I really should give this game a 5/5 score and be done with it. After all, it checks off just about everything I like. It has a vampire (sorry: half-vampire or dhampir, lore nerds) that leans heavily into the sexual motif in vampire tradition. It has the B-grade grindhouse aesthetic, with all the bloodletting and trash (in the most loving sense of the word) that you expect from that wonderful genre. It’s also got Nazis to Rayne to feast on, and as a rule I do approve of fascists getting their due (even if I’m a little conflicted about them getting a relatively pleasant exit from the world via sexy vampire).
BloodRayne’s concept is, like every other example of grindhouse out there, aging like fine wine. The more people get removed from the controversies that the genre experienced with its extreme violence and gratuitous sex, the more people can enjoy it. See also: pinup and vintage porn. These things always find themselves re-assessed and legitimised over time as the shock value fades, the content no longer seems extreme, and audiences realise the aesthetic is a lot of fun. BloodRayne’s not that dissimilar. Back in the day it was a kind of outrageous Tomb Raider. Sure Rayne was a woman that kicked ass, but where lady Croft was sexy but sitting on just this side of good taste, BloodRayne’s orgasmic sucking sounds and boob wobble physics were positively indecent. I don’t think those things will confront modern audiences the way they did players 19 years ago, though. It’s just a pity that there was so little done to modernise this game.
ReVamped is supposedly a remaster, and Rayne herself looks like she’s been touched up well enough, but you only need to check out the first person she speaks to, and the first enemy she sucks on (I’m having too much fun with this) to realise that the HD effort was selective. Perhaps budgets got in the way. Perhaps there were some technical inhibitions. Perhaps some critical source code was lost. I’m not sure what actually went on in development, but the efforts to touch BloodRayne up in ReVamped are very uneven indeed. To compare to another oversexed B-grade grindhouse thing, Onee Chanbara Origin had a full (and really quite gorgeous) remake treatment for its release on console, and it’s hard not to be disappointed with ReVamped right from the outset.
The other big problem is that BloodRayne was never really about providing a quality experience, so it’s not like the remaster does either. Uwe Boll made a BloodRayne film. That’s generally a sign that the base material wasn’t exactly relying on being the video game equivalent to Shakespeare or Kubrick. BloodRayne is an action game in which the titular (hehe, tit) protagonist has access to a bevvy of abilities include her vampire powers, guns, slashy sword-things, some super-duper powers and even a Mortal Kombat Scorpion-like “get over here” chain weapon. None of these systems work great. Guns lack the feedback that you need. For example, I played this game with sound off for the sake of a stream and didn’t even realise I was firing the guns at times because, without the sound effect, there’s very little to tell you what’s going on until the enemies fall down. Melee attacks lack bite (hah), and precision, and most of the time you’ll just be mashing the attack button and hoping things start losing their limbs. The combination of the “get over here” and chowdown moves are essential because you need the health that they offer, but they’re also a touch overpowered and the little un-skippable animation as Rayne eats an enemy stops being funny after the first dozen times you see it play out.
Furthermore, level design is functional rather than flashy, and as I’ve mentioned the plot, while enjoyable (eating Nazis is good, remember), is by no means a classic. What BloodRayne does get away with, however, is its atmosphere. The locations are spot-on for grindhouse, the sleazy underground reverse Nazisploitation (no, I didn’t make that up, it’s a real thing) vibe comes through in spades, and this is a game that moves quickly, being well aware that the longer you stay in any given area the more draining it will become. This is the kind of thing you’ll forget about soon after playing it, and there’s a place for that, it’s just important to keep that context in mind.
The other issue with this remaster is that, as you would have seen in the stream, it does have a game-freezing issue. In fairness to Bloodrayne, I haven’t experienced this again and the developers did release a patch that may well have fixed it, and that freeze did not factor into my review score, but it’s just as well the game has a reasonably generous save system for such an occasion, and I can’t guarantee that this won’t happen to you on Switch.
There’s nothing overtly wrong with BloodRayne: ReVamped. It is an opportunity to replay a trashy (by deliberate design) early example of a B-grade “exploitation grindhouse” video game. These kinds of experiences only really became viable with the power that the PlayStation 2 generation brought to the party, so BloodRayne really is one of the first of its kind, and there’s historical value in that. It could have done with a more substantial remake than this, though. If there was anything from back on the PlayStation 2 era that would have really benefitted from a full, top-to-bottom remake, it’s the “sex sells” stuff like BloodRayne must surely be at the top of that list.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb