For many gamers, the BloodRayne games have been rather hit or miss. Some remember the earlier games nostalgically, while others are not all that fond of the damphir vampire/Nazi killer. Well, Rayne is back, but this game is no 3D hack and slash third person game; it is a sometimes frustratingly difficult 2D hack and slash platformer. Can BloodRayne: Betrayal balance the desire to appeal to fans of the original games while attempting to reach a larger audience?
Not the Rayne You Remember
From the start, you will notice this game bears little resemblance to the older games, outside of the fact Rayne is still a half human damphir and carries her trademark blades. Gone are the form fitting leather garments of the previous games, replaced by and ensemble and art style that leaves Rayne looking more cute than sexy. It is a different look for Rayne, but not an unwelcome one.
The rest of the artwork is also different. The game takes on an almost cartoonish style, which seems to offset the violence and copious amounts of blood. Even the most menacing of enemies in the game have an almost campy quality to them; the final boss, a giant demon with various powerful attacks, takes on a humorous angle with almost heavy metal headbanging and rock signs. Another boss is literally made of blood, and the only way you can fight it is to attack it’s heart, which it happens to throw at you from time to time. As you play the game, it becomes apparent WayForward was given free reign (no pun intended) to build a game which both fits the universe of its predecessors but also pokes fun at some of the concepts within it.
The story? Well, it’s pretty forgettable. A group of vampires are planning something nefarious, and a special forces unit enlists Rayne’s aid to deal with them. This force does not trust Rayne, but they knew she is the only one who can handle the creatures they will face. A little ways in, Rayne learns the legions of the doomed are being lead by her father, and this fuels her desire to get revenge for making her what she is. And yes, as the game’s name suggests, there is an element of betrayal, but as everything is plaid a little on the campy side, the story never really grabbed me. After all, how can you take the game serious when enemies say things like “You never did have the stomach for this” before getting absorbed by a demon Rayne defeats by attacking it’s exposed innards.
Graphic and story elements aside, it is the gameplay that will make or break any game. So how is the gameplay in BloodRayne: Betrayal?
In a word: inconsistent.
Combat is King
The combat of BloodRayne: Betrayal is combo driven, and as as you get further into the game, you learn more and more attacks and capabilities which are surprisingly deep considering you only really have one button for attacks. You can also suck the blood of your opponents to regain health or infect them, which allows you to then make them explode as if they were some form of remote mine.
One of the secrets to the combat is you gain bonus points for getting creative with your kills. Using the environment will gain you extra points, as will getting through the gauntlets of set enemies within a specific time frame to gain time bonuses. This is all part of a meta-game where you are rated by the points you accrue within each level. For some, this will be a feature which will get them to play back through the levels over and over again in an attempt to get a higher rating. For me, this was not as important, but I can appreciate its inclusion.
There was one reason for me to play back through certain levels. Scattered throughout each level are red skulls which you can collect. For every five skulls collected, you are given the option of gaining more health or more ammo for your gun. The ammo can be useful as certain enemies are very susceptible to gunshots, but I found the health to be much more important, especially in light of the difficulty of the game.
And trust me, this game is truly difficult. WayForward was merciless in some points of the design, creating a platformer which will challenge even hardened gamers. There are sections of this game which will leave you filled with a great feeling of accomplishment when you pass them. You will need to learn all the various jump and dash tricks at Rayne’s disposal just to be able to navigate some of the insane levels of this game. So far, so good, right? Well, there is a slight problem: some areas of this game require more luck than skill.
The Game You Love to Hate, or Hate to Love
I cannot think of a game which has left me more conflicted than BloodRayne: Betrayal. At its heart, the game strives to bring the challenge of the old school hack and slash platformers back to life. Think of games like Stryder or the recently released Moon Diver; both were games with high degrees of difficulty, and BloodRayne: Betrayal strives to be the same. In many ways, the game succeeds. You will find yourself being faced with increasingly difficult platforming sections, along with areas where you must vanquish certain groups of foes before advancing.
As I mentioned earlier, many of the areas in this game will leave you with a true sense of accomplishment when you beat them. Others require pure luck. A great example of this came from later in the game. You find yourself having to bounce on a set of flying parasites to stay alive as you cross a chasm. Of course, each of these bounce attacks kills the parasite, and it will be a bit before they re-materialize. You them come to a platform which you know from previous experience of the game will not support your weight for long once again appearing a little while after it has vanished. All of this would not be too difficult to survive if you did not suddenly hit one of the “you must kill these enemies before advancing” sections. Your are attacked by two flying, ghost-like swordsmen, and when you kill them, two more appear. So you have to use the parasites and falling platform to keep from falling into the chasm as you try to kill four different enemies two at a time who, if the manage to hit you, are more than likely going to make you fall into the chasm below.
This was hands down the most difficult section of the game. I cannot count how many times I played through that section, even managing to finally kill all four enemies just to not be able to finish crossing the chasm to reach the checkpoint, forcing me to play that section all over again. At various points both during this section and others. I found myself yelling at the game and ready to throw my controller. On more than a couple of occasions, I had to walk away from the game while it was still on so I would not be forced to restart a chapter just to calm down enough to play.
Difficulty in platformers when well designed can be fun. Super Meat Boy was a great example of that; the more you progress through the game, the better you get at jumping at just the right time or making just the right move to survive. At times, BloodRayne: Betrayal has that kind of precision. At other times, you know for a fact the only reason you progressed any further is you got lucky. That just really is not fun.
So Is It Worth It?
I hesitate to recommend Bloodrayne: Betrayal, but I also hesitate not to. If you are the kind of gamer who enjoys difficult games and trying to best your score in different levels, you will probably find a lot to enjoy about the game. Just be warned it will frustrate you many times over, and you may find yourself unwilling to put the time and effort in to try and get lucky enough to win.
BloodRayne: Betrayal is a difficult game to rate. While not broken, it does have several design choices which leave me puzzled. There is enough here to like that I find myself excited about WayForward’s new venture, the DS game Aliens: Infestation, but as far as this game goes, I would say you need to judge for yourself whether you think you will like it. BloodRayne: Betrayal gets a 3 out of 5.
[starreview tpl=46 size=’30’]