Developer: WayForward / Publisher: Majesco Games / Played on: Xbox Live Arcade / Price: 1200 MSP ($15) / ESRB: Teen (Suggestive Themes, Mild Language, Violence, Blood and Gore)
If you’ve played games for years there’s inevitably a few that have slipped through the cracks. BloodRayne is one of those series for me, and I can safely say the extent of my BloodRayne knowledge is that the main character is a half-vampire, Uwe Boll makes horrible movies about her, and she’s appeared in Playboy. But with the newest title, BloodRayne: Betrayal, I was finally able to sink my teeth into the series.
You take control of the half-vampire Rayne as she infiltrates a massive castle, uncovering information about a mysterious man. The story is told through word bubbles, and can fortunately be completely avoided. The meat of the game is in the gameplay itself. Rayne must reach the end of each stage by ripping through enemies, solving puzzles, and bounding through platforming sections. The female bloodsucker is a very capable fighter, wielding two blades, a gun, and displaying crazy acrobatic skills to take out her foes. Rayne can suck blood from enemies to gain health back, infect them to turn them into walking bombs, and gun them down from across the screen when they mayhem gets out of control. The action is always at the forefront of Betrayal: slicing through enemies and watching their blood splatter across the stage is always satisfying. The game’s difficulty, however, is grueling. Platforming sections are reminiscent of early NES games, which means they‘re on the border of hard and unfair. Poor controls hamper both the action and the platforming. It’s easy to compare the game to the early era of the genre with its high difficulty, but I found it to be infuriating and unnecessarily tough. It detracts immensely from the awesome action experience by forcing you to work with relentless and difficult platforming levels.
While dealing out the hurt is the main aspect of Betrayal, there’s more to each stage than just killing everything in sight. Finding hidden skulls enhances Rayne with more health, bullets, and better weapons. A points system rewards you for fast completion of levels, the style in which you slay foes, and finding treasures scattered across the stage. You earn an overall letter rank at the end of each stage, and high scores are added to online leader boards. With only 15 stages though, there isn’t much to keep you coming back for more once you’ve completed the game.
What Betrayal gets right is the visuals. Beautiful 2D animation is a big change for the series but it works out very well. Rayne herself looks particularly good, animating smoothly while jumping, running, and fighting. Foes look creepy and add to the atmosphere of the game. Backgrounds are a highlight as well. The giant moon in the background and the eerie insides of the castle make great settings for each stage. At one point everything shifted into silhouettes and shadows, and it was cool to watch Rayne cut up the filthy monsters. In many ways Betrayal looks like a Castlevania game, which is quite the compliment, since both games have similar settings.
Certain games are hard because of difficult enemies or tricky platforming, while others suffer from frustrating controls. And then there’s BloodRayne: Betrayal. The controls are sluggish and sloppy. Rayne cannot cancel out of her combos, so while you might be pressing the dodge button furiously, you’re already locked into a three second combo that ends with you getting attacked from somewhere else. Precise jumps are required in most every stage (especially the latter ones) that are virtually impossible to perform. Back flips and wall jumps are almost impossible to land thanks to unresponsive controls and annoying enemy placement. When Rayne gets hit she sometimes flies back, and this usually leaves you in a pile of enemies, which results in getting hit even more. The worst case of poor controls comes in certain areas where you transform into a bird and navigate spike-filled corridors. Each time you get hit you bounce back into another spiky wall and get hit again, over and over. Coupled with the absurd damage some enemies deal, BloodRayne: Betrayal is hard game to beat due to lousy, imprecise controls.
The sound in Betrayal is a mixed bag. On the one hand you’ve got superb sound effects. Blood splattering against the walls and gushing out of slain foes sounds awesome. The shrieks and cries from the game’s monsters sound equally great, and add a spooky tone to an already dark setting. But the soundtrack is less than stellar. Nothing about the music is memorable, and the bland rock tracks are forgettable. As I said before, a comparison to a Castlevania game is easy, and when you look at that series and see how much the music adds to the overall experience, it makes Betrayal look even worse.
BloodRayne: Betrayal is on the line of a game I’d recommend and a game I wouldn’t recommend. The visuals are wonderful and genuinely a pleasure to look at. But the gameplay is hindered entirely by overly difficult platforming and atrocious controls. The rare times the game gets everything right it’s a blast to play, but more often than not it’s simply not enjoyable.