Blood II: The Chosen Review originally on the OGR.com website.
Written by: Jason Cross
Date: November 18, 1998
Monolith is very proud of the fact that they've been able to develop a hot new 3D engine (LithTech) and two "AAA" titles at the same time. First, they delivered Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, a slick, violent anime-style shooter. Now, they've released Blood 2: The Chosen, sequel to the original Blood, and an example of horror-themed action gaming at its best. Of course, all the development prowess in the world doesn't mean squat if the games aren't good. Shogo has been successful, but can its brother title fare as well? The short answer is yes.
The original Blood was a strange game. Based on 3D Realms' Build-engine, it boasted several technological improvements over earlier Build-engine games, like Duke Nukem 3D. Unfortunately, Blood was released after a little title called Quake, and thus was largely overlooked. Still, it offered enough attitude, gore, and good gameplay to develop a cult following.
Blood 2 picks up where the first game left off, this time with a state-of-the-art engine. Players once again take on the role of Caleb, an evil and sadistic man hell-bent on revenge against the Cabal. Like the first game, the sequel takes place in a gloomy world filled with horror and gothic themes, but is not really intended to be scary. Rather, it is excessively violent and humorous in a "camp" sort of way, taking cues from movies like Army of Darkness and Phantasm.
There's a lot to be said for the attitude and atmosphere of Blood 2. The level design is much better than Shogo's, with better textures, more complex geometry, and great layout. Human models look much better as well, with a less "angular" look and better texturing. The levels are definitely dark and gloomy-the downloadable demo represents the brightest and shiniest levels in the entire game. There isn't much in the way of "interactive environment" or special scripted events throughout the levels, especially when compared to Sin or Half-Life, but it's a step up from relatively barren levels in Shogo. You can answer the occasional ringing phone or blow a hole in a wall or two by shooting a fire extinguisher, but you're generally just looking for the key, finding the exit, and blasting your way through the next level. Half the fun in is blowing away the innocent civilians-and you're encouraged to do so, as they usually leave health power-ups behind. Just make sure you talk to them first, as they sometimes have some choice words for our gun-toting "bad man" anti-hero.
Speaking of...well...speaking, the use of speech in Blood 2 is even better than the excellent voice acting in the first game. Caleb has plenty to say about his surroundings, but as an added bonus, you can hit "y" anytime you want to deliver a witticism like "what we have here is a failure to coagulate." The lines are delivered perfectly and even the cheesy rip-offs will put a smirk on your face-there's just something hilarious about the way he runs into an office building full of guards and says "good morning...and in case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!" The taunting is especially fun in multiplayer, as each of the four Chosen have different taunts. "Four Chosen" you ask? You are intended to play the game as Caleb, but you have the option of playing as any of the other "Chosen," former-Cabal members like Caleb. They all have different levels in four attributes (strength, resistance, speed, and focus), and different taunts as well. In a multiplayer game, you actually have the ability to choose any of these nasties, adjust their attributes as you see fit, and choose which weapons you want them to carry.
No shooter is a good shooter unless the Implements of Destruction are good, and Blood 2's weapons are some of the best. Throughout the single-player game, you'll eventually collect all 20 different weapons, though you can only use 10 at a time. When you have 10 weapons and find a new one you want, you can simply drop one that you're carrying and replace it. That "drop weapon" button can be useful at other times, as some of the weapons can be carried "akimbo" (one in each hand) for extra effect. However, all the weapons also have an "alternate fire" mode that you can only use when you're holding just one of them, so you might want to drop that second pistol if you want to use it "gangsta' style."
The best part of the weapons is that they simply feel good. Where Shogo gave us big mecha weapons that caused big explosions, lots of smoke, and made stuff fly all over the place, Blood 2 gives us that same impact with gore. With a submachine gun in each hand, you can pump an enemy so full of lead in two seconds that you could slap a #2 on them and hand them out at the SATs, and streams of blood spurt out all over the place. Still, a couple of weapons aren't as exciting as they could be, like the gasoline gun or the disappointing flare gun. That one just fires a glowing flare that sticks to your enemy, doing damage, until it burns out. Though killing an enemy with the flare gun does cause him/her/it to burst into flames and drop to the ground, that's it; where are the screaming people, running around on fire?
Luckily, weapons like "the Orb" more than pick up the slack. Send this little toy flying, and it seeks out and attaches itself to the front of an enemy's head, where it starts boring into their flesh, causing them to writhe and wiggle in pain, with a nice dentist's drill sound just for a little extra "wince factor." Add to this a Death Ray, portable howitzers, Tesla cannon, and the ever-popular and visceral sawed-off shotgun, and you have a veritable smorgasbord of death and destruction. Umm ummm good!
Multiplayer play was a complete blast in Blood, and the Monolith team was wise not to change a winning formula too much. Blood 2 deathmatching (called "Bloodbath") is all about very powerful weapons, gibs, taunts, and "the voice." "The Voice" is a deep booming voice (supplied by Monolith CEO Jason Hall) that accompanies some truly creative death messages. If it's not humiliating enough to have been told you just demonstrated the ankle-grab, your opponent will gleefully kick your head around for awhile, a nice feature brought back from the original game. Blood 2 ships with 14 deathmatch levels, and only a couple of them are sections of single-player maps; the rest are original. There are also a couple that are based on deathmatch levels from Blood, for nostalgic purposes.
The DM levels are well designed and laid out, with a good mix of indoor and outdoor levels that accommodate games with varying numbers of players. A nice twist is that you not only get to custom design a player with the 10 weapons you want to use, but all players start with all their available weapons. You only need to find ammo and power-ups or inventory items, like proximity bombs or detonator mines. But… Deathmatch play has immense potential and can be quite a blast, but it's seriously hindered by one major flaw-horrible Internet play. Just like Shogo was out-of-the-box, Blood 2 is perfectly unplayable over the Internet, especially with a modem connection. It already supports GameSpy and the team is all set to add all the multiplayer improvements from the Shogo point release to this game, so with any luck it will all work well in short order. Right now, though, it bites.
Don't expect Blood 2 to run just like Shogo just because they use the same engine. While framerates are only slightly lower than those in Shogo, which runs very well on a wide variety of machines, Blood 2 is a real RAM hog. Even with a 64MB system, there are so many high-detail textures and sounds loaded in each level that hard drive access is frequent. Turning the game down to medium detail greatly alleviates this problem and the game still looks fantastic, but it's a shame that those with fast machines and "only" 64MB will have to make a sacrifice.
Bugs are another slight blemish on this otherwise fine game. A couple of the weapons have occasional glitches, like the Death Ray weapon which will occasionally leave its beams hanging in the air until someone walks into them. The most noticeable problem, though, is with the AI, which has a nasty habit of remaining inactive even when you're shooting an enemy. The problem is similar to the one in Shogo (before the patch), but not as severe, and the AI generally does a pretty good job of moving around and making things difficult. In fact, the game gets very difficult indeed on the later levels, just like the first in the series. Even expert players who are used to playing the game on harder levels would probably have more fun playing Blood 2 on the easy setting, as the tougher enemies later in the game diminish the power of the weapons, and ammo gets scarce. Monolith expects to have a patch out around the same time that the game hits stores that addresses some of these minor problems, but even with them there,these bugs are in no way "show-stoppers" and don't ruin the game.
Despite a few flaws, Blood 2 is an immensely fun game. The hard drive access issue is a concern, and the Internet performance a greater one, but it is still a hot gaming experience. Much like Shogo, Blood 2 excels in pure feel and fun factor alone. It may not have impressive scripted scenes around every corner and the plot is incredibly weak at best, but the core of the game-running around and shooting people-is extremely satisfying. Monolith has big plans to support the product, and will include both cooperative play and a team game in the multiplayer patch due out in a few weeks, as well as releasing all the source code and tools to help MOD authors. For those that are fans of Shogo and are wondering how Blood 2 stacks up, it's fair to say that it's about as good overall, and in some ways better. Like Shogo, Blood 2's style may not appeal to everyone, but it's packed with pure visceral thrill.
Duke Nukem meets Army of Darkness, but with more gore
- Windows 95, 98
- 166MHz Pentium or higher
- 32MB of RAM
- 4X CD-ROM
- DirectX 6.0
- Multiplayer: 2-16 players via Internet, LAN, Serial, or Modem