Platform | Release Date
PS3 | September 6, 2011
X360 | August 31, 2011
Developed by WayForward
Published by Majesco
The original video game femme fatale, Rayne, has returned to battle and feed in a brand new hack ‘n slash adventure. Slay ghastly enemies as Rayne, the sexy dhampir with superhuman strength, speed, and agility, recruited by the vampire hunting Brimstone Society for one last mission. The target is a lavish, yet sinister ball in a secluded castle with plenty of dark and gruesome surprises. With the help of a mysterious friend, and members of Brimstone, Rayne must infiltrate the manor, take out the fiendish horde, and stop an evil master plot once and for all.
In video games, there’s good hard and there’s bad hard. Good hard can be seen in titles such as Demon’s Souls, Catherine and Castlevania. The challenges found here are tough, yet consistently fair. For example, in Demon’s Souls, an enemy’s attack pattern may be extremely complex, but there’s always a way around it. Through trial, error, and practice, it’s possible to learn the pattern and defeat any enemy without taking a single point of damage. If a blow is taken, it’s most likely because the player flubbed a button combination or missed the timing. In other words, it’s not cheap. That’s good hard. BloodRayne: Betrayal, from developer WayForward Games is not good hard.
What a shame too, because it started with such potential. The vector based art style is beautifully presented. A minimal, yet vibrant color pallet aids the characters in popping off the screen. Rayne’s animations look fantastic, and the full bodied electronic score makes one feel as though she’s moving in symbiosis with it. As with any 2D beat-em-up however, the combat and controls must be at the core. Unfortunately, the blood at the heart of this game seems to have been sucked dry.
At first, the combat seems in concert with the other elements. The easy to use onscreen tutorial presents a very simple array of commands for dishing out carnage. Attack, jump, shoot, and dash make up your arsenal. The player can string these basic movements into more complex combinations, taking out multiple baddies at a time. Send a bloodsucker up in the air and follow it with a swift jump kick that hurtles him into his cohort. Quickly spin and sweep the legs out from under the baddie creeping up on your rear before dashing towards… oh wait… he’s not that way… switch directions…
Uh oh, you can’t switch directions. Not until the animation is over, at least. This is where the game starts to fall apart. For WayForward, function seems to follow form at each juncture. Remember those wonderful animations I was enamored with at the outset? By the end of the game, I was wishing them death by fire. Every crucial structural decision is made with the animation taking precedent over the gameplay. This is a huge problem for a title such as this, because more times than not, I had to switch tactics on the fly to account for new situations which spontaneously occur. The problem comes from not having pinpoint control. Those costly few moments of locked animation caused more than a few deaths. Frustrating.
Some of you reading this might be thinking, suck it up and deal with it. If it’s consistent (and it is) you should adapt to it as part of the game. Okay, that’s fine. The timing here is learn-able, so if this were the only problem, I could at least give it a passing grade. But guess what, it’s far from the only problem. Once again bowing to the cardinal sin in this game type, the level design concerns itself more with how pretty it is than how playable it is. There is more than one occasion where a silhouette effect is used. In these instances, the screen is back-lit by either the moon, fire or some other light source. The player character and baddies appears as solid black shapes. Oh, and that light source? It usually only illuminates about twenty-five percent of the screen. So, for all the times I wasn’t flailing around in total darkness mashing buttons, I was trying to distinguish my blob of a character from the other blobs floating all over the place. The end result was usually my death. Frustrating.
Buckle your seat belt cracker jack, because it gets worse.
Deciding that combat wasn’t enough, the developers misguidedly chose to add in platforming elements as well. They were devious about it, too. These don’t really show up until about a quarter of the way through, which just so happens to be about the time I mastered (and even started enjoying) the combat. It’s like feeding a prisoner stale loaves of bread for nine months and then suddenly baking razor blades into it. The controls are so touchy and the animations so overbearing, that the platforming becomes an incredible chore. Added into the mix are enemies flying, buzzing around and attacking you in mid air. If the jump is not started from the perfect angle with all enemies taken into account, death. Forget about mid-air correction unless you swing your weapon like a lunatic, and then it’s a crap-shoot. The animation takes precedence, remember? Oh yeah, and because this game is “hard”, there are certain times when I couldn’t even see the platforms I was jumping onto. FRUSTRATING.
Rounding out this nightmare of a game is the absence of any story whatsoever. Not having experienced a single BloodRayne title before, the following is what I can piece together of the narrative. You’re a girl… I think… who is a Dhampir like Wesley Snipes. Unlike Wesley Snipes, however, you have a dad who wants to kill you, because… uhmmm… well, from what I can gather at least, you have a much better haircut. Since he’s got such a terrible haircut, you decide to work with some humans to try and kill him before he can kill humanity. Your father hates humanity because it was a human who gave him that haircut. I think her name was Tina. But then you’re betrayed by a man-dove… thing… and there you go! Call Pulitzer!
Look, don’t play this game. It’s not good. While the art direction is great and the music works well, the core gameplay is dreadful. For what BloodRayne: Betrayal wants to be, it must control incredibly tight. The frustrating elements far overshadow what little fun there is to be had. With the comely facade stripped away, the heart is revealed for what it is: a bloodless mess.