The amusing thing about BloodRayne 2 is that the game was very much less favoured on its original release… but the ReVamped edition shows that it has held up better. When you consider what the first BloodRayne was trying to achieve – to be that grimy, trashy, action game with a heavy dose of B-grade exploitation attached to it – all of that stuff is much more evident in BloodRayne 2. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a good game, and it never was, but because it carries the theme better, it’s perhaps the better game of the two to play now.
BloodRayne 2 is at its best when it’s at its most uncomplicated. When the game is throwing enemies at you, allowing your half-vampire Rayne to slice them into pieces, or straddle them and slurp down their blood, then it’s really quite glorious. You’ll impale one enemy on a blade, before slashing them in such a way that they’re hurled across the room, leaving a grisly trail among the body parts. You’ll use Rayne’s whip to hurl another enemy into an environmental death trap. Gunplay is a little more satisfying than in the original BloodRayne, with better feedback and a little confusing interface, and of course there are various special abilities that Rayne to slow down time, or power her attacks up for a while.
This is all backed by a far better control system than in the original BloodRayne. Rather than simply mashing buttons and hoping for the best, here you’re encouraged to make good use of Rayne’s ability to block, capitalise on the environmental opportunities, and more generally Rayne’s a more nimble and responsive combatant. Where the original BloodRayne is definitely something to get used to for the modern player, the sequel fits within the boundaries of what we’re used to playing today. It’s certainly lacking (I personally found myself itching for a dodge and counter-attack option), and the combat engine does struggle when you’re taking on more than a couple of enemies at a time, but in the context of enabling furious, extreme bloodletting, BloodRayne 2 very much gets it done.
The AI is terrible, though. Virtually every time that I did some damage to an enemy, if I was forced to target a different enemy before finishing opponent #1 off, the wounded warrior would go running away somewhere, only to come back a few seconds later to become dinner time. I’m not even sure what programming foible could have led to that effect, but it is weird. Boss battles are also wholly unsatisfying thanks to the repetitive nature of them. Most of the time they feel like they’re button-mashing at you, and in a post Goichi Suda and FromSoftware world, the expectations of boss battles are so much higher.
Neither of those issues are the fault of the developer of the remaster, though they do suggest that, just as with the original BloodRayne, perhaps a more substantial remake would have been preferable to the HD remaster that we got here. With that being said, the HD remaster has come up much better in this game than in the first. Environments are cleaner, enemy models are more detailed, and Rayne herself looks better. Especially when she’s doing the sexy things.
I do need to make a point of this; there is a lot of sexualization in BloodRayne 2. Because it takes place in the modern era, rather than the World War 2 setting where Rayne accidentally found herself as a Nazi-slaying heroine, there are fewer overt fascists to slay in this game, but the skirts got much shorter. You’re going to see more panty shots, bare legs, and barely-contained boobs in BloodRayne 2 than anything this side of a Dead or Alive game, and the visuals and engine just get there to sell it as sex themes. It’s a little blocky, sure, and comes across as silly today rather than the grotesque obscenity that it would have had attributed to it back in the day (were it not considered a game too terrible to bother talking about at all), but the sexploitation aesthetics do come across within ReVamped.
While it all works as a light-but-furious action game, BloodRayne 2 does not work in those moments where the developers decided to be inspired by the 3D Prince of Persia games. See, the game throws in these platforming/parkour sequences that are just aggravating. It’s quite easy to see where they came from, given that the absolutely majestic Prince of Persis Sands of Time landed in 2003, and BloodRayne 2 hit shelves in late 2004, so the original developers were clearly inspired by it. But the gymnastics, pipe climbing, rail grinding and leaping about is clunky, finicky, and anything but the smooth rhythms that the Prince offered at his best. The first time you run into these “platforming sequences” Rayne actually makes a joke about this being something she’s good at. Presumedly that was an in-joke that the developers at the time made about being pushed into expanding beyond what BloodRayne, the property, is actually good at. But I wasn’t laughing. Oh no. I just wanted to slash and suck blood. Not dink about and shimmy up poles clumsily.
I would dearly like to see what a developer could do with BloodRayne 3 in 2021 though. Mixing Mortal Kombat bloodletting with Dead or Alive over-sexualisation, with the ability to slaughter hordes of fascists… that might just be my dream game.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb