan is in attendance, which gives Rayne the motivation to infiltrate the castle and kill him once and for all. As interesting as the premise sounds, there are unfortunately, barely any story elements in the game. There are times when Rayne engages in conversation with certain key characters, but those events are scarce and last only mere seconds.
While Betrayal isn't exactly heavy on narrative, it definitely is on slick and solid gameplay. Rayne has her standard melee attacks, with the occasional use of the left analog stick to trigger more advanced moves, (ala Devil May Cry) such as launching enemies into the air or extending your combos. Rayne also has a ranged attack via her gun to target faraway enemies, as well as the ability to grab and suck their blood to replenish health. Rayne can also infect enemies, which in turn makes them explode; a fun and useful tactic when surrounded by overwhelming numbers. Betrayal also has a point system that judges your performance on each chapter, ranging from killing enemies a certain way to finding treasure. You're given a rating at the end, depending on how many points you accumulated during a chapter. The game also has online leaderboards for those who want to show off their overall score to their friends and the world.
It's hard not to compare Betrayal to the Metroidvania games of old, though it isn't as open exploration-heavy as those titles were. While you can still backtrack in some levels in each chapter, moving on to the next part of that chapter blocks off those sections unless you start over from the beginning. And speaking of backtracking, there are plenty of red skulls to collect throughout the game. Earning enough of these skulls grants you the option to either increase your maximum health or ammo.
Controls take some time getting used to, but you eventually adapt to it. There's some skill involved in gracefully traversing Betrayal's dangerous stages, as you'll be dealing with plenty of trial-and-error. The game is especially unapologetic when it comes to forcing you to go outside your comfort zone, which makes the experience more intense and exciting. More often than not, you'll find yourself in situations where there's literally no choice but to utilize the rest of Rayne's platforming abilities, other than timing your jumps from narrow, moving platforms to the next. You'll have to bounce off heads and use the dash move to get through the game's toughest trials in record time, all while barely evading spikes, acid and giant grinder blades, as those can obviously reduce a large portion of your health and/or kill you in one shot. These deadly obstacles can actually be beneficial in a way, and you can use them to your advantage in battle.
However, the game isn't entirely merciless, as it has multiple checkpoints (via blood fountains) in every chapter. So if you find yourself in a seemingly impossible location, the checkpoints give you that extra push to keep going. The game's levels aren't particularly long compared to other similar titles like Shank, so it's likely you'll breathe a huge sigh of relief when you finally tackle a difficult segment of a chapter. Still, I can't get Betrayal's unforgiving nature out of the way. Platforming brutality is one thing, but that can prove too much for some when it also applies during combat. Enemies don't give you much leeway to gain ground after being knocked down. They'll make sure you stay down for good.
BloodRayne: Betrayal's level design is definitely its visual strong point, with some fantastic parallax work put into it. Backgrounds also look nice, and I'm impressed with how sharp everything looks. There's also an interesting amount of detail with the statues and various monuments that give the game its suitable, gothic look. The same can be said for Betrayal's soundtrack, as the heavy metal and somber piano themes are fairly reminiscent of Castlevania's music.
The variety in the character/enemy designs also contributes to Betrayal's visual appeal. On top of that, the lighting effects are well done, and the animations are very fluid, not to mention the frequent, appropriately cartoonish blood splatter. The only downside is that there are portions in the game when it's sometimes difficult to tell where Rayne is because there are a million things happening on-screen. It's also especially irritating because Betrayal deals with a lot of black and red color palettes, which are the same colors implemented in Rayne's character design. There are also moments where you have to fight enemies on a dark plane in the background, making it that much harder to keep track of Rayne, much less her shadow. This frustration also applies in majority of the game's boss fights.
Despite all my facepalm, hair pulling, teeth gritting, and screaming-my-freaking-head-off moments with BloodRayne: Betrayal, I still had fun. It is definitely not for the faint of heart, but those who brave this stylish 2D action platformer's punishing nature will find some enjoyment out of it. Other than that, it's great to see another BloodRayne title after the franchise hasn't seen much action in years. Hopefully, this'll open up more possibilities as to what direction the series could go, though Betrayal (and possibly the upcoming BloodRayne: The Shroud for the Nintendo 3DS) seems like a good starting point for that proposal.