Blade II impressions
We take a look at the latest build of the game featuring the vampire hunter Blade.
Activision recently dropped by the GameSpot offices with new builds of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of Blade II. Though the game shares the same title as the film, Blade II actually takes place after the events that transpired in the movie. Blade initially seeks out the reasons why street gangs are supplying vampire clans with blood, but he soon finds that there's a larger plot involving three clans that are attempting to create a version of the reaper vampire that has no weaknesses. There will be around 20 levels spread over the various locations in which the vampire clans reside.
At the beginning of each mission, you'll have the opportunity to equip Blade with different types of weapons, ranging from shotguns and automatic weapons to his trademark glaive and ultraviolet light grenades. However, each item takes up a certain number of slots in Blade's inventory--for example, the shotgun and automatic weapon take up two spaces, while something like the UV grenade only takes up one space. As you progress through the game's levels, you'll come across small icons that give Blade points. These points can be used to unlock additional weapons and items for use later in the game.
Blade takes the daywalker sword on each mission by default, so you don't have to worry about making space for it in the inventory screen. But, since it's such an overpowering weapon, the sword has been incorporated as a special-move weapon, which prevents you from using it throughout an entire level. You can take out the sword and hack away at the hordes of vampires only after charging the first level of Blade's rage meter, and you can only use it for a limited time. The other two special rage moves are shield and strength, which make Blade invulnerable and give him extra strength for a certain period of time, respectively.
Of course, Blade will have a set of standard attacks as well. When equipped with a gun, Blade can take out enemies from a distance either manually or by using a targeting icon to lock on to a specific vampire. The glaive, which is the boomerang-like device with a curved blade on both ends, operates similarly but has the added bonus of being able to take out multiple enemies at one time. There are also a variety of punches and kicks that Blade can use, and when he's surrounded by multiple enemies, you can press the right analog stick in the direction of any enemy to keep him or her at bay with a swift kick. There are some special animations for most of Blade's moves, including one in which the camera cuts to a close-up of Blade and shows him either driving a stake or his sword through a vampire in dramatic fashion. You'll have to be careful and make sure that you don't attack any innocents, though, because if they happen to die, Blade will lose some of his points.
In its current stage of development, Blade II looks solid. The character model for Blade is quite detailed, and you'll notice plenty of details such as the weapons on his body and even the tattoos on his neck. The enemy character models also look good when you consider that the engine Blade II uses can support up to 30 enemies onscreen at once. We had a chance to take a look at a large group of enemies in a nightclub stage where there were dozens of vampires out on the dance floor, and surprisingly, the game seemed to handle it quite well. Currently, the Xbox version looks a little better than the PlayStation 2 version, with crisper visuals and slightly more refined special effects, but otherwise, the two versions look nearly identical.
Blade II is currently scheduled to ship for the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox in September, alongside the release of the film on DVD. You can check out new screenshots and movies from the PlayStation 2 version here.
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