BloodRayne: Betrayal Review
Game: BloodRayne: Betrayal
Available on: PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360 (PlayStation 3 Version Reviewed)
If you had to pick a dormant game franchise from days of yore, and drag it kicking and screaming into 2011 with a dramatic reboot, then the chances are BloodRayne would not be anywhere near your thoughts, and rightly so. Majesco’s two third person action titles under the BloodRayne banner hardly set the world alight, and probably sold reasonably well purely because the protagonist Rayne had a big old set of pixelated vampire titties, and was considered sexy, if that sort of thing floats your boat.
Evidently it did something for crackpot German film director Uwe Boll, who somehow managed to round up a veritable galaxy of stars including Ben Kingsley and Michael Madsen to star in a movie adaptation of the games, which only narrowly missed out on six Golden Raspberry Awards in 2005, due to an unfortunate clash with horrific turkey sequel Basic Instinct 2. Boll followed his worthless movie with two progressively worse straight-to-DVD sequels, each one starring a different female lead, with the requirement being a shock of red hair and a willingness to lose their top. Needless to say, in 2011, the fair and good name of BloodRayne was pretty much in the gutter.
Amazingly, like a gaming equivalent of Mr Wolf from Pulp Fiction, developers WayForward have entered the fray to clean up the whole mess, and give a makeover to this most unlikely of reciepients. And a bit like finding a fiver in a pair of strides you haven’t worn for a while, Bloodrayne: Betrayal is a quite wonderful surprise.
WayForward have shown us before that they can do 2D gaming really well. Their Contra reboot for the Nintendo DS was a treat, and more recently they shamed the Unreal Engineered big consoles and shocked us all when their Thor movie tie-in for the DS turned out to be the best version of an otherwise dull game. BloodRayne: Betrayal easily trumps their former work, both aesthetically and in gameplay terms.
With super slick, high definition manga-esque visuals that are animated beautifully and rendered in striking colours, Betrayal follows the pendulously endowed dhampir (that is a vampire/mortal cross-breed to you or I) Rayne as she attempts to battle her way through fifteen stages of arcane castle-type places, slicing, kicking, shooting and sucking the blood out of all manner of foes, including the evil vampire Kagan, who is Rayne’s father by virtue of the fact that he raped her mum. No wonder she wants to kick his ass.
Initially I was reminded of a classic 2D Castlevania; with a rock-baroque soundtrack, nails-hard platform action and an ominously large moon in the background, I was half expecting Simon Belmont to whip me on the arse as I kicked off my adventure. But that is where the old-school platforming ‘Vania comparisons end. Bloodrayne is far more reminiscent of Capcom’s insanely difficult 2D beat ’em up Viewtiful Joe, with combat that recalls third person fare like Devil May Cry or even MercurySteam’s stunning reboot of Castlevania.
You can slice, dice, juggle and launch enemies into the air, with extra points awarded for style. The scenery can also be put to good use, with exploding barrels, pits and grinding cogs to knock baddies into, and spike traps that come down from the ceiling which you can push your foe under. The action during combat is frantic and you can sometimes feel overwhelmed. Thankfully you use your shooter, with a limited number of bullets, to clear bad guys out of the way quickly, or employ a handy dash to get the hell out of the way. Rayne can replenish her life bar by sucking blood out of folk, which is very handy but sometimes comes with the risk of being hit if you decide to have a snack during battle.
You can also “infect” an enemy with your vampiric fangs, which basically turns them into a ticking time bomb that will explode when next attacked. It can be most satisfying using this excellent method to set up chain reactions, destroying several opponents in one fell swoop. Of course being called BloodRayne, there is plenty of claret on display, and at times the screen is a wondrous diorama of arcing blood fountains, exploding beasties and all manner of viscera.
There are huge, screen filling bosses to contend with, new weapons and abilities to discover, and some devilishly tricky platforming sequences to get to grips with. Rayne can leap around with considerable grace, dash in the air, and even turn into a raven later on in the game. But be prepared to die, and die lots, because BloodRayne: Betrayal is a proper, old-school, hardcore slice of 2D action. Kids these days are used to having their candy asses molly-coddled through their games, with all tutorials and that. Not here. This is as tough as old boots.
But being hard and fair is why it is such a winner. With decent restart points and any actual in game demise almost always as a result of your own mistake, it will make you have the occasional angry moment, but you will get there in the end. It isn’t huge (15 levels long) but the value comes with the replayability. Hidden around the landscape are skulls – collect enough of these and you can upgrade your health meter or number of bullets you can carry; something you are going to need when you replay your levels to attempt higher scores for more stylish, less-damage-taken runthroughs.
VERDICT: BloodRayne: Betrayal is an exceptional release, right up there with the best original 2D action on offer for download this generation. A blood drenched slice of comic book gore with intelligent, balanced combat and superior platform elements, this one will sink its teeth into you and not let go. Thoroughly recommended.