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BloodRayne 2: ReVamped Review

BloodRayne 2: ReVamped is a remastering of the “Terminal Cut” of BloodRayne 2. It features visual enhancements on top of new graphical upgrades, and extra audio options. After taking on the Third Reich, what’s left for Rayne to do in this bloodier and sexier sequel? Take on demons and other vampires of course.

Rayne has already vanquished Kagan, her creator, during the events of the first game. With the passing of time, Kagan’s lesser vampire children have began a cult that aspires to block out the sun. Turns out Kagan was only hiding for over 60 years, and this is enough to spur Rayne into taking action, because she missed her chance of killing him back in World War II.

BloodRayne 2: ReVamped is a simple game from a simpler time. Nobody expected action games to bother with any story at all, and when they did, it was usually a broad premise to support some violent action. Kagan’s offspring are all powerful vampires with their own unique abilities to make their battles stand out from one another. The narrative may be basic, but it carries the gameplay.

BloodRayne 2: ReVamped
Developer: Big Boat Interactive
Publisher: Ziggurat Interactive Inc.
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (reviewed)
Release Date: November 18, 2021
Players: 1
Price: $19.99 USD

Original developers Terminal Reality probably would have made an excellent western interpretation of Castlevania. Their brand of gothic sexuality and edginess would have been a refreshing take on the vampire slaying classic action series if the BloodRayne games are anything to go by.

BloodRayne 2 is a post-Devil May Cry action game, where western developers finally figured out how to make movement work in 3D without it having strafing controls. Rayne now has fluid controls with a flowing 360 degree controlled third person camera, as opposed to the locked POV from behind her back in the first game.

3D melee action games were finally coming into their own around this time, and BloodRayne 2 began to follow the trend as well. Rayne wasn’t just running through stages and cutting up punks, goths, and monsters; she could also rail-grind like Sonic in Sonic Adventure 2, or do gymnastics on poles like in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Rayne has a wider range of actions than she has ever had before, and she gains more as the player progresses through its tightly controlled narrative path. Control is not perfect though, as she has several abilities mapped to the d-pad. While this in itself is not bad design, the problem is that Rayne gets more abilities than a d-pad can handle.

For example, to toggle Rayne’s turbo mode, players must double tap the right arrow on the d-pad. This feels cumbersome, and becomes confusing when more abilities unlock and get mapped to other directions on the pad. Inevitably, Rayne wastes her devil trigger from players fiddling with the d-pad, and trying to remember which combination is for which ability.

This is not the deal-breaker, since the most important devil trigger mode is her fury; where Rayne’s attack power is greatly increased and she becomes a human-Cuisineart. While in this state all fleshy opponents become hamburger beef, as Rayne’s blades seemingly make their target’s limbs fly off or explode. The effect is marvelous and hilarious.

The range of violent expression available to Rayne doesn’t end with her fury mode. Her grapple chains are a fun toy to experiment with the game’s physics, and can be used as a means to hurl foes up open environmental traps for impromptu fatalities.

Terminal Reality was so proud of this that many levels require the player to use this feature; to make several kills in a room with infinitely spawning enemies in order to progress.

What BloodRayne 2 needed was a point system or style meter to award brutal and creative kills with points for upgrades. Instead, upgrades are earned through progression, which is disappointing. Sadly, this is a product of the growing pains of action game design in the early 2000s.

Controls feel responsive, and animation is very polished for an early western action title. However, the lack of artfully implemented kinesthetics is sorely felt. Rayne’s slashes and kicks lack the visceral bite needed to make her attacks feel satisfying. When engaging in melee, blows from either side feel weightless, and don’t feel like they connect properly.

Enemies barely react when getting hit, and the same applies to Rayne. Even when doing the dreaded sluggish pole jumping, and while she is getting unfairly shot at; Rayne barely reacts from gunfire. This was probably done to make these sequences a bit more tolerable, but they feel like solutions to problems that were created.

Doing evasive maneuvers while locked on also feels ineffectual, since dodging does not have i-frames, and Rayne still takes chip-damage while side-stepping gunfire. Terminal Reality really wanted to make a technical action game and it shows, but they were biting off far more than they could chew.

All the features and ideas that makes a stylish 3D action-game are present, but the execution is sorely lacking. BloodRayne 2: ReVamped was a chance for developers Big Boat Interactive to add an alternate mode that would offer a refined combat experience. Something that would tweak the battle speed, add i-frames, adjust the sound design, and modify animation so that BloodRayne 2 could be the best it could.

BloodRayne 2 is not one of those evergreen action games like Devil May Cry 3. It’s a guilty pleasure that can sometimes be annoying. Its best qualities are its cathartic violent bloodshed, and the audio/visual presentation. Terminal Reality implemented some technology in this game that makes some aspects of it look impressive.

Obviously it does look like it was from the 2000s; reality cannot change that. Its art direction is very confident however, with its grungy, goth fetishism that was popular around this time. The Matrix was a watershed film, and tight shiny leather became a signature look for tough female characters.

Rayne’s character model looks pretty sexy from most angles, and her outfits emphasizes her curves in all the right ways. Terminal Reality’s top men did a fine job with the female characters as a whole, with many of them featuring really short skirts with physics applies to the materials for some righteous flashes of underwear.

This ReVamped version applies many new effects, like reflections on glossy surfaces and real-time lighting that illuminates areas in new ways. The use of the new effects are fairly restrained and tasteful; not like Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition where the conversion was sloppily assembled with an algorithm and modern Unreal Engine 4 effects inappropriately applied to whatever.

Big Boat Interactive took a modest approach to visual enhancements so that the original aesthetics are honored. The presentation is slick and fluid; BloodRayne 2 never looked better. The cutscenes are all pre-rendered and come in two varieties; full on Final Fantasy-style CGI, and in-game character model cutscenes.

The CGI scenes look as good as it can considering that the original animation files are probably long gone. The compression is at a reasonable level, but it’s disappointing that these couldn’t be remastered into high definition, since they hold up very well, and look professional by modern standards.

The cutscenes that use the in-game models are probably why the core game uses such a subdued approach to the visual remastering. Any dramatic changes would make the scenes clash with the gameplay. It’s possible that redoing the cutscenes with the new effects might have caused problems, so the compromise is that all cutscenes are now a fixed lower resolution.

The lighting and character expressiveness is also much more pronounced and stylish during these scenes. Models move and animate in a way that their gameplay counterparts do not. Shadows are cast in a very dramatic way, and in a story about vampires, the use of light and darkness in the narrative is a big part of the ambiance.

Voice acting is also above average for what was common for a game from the early 2000s. Laura Bailey is cast appropriately as the breathy and sexy Rayne. Roles like this is where she excels at, and she sounds like she is having a lot of fun as the character. Some line readings make it easy to tell that she was probably grinning while saying some of the cheeky and vulgar dialogue.

Bailey may get hallow praise for her “dramatic” video game roles, but performing smutty characters is what she does best. Angrily biting her lines or sounding like she’s erratically breathing out dialogue is her element. She thankfully never sounds like Shin Chan while trying to act tough in this game.

BloodRayne 2: ReVamped is a sloppy action game, but it’s a sloppy action game to be admired. The sleazy violence and high-school edginess are the kind of qualities that developers are too afraid to embrace now. Terminal Reality were unafraid to make a hero who was as sexy as she was brutal, and their artists made it very convincing.

The BloodRayne games may always be schlocky exploitation entertainment to make up for the lack of polished gameplay. Sleaze in itself is an enjoyable guilty pleasure, if it comes with some substance to back it up. Hopefully, one day Rayne’s time in the sun will come where she can succeed at being a refined action game, and being trashy.

BloodRayne 2: ReVamped was reviewed on Xbox Series S using a copy provided by Ziggurat Interactive Inc. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

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The Verdict: 6

The Good

  • Stylish and moody pre rendered cutscenes
  • The 2000s era environments and character models looks pretty good after all this time
  • Hilarious dismemberment and physics
  • Gory fatalities and powers have a lot of flair
  • Cheats offer an amusing diversion

The Bad

  • Combat has weak kinesthetics
  • Lacking invincibility frames while doing acrobatics can lead to unfair deaths and retries
  • Low replay value
  • No new features
  • Checkpoints are not save points
Fingal Belmont

About

A youth destined for damnation.




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