When the original versions of BloodRayne came out in 2002, it came out with a lot of gushing flair, all of which emphasized the sultriness and bad-tempered demeanour of its bitter and violently vengeful protagonist. While there were a lot of rumblings that BloodRayne's themes were rather exploitative and it bore more than a little resemblance to a certain Marvel Comics IP, it is difficult to deny that few video games dared to do what BloodRayne did – thus, it was somewhat of a pleasant surprise to some of the more jaded of game consumers.
The console versions of BloodRayne broke a silent, almost-taboo cultural barrier in game-making, and even had enough of a measure of success to spawn more games and even a movie (all of which attempted to feed off the popularity of franchise).
Almost a year later, that appeal would be gone. Prejudiced skeptics would see the PC version as yet another half-hearted port of a console game, and unfortunately, their suspicions would be quite right.
As to be expected of a ported game, the story hasn't changed in any way. The main player character is Rayne, a half-vampire with a huge chip on her shoulder against her father's pure-blooded eldritch kind. However, the story does not directly involve a hunt that culminates in the death of vampires (though a few of Rayne's victims are vampires), but instead the antagonists are of the sort that had been used umpteenth times in video games: the Nazis.
Granted, the Nazis in the BloodRayne are only referred to by name; anything else about them had been altered to fit laws that are borne from the stigma of World War II. They also have very forced and stereotypical Deutsche accents and remarks. Thus, the issue of gory violence having to be inflicted upon them can become a non-issue, as is always the case whenever Nazis are typically used as the villains in a work of fiction.
The writers try to tie the Nazis' typically nefarious plans into Rayne's quest to track down her father, but ultimately the story is little more than an excuse to have Rayne rending her way through squad after squad of Nazis, with some non-mortal enemies on the side to mix up the pace. Furthermore, the game conveniently exploits the myths and truths surrounding the (real) Nazis' delving into the paranormal and pseudo-science, thus having an excuse to pit outrageous, "experimentally-enhanced" (to quote a certain character in the game) bosses against Rayne too.
All such enemies would have been quite fun to slay, and they somewhat are, but eventually, the discerning player would notice that the game ceaselessly throws waves after waves of recycled enemies at Rayne, with the Nazis being a favorite of the repetition. Furthermore, levels often tend to take place in old ruins during the night, in the underground, in (usually Nazi-populated) dungeons and indoor Nazi bases, which give a handy excuse for the developers to limit drawing distances. Players who had been hoping for more variety in the experience of playing would be quite disappointed.
On the other hand, cutting up enemies can seem quite a thrill, at least for a while. Perhaps one aspect of the game's designs that can be considered to be a solid contribution to the field of game development is how the game easily divides up enemy models into gory, bloody parts whenever Rayne gives them a killing blow that can decapitate them.
An observant player would notice that many models in the game (especially those of regular non-boss enemies) have many segmentations across their bodies, which facilitate the partition of their models into smaller bits with the appropriate surface textures that depict the exposed cross sections of their anatomy. Even the smaller bits can be cut up further, if the player wants to see how small the pieces of meat in this game can get.
However, the same player may eventually notice too that the segmentations are often across fixed planes. Even if Rayne's killing blow appears to have diced an enemy across a plane of certain orientation, the game may decide that the victim is cut up along another angle instead. When the player realizes this, the novelty of the game's capability at generating gore and fleshy parts would eventually wear off.
Rayne may not appear to have much martial training with the two blades and heel stilettos that she has, but her flurry of moves are impressively fast and furious enough to portray a sense of finesse. Watching her turn some hapless mortal idiots into dripping piles of gore can be sadistic fun, at least for a while.
Eventually though, the player would notice that there is not much direction to her fury, and this is partly due to the lack of any targeting feature to help the player focus on a single opponent. The best that the player can do is to move Rayne's model as close to an enemy's as possible so that the arcs of her attacks hit the latter's hitboxes, though some enemies do require a bit tactical thought to be defeated.
Speaking of tactics, one of Rayne's more advanced close combat moves is to jump at an enemy, make contact and then immediately jump off him/it. This tends to stagger or even knock down the target, but while this suggests that the player can make use of the target's momentary vulnerability to land some free hits, the recovery animation is not long enough for Rayne to cover the distance (from her rebounding leap) in time to make the most of this opportunity. Nevertheless, this is a great escape technique, and Rayne can rebound off multiple enemies in succession if the player can aim her jumps right.
Players who prefer close combat solutions would appreciate the Harpoon that Rayne would get early in her bloody adventure. As its name suggests, it is intended to be used to latch onto enemies that Rayne cannot immediately reach and haul them in. This mechanic shows off the rather entertaining physics of the game: enemies hurtle through the air in an amusing arc, and if they hit something, there would be a pleasing crunch. If they crash instead, they skid and roll in a satisfactory manner. Rayne can also launch and retract her Harpoon rather easily and rapidly, thus giving the player a lot of freedom in deciding whether to haul enemies in for a close-combat kill, just side-step out of the way and have them flying past or jabbing them repeatedly with the Harpoon (which does injure them) but without holding onto them long enough to lift them off their feet.
Most players would find it difficult to search for faults in the designs of the Harpoon.
Rayne can also use firearms, and being a half-vampire, has the strength to wield just about any gun in a single hand. She also has fantastic aim, which ensures that most of her shots will not be wasted. Moreover, her inhuman agility and jumping prowess allow her to stay one step ahead – or rather above – of most enemies, while shooting away at them with near impunity. Despite her supernatural strength, Rayne cannot carry heavy weapons like the Panzerfaust without using both hands, but she does not lose any mobility whatsoever while wielding them.
However, the novelty of a dead-eye half-vampire shooting World War II German guns akimbo would wear off quickly for the discerning player. This is due to a few issues, the worst being that the player lacks coherent control over her aim. The game does give an indication of who she may be shooting at by having her point her arms at the target and there is a button to switch targets, but there is no other visual aid or controlling feature that helps the player keep track of the target. Rayne may well be shooting at an off-screen target, and the player won't know what she is shooting at if he/she doesn't turn her (and thus the camera) around.
Furthermore, Rayne switches target as soon as the previous target is no longer in her direct line of sight. While aiming is not a problem against groups of enemies that have little cover to make use of, it will be if there are obstacles and terrain irregularities that they can run across while attempting to get closer to Rayne. Granted, most enemies in the game, the Nazi soldiers included, are too simple-minded to make use of cover (as much use as it would be if Rayne is too close for comfort anyway), but having Rayne rapidly switch targets without the player wanting her to do so can be rather annoying.
There is a mode where the player can manually control her aim, but this option is even more frustrating to use than the auto-aim, as will be explained shortly.
Rayne may be able to use explosives such as Dynamite sticks, but the player does not have much control over her throwing arc; Rayne simply tosses said explosives in front of her, and that's it. Considering the superhuman strength and dexterity that Rayne has, the game would have been a lot more fun if the player can have her throwing explosives over longer distances and with some modicum of aiming.
Perhaps as a balancing measure and a method to discourage players from resorting to guns too much, Rayne can only carry a limited number of weapons and is unable to reload any guns that she has stolen. She may only fire them until their magazines run dry, upon which she nonchalantly chucks empty guns away. While this may have been implemented to encourage players to adopt a mix of methods to deal with enemies, a particular boss fight will give the impression that the game designers do not seem to have kept this design policy in mind throughout the game (and this boss fight also concern the aforementioned mode). Furthermore, it also takes attention away from the variety of guns that this game has.
Rayne has a rage meter of sorts that fills up as she deals damage on enemies, eventually allowing the player to have her enter a state called "Blood Rage" where she deals a lot more damage with her blades (and with different sets of animations for these attacks). The game world, except Rayne, also slows down to a crawl, allowing her to dodge shots and other attacks quite easily; the smooth slowing-down effect can be quite impressive to watch in action, though players that have experienced games with similar time-slowing mechanics would not be much surprised.
However, it should be noted here that Blood Rage does not render her invulnerable. While she appears to be a bit more resilient in this state and is harder to knock down, she can still take damage.
Rayne can also expend some Rage outside of Blood Rage to make an especially powerful attack, but this attack is just not designed to be an effective or efficient; the animation that leads to the unleashing of the attack is too long to be practical, and the amount of damage that can be done by expending said Rage in Blood Rage is more than that which can be done with a Rage attack.
Later on, she gains the ability to perceive time at a slower pace. Dilated Perception does not require the expenditure of any accumulated energy, and can be toggled on or off at any time. However, the slow-down also applies to Rayne and the player's aiming, so the player may not be able to abuse this mode too much - though it can still be tempting to have it turned on almost all the time. As to be expected of the presentation of this slow-motion mode, sound effects drag out and voice-overs slur into almost incomprehensible drawls, so it may not be wise to have it turned on if there are things to listen to (not that much of these would be different from the usual gunfire, explosions, inhuman howls and stereotypical Nazi exclamations).
Using the excuse that Rayne is superhuman, Terminal Reality also gave her the ability to zoom and focus her sight on far-away objects, much like a telescope. The player can also aim and fire her guns manually in this mode. However, Extruded View is less useful than a player may think, despite the game's description of it as a scouting and sniping aid.
Game levels are usually designed in a linear manner, most faraway enemies can be reached with just some leaps and jumps (which is made easier with Dilated Perception) and most enemies are spawned into the game world when Rayne is close-by, so there is little incentive to scout.
Using Extruded View, oddly enough, requires Rayne to stand still. Considering that dodging enemies and their attacks is essential in combat, standing still is just not a wise thing to do. Moreover, the player has to aim using the directional keys; mouse-support is practically missing from the game, as is typical of a straight port. This can be very cumbersome, thus reducing the utility of Extruded View even more.
Most players wouldn't bother with Extruded View, but unfortunately, its use is forced onto them during one of the pivotal boss fights, where the boss can only be defeated by shooting its weak point. Regular aiming and shooting will not get through the mesh that covers the weak point, and Rayne is more than likely to hit somewhere else on the boss's model instead. Melee attacks are also useless, as the boss cannot be damaged by them either and it has a brutal melee attack that just discourage close combat. This boss fight can be one of the most frustrating battles.
Despite being mainly linear, the levels in the game can be quite large. Navigating them would have been a chore if not for Aura Sense, a power that Rayne has as part of the vampire race. Like Dilated Perception, Aura Sense is a toggled power that doesn't have any limits to its usage. In this mode, Rayne's objective – or wherever she needs to go to – is lit up against the background as a bright, wispy cloud. Enemies are also illuminated in a similar manner, with the colour of the clouds surrounding them denoting the health that they have remaining.
Aura Sense is useful if the level is set out in a linear sense and if there are only a handful of enemies to deal with at a time. However, some levels appear to have a lot of verticality and a lot of rooms, such as major Nazi installations; in these levels, the illumination of the objective doesn't help much as it doesn't tell which paths that the player should take to reach the target. Aura Sense also gets in the way if there are a lot of enemies clumped together: the clouds surrounding their models mingle, making it very difficult to single out individuals.
Considering that Aura Sense is intended to give the player a sense of direction and to assist in monitoring the health of enemies, the gaseous cloud visuals only seem to act against its purpose.
While playing as a half-vampire who has powers beyond that of a mere mortal can be fun initially, the amount of special powers that are revealed to the player peters out rather early on in the adventure, leaving the player to deal with progressively more troublesome – and repetitive – enemies with whatever powers that she has. Thus, there is a limit to the appeal of playing as a powerful half-vampire that can take on whatever that is in her way.
The enemies that Rayne would fight appear to be a very varied bunch. The story starts off with tried-and-true zombie archetypes, eventually escalating to trigger-happy Nazis, nimble lycanthropes and body-possessing abominations. Their in-game models are satisfactorily different, with the highlight being those of the Nazis, who are decked out in multitudes of uniforms, insignia and headwear.
Yet, the enemies may be a visual treat, but the challenge to be had from fighting them may not be as enjoyable.
As mentioned earlier, most of them are very single-minded in taking down Rayne. Upon being placed into the game world, they will actively seek her out, regardless of where she is and whether they have reasonably spotted her or not. The game does attempt to mask such typical enemy designs by having them spawn around the corner, from nearby doors, or jumping through windows to give the impression that they have just arrived on the scene.
While it is somewhat acceptable for inhuman and/or feral enemies to just rush Rayne pell-mell while doing whatever special attacks that they can do, such as the leaping attacks of certain werewolf-like creatures, it would not be as acceptable for the human soldiers in this game to behave in the way that they do.
Far from being the well-trained soldiers that would have been attached to important Nazi operations, the Nazis tend to attack in a rabble-like manner, not making much use of cover or squad tactics. Granted, they do happily stand far away to shoot at Rayne when they can (though they aren't too concerned about friendly fire), they do attempt to keep their distance away from Rayne's blades and they do toss the occasional grenade, but that is just about all they do. On the other hand, they are about as stubborn as fanatical Nazis who believe in their own supremacy would have been.
Despite their typical designs, there may be some entertainment to be had from the AI scripts of enemies. Many levels have Rayne's enemies fighting each other, especially the Nazis' struggles against incursions of inhuman monsters. It can be fun to just watch them cut and/or gun down each other.
Regular enemies in the game serve as fodder for Rayne, both thematically and literally. Rayne, being half-vampire, can only heal by draining the blood of any humanoid-shaped victim. She can not only hop onto human soldiers to feed, but also ghastly zombies and other creatures whom a player would not have expected to be so palatable a source of blood for a vampire. Regaining health can be rather fast, if it is uninterrupted, and feeding can continue as long as the hapless victim still has health.
Feeding is perhaps one of the most entertaining mechanics in the game – but also one of the most frustrating, due to a few careless design oversights on the part of the developers.
The more interesting and fun designs of the feeding mechanic is how the game balances its advantages. Feeding renders a victim completely helpless, and if the player decides that it is prudent to stop feeding, the victim immediately dies after Rayne detaches from him/it. This allows the player to devastate a closely-packed mob by hopping from one victim to the next one until they are all dead, thus saving time that would have been spent carving them up. However, more formidable enemies in the latter parts of the game can shove Rayne away if they see an attempt at feeding coming, and these enemies also tend to be the ones that can deflect her Harpoon too.
The act of feeding also renders Rayne vulnerable to attacks. Regardless of who her victim is, all enemies will continue attacking Rayne, even if the victim is their compatriot or kin. Fortunately, the player can rotate Rayne's victim, thus placing him/it in the way of incoming attacks to reduce Rayne's exposure (though the victim obviously gets wounded and may die faster).
However, the game does not make it easy for the player to rotate the victim to block incoming harm. The game designers perhaps have decided that the act of feeding itself should be viewed up-close (and to the sounds of a lot of suggestive noises from Rayne too). Although such changes to the camera may be entertaining to some initially, the consequence is that the camera is next to useless at helping the player keep tabs on nearby enemies.
Considering that feeding is the only way for Rayne to keep her health up, the game conveniently has regular enemies respawning during most boss fights, so that a player can theoretically catch one of them and regain health. Unfortunately, in practice, this is difficult to pull off, because the bosses often have powerful attacks that will tear through Rayne's victim and harm her too, likely eliminating whatever gain in health that she has obtained in the meantime. Attempting to lure regular enemies behind cover and away from the bosses is difficult too, because bosses tend to be a lot faster than regular enemies and cover is sometimes destructible in boss fight sequences.
All these designs suggest that while the developers may have thought that the feeding mechanic would be a novel idea on paper, they failed to implement it in a manner that is conducive to the gameplay.
The boss fights in the game, including their preludes and aftermaths, are perhaps the only aspects of the game that give it character. The bosses are a motley crew of supernatural beasts (both self-aware and feral) and empowered and/or non-mortal Nazi officers, which often have interesting, if somewhat campy, things to say to Rayne that furthers the plot, as well as make the usual villainy taunts and threats. Their aesthetic designs are also quite impressive, such as a vampiric Teutonic noblewoman who also happens to be a field surgeon that fights with bonesaws, and a lycanthropic lord that has regeneration powers so prodigious that it can split and grow into multiple copies of itself that complete each other's sentences after being decapitated.
Unfortunately, the character designs of these bosses also reveal the weaknesses in Rayne's own character designs. She is brusque, foul-mouthed and most importantly, voiced by a voice-actress that sometimes forget to make the proper inflections. It would be difficult for most players to consider her more amusing than the villains.
When it came out on the first Xbox and PS2 in 2002, BloodRayne was a relatively gorgeous game. There were a lot of models, textures and animations in the game, and it ran quite smoothly on the sixth generation consoles. Unfortunately, the PC version appears to only reveal Terminal Reality's poor efforts at optimizing the game for the desktop platform.
While the graphics of the PC version certainly aren't aesthetically worse than those of its one-year-old predecessors, they are not any better either. Furthermore, the hardware requirements of the PC version are rather steep for its time, considering that certain other contemporary games on the PC platform can produce sharper-looking graphics with the same hardware.
On the other hand, the sound designs in the console versions were more successfully transferred than its graphics. As to be expected of a game that has a heroine with a penchant for slicing and dicing things up most bloodily, the sound effects of flesh being churned and ichor being drawn are suitably satisfying. Gunfire packs enough aural power, and inhuman creatures in this game has sound designs that are adequately ghastly, with the highlight being a certain parasitic creature that forcibly takes over a mortal victim's body by forcing out their craniums with a squelchy crunch.
The soundtracks range from the adrenaline-thumping for scenes of high urgency to ominous tunes for the more foreboding of locales, though they are quite unremarkable and forgettable.
To summarize this review, BloodRayne could have been ported to the PC platform more effectively and could have made better use of desktop machine hardware at the time, but Terminal Reality didn't appear to have any more interest than making a barely adequate transfer.