Blade 2 refrains itself from being anything more than something to sink your teeth into on a long weekend

User Rating: 6 | Blade II PS2
From the offset, you'd assume Blade 2 is like any other movie licenced tie-in: generic, buggy and overall missing out on the potential of the property in which it's based on. While Mucky Foot's interpretation of of this series definitely has a fair few tricks up it's sleeve (aside from the usual garlic, silver and sunlight) it could have been better endmost.

So before any of that let us make it clear that Blade is a Marvel property focused on a half-human vampire hunter. During the late 90s, Hollywood seemingly recognised the potential of the character by having him cast as Wesley Snipes and star in several surprisingly spectacular mature rated action flicks. They were violent, gory and as it would appear, converted into the interactive medium on Xbox and Playstation 2. Although in actuality, Mucky Foot's Blade 2 is set somewhere between the second and third films in the franchise. Most of the missions don't infact coincide with the events of Blade 2 the film yet do include characters (namely the carriers) that are central to the core of it's proceedings. As an action movie, the story of Blade 2 isn't particularly profound and it's light science fictional tones are fortunately cast aside rather tastefully in the game's visceral design. Instead the structure is spread out into straightforward mission load outs revolving around three campaigns.

Following a perfunctory tutorial and lackadaisical briefing from Blade's mentor, Whistler, you're whisked into the thick of your objectives and in effect the game itself. And truth be told, this is for the better as Blade 2's action is heavily invested in martial arts and hand to hand fighting. It's very old school, clearly taking alot of influence from older 2D brawlers like the Capcom CPS1 arcade game: Final Fight and Sega's own Mega Drive classic: Streets of Rage. Mucky Foot have taken their own artistic credit into establishing Blade 2 as this and have included a complicated combo system as a result, complete with a multi-tiered fighting system that makes it not only possible to fight several foes at one time but with natural and caustic controls. Blade 2's fighting controls are left entirely to the right analogue stick. At first, the method of using the right analogue stick would seem daunting, not to mention confusing, but with careful timing and placement it swiftly springs to be a very intuitive means of fist fighting, rewarding good players with adrenaline boosts and Blade's own katana for temporal periods and slick looking execution kills.

To already draw up a minor issue though, it completely subdues any other style of play and physical weapons in the form of the pistol, shotgun and especially the glaive aren't developed in nearly the same manner for close-quarters combat. The reality of the Blade 2's quality is largely dependent on the beat 'em up fighting system mentioned prior. What makes this one so bothersome is how the mission structure gets exploited. There are mixed messages as to what Mucky Foot were trying and while on one side it would appear that they wanted an arcade, score-line built brawler in Blade 2 however on the other it would seem that the non-linear level design and oddball capture and retrieve mission layouts are contrarian to this.

A single playthrough of one such mission can extend from fifteen minutes to twenty minutes because of this, often with some limited checkpoint starvation except on the mission preluding the eventual boss fight at the end of each campaign. It all becomes too formulaic and repetitive. Combine this problem with an irregular difficulty curve that makes some levels easy, some levels extraordinarily hard and you're bound to leave Blade 2 atleast fuming on one occasion or two. As with Oni also, the way projectile weapons work make it difficult to escape fights without being hit or being able to counter the hail of gunfire which can lead to a familiar scenario in which you're doing great up until you stumble on someone else's bullets.

While Blade 2 tonally captures the fighting and attention to detail on Blade's abilities as seen in the Hollywood pictures, the art-design, voice acting and music do not resonate the same way. It isn't surprising that Activision couldn't provide convincing replacements for Whistler, Blade or even the "suckheads" you get the kill in this late 2002 release but a complete lack of any licenced music featured in either film is an insult to fans of the series. Sound effects are unsurprisingly your stock choices for weapon sounds and hefty attack sounds, nothing out of the ordinary. Blade 2 does finally have a bright, cartoon-like sheen to its aesthetics. The prosaic city and nightclub scenes are replicated faithfully from the source material as are the sterile prison and laboratory environments seen later on. Characters may appear to be too angular, The blood and violence isn't as intense as it should be but Blade 2's engine looks and plays smooth as it should which is suitably solid for all it's worth. Unfortunately there is no 16:9 or 60Hz support either on the PAL version played.

Atleast Blade 2 is a competent enough action game to consider for a late night rental, the three campaigns would probably take you a good five to seven hours in gametime to complete for that matter. It is clear that Mucky Foot had venerable intentions with the beat 'em up layout as evidenced in the right analogue stick controls, but hampered with inconsistent and monotonous mission design besides lackluster presentation values, Blade 2 refrains itself from being anything more than something to sink your teeth into on a long weekend.