Review: BloodRayne Betrayal
It has been seven odd years since the last BloodRayne title released. In that time I’ve had to watch one of my favorite game characters join the ranks of Uwe Boll’s cinematic abortions. Rayne, once a proud and powerful dhampir, became a mockery of her former self. Now that that is behind us, WayForward has taken the task of bringing Rayne to the current generation. In a surprising move, the developer left out a whole dimension. Instead of a third-person title, BloodRayne: Betrayal is an homage to classic 2D platformers—this ends up being a good and bad thing.
BloodRayne: Betrayal puts Rayne on a mission with the Brimstone Society—the same anti-vampire group from the previous games. Rayne is sent to a castle in pursuit of more vampires to kill. To her discovery, she confronts her father Kagan. Rayne must work to kill all who oppose her and stop her father’s nefarious plot. In her journey she meets a mysterious man with the ability to become a white raven. The story isn’t all that grand, though. The lack of voice overs was a stylistic decision to compliment the comic style, but this leads the Rayne that we know and love to lose most of her established personality from the series’ past. While I appreciate the toning down of the character’s sultry antics, her funny, cynical nature is absent.
BloodRayne: Betrayal is a 2D platformer with lots and lots of blood. Rayne uses her trusty arm blades to slice and dice foes. Health is acquired by drinking the blood of enemies. Just biting an enemy leads them to being poisoned. Drained enemies can then they be used as a meat bomb. Rayne also has the use of her pistol: it’s powerful, but limited. There is no level-up system to gain new abilities. Finding hidden skulls is the only way to increase the health and ammo limit.
Betrayal looks fantastic: the art design, and the fluidity of the game is stunning. Rayne’s actions look great, and so does the backdrops in which she is set. The game can easily be mistaken for an animated feature. The accompanying soundtrack has a few select tracks that sound very good and fit the setting well. Although, some other tracks don’t shine so well and easily get lost in the background. One in particular reminded me of the X-Men Animated series, but that’s not important. For the most part, the game looks and sounds great. Environments are varied; Rayne’s new subdued look is very welcome, and there is a lot of detail throughout.
The game has a strong sense of style. Unfortunately, this leads to one of the game’s many problems. In a sacrifice for fluid animations, Rayne’s actions seem sluggish. Attempting to hit an enemy and quickly moving off to another movement often leads to an undesired response time. The same applies to when getting hit by an enemy: Rayne gets taken aback and takes too long to recover. This leads to an infuriating cycle of damage. In what should be a one hit mistake, often leads to getting hurt once again, or even three times. Failing to grab an enemy forces Rayne into an epileptic jerk that leaves her open for an attack for quite too long. In frantic situations that pits players against numerous enemies, these flaws make Rayne susceptible to an unfair amount of damage. This does not mean that the combat is necessarily difficult, just filled with a large amount of cheap hits.
The combat is also flawed due to undesired actions. Particularly, in a mission that puts Rayne against a boss character with potential hazards on both sides, Rayne’s only source of health are falling enemies. Trying to stun an enemy in the small space is quite difficult, because instead of slashing, Rayne will stomp on her foe. No health can be stolen from a downed enemy, only a standing one. These faults lead to upsetting scenarios that could have been easily spotted during development. Combat, while fun and addictive, would have been a lot better if there was a block button. Instead we are left with a shoddy dodge mechanic that often sends Rayne into more damage than she’s evading.
Like the classic 2D platformer genre, BloodRayne: Betrayal is difficult. I’ve discussed the flaws of combat, and why it can be frustrating, but the platforming is the real killer here. WayForward hoped to bring a game that required patience and skill to complete. If the game was genuinely difficult and called upon my skills to beat it, then I would appreciate it. The extensive platforming levels ranges from simple to ridiculous. In one area, Rayne must avoid a spinning wheel that chases her, all the while trying to platform on tiny surfaces. How I managed to pass this part is beyond me; I’ll say it was luck rather than skill. Skill is needed to complete something thoughtfully crafted.
In an area later in the game, Rayne must traverse by platforming onto tiny surfaces while avoiding harmful acid. This alone would not be too difficult, but the inclusion of flying knives makes this unbelievably annoying. Rather than feeling accomplished when finishing scenes like this, I am left thanking what ever bit of luck graced my body that allowed me to get through.
BloodRayne: Betrayal treats its players how you would imagine Rayne would treat you in a relationship. She abuses you, gives unfair expectations, and when you finally complete your task after giving it your all, she gives you a bad performance grade; She has the problem, not you. The game puts obstacles in your way that are simply tacked on as a shallow sense of increased difficulty. This is the type of game that grants you the ability to fly, and then just a chapter later creates a segment that prevents you from flying. Not only is this segment drawn out for far too long, but the controls are too unpredictable when platforming. What would make such an annoying segment even better? How about some flying knives again? Then at the very end of it instead of a checkpoint, there is a whole group of enemies. It’s as if someone sat down in front of the screen and said “What would piss off the player the most?” at numerous points during development.
In a game that tries to honor an aged genre with modern technology, WayForward adopted many of those faults in the genre as well. This is a true case of too much style in sacrifice of substance. Is it fun though? Yes it can be. For me, fun was had in sporadic cases. Inconsistencies in level quality broke what could have been a fun experience the whole way through. If you’re the type of gaming masochist that enjoys difficult games, whether intentional or broken, then give the game a try. The simple inclusion of Rayne was reason enough for me to get interested in the title—it may even make me more inclined to give it a better score than if it was a new IP.
At the ripe young age of 11, I was introduced to the dhampir Rayne (my mom is awesome), and I have been waiting for her to show up again. Part of me loves WayForward for picking up the series, but Betrayal is marred by too many annoyances that are hard to look past. I don’t hate the game, I’m just very disappointed. Rayne is a bad ass and deserves better than this.