It was 1935 when we last saw the leather-clad Dhampir Rayne as she teamed up with the Brimstone Society to help stop a Nazi cultist rise to power.  The Nazi cultists have been wiped from the Earth for the most part, but that didn’t sate Rayne’s thirst for vengeance.  In the first title, Rayne found out that her ‘sire’ Kagan was fairly uninterested in the Nazi party and that he had sired many such Dhampir such as Rayne as he worked towards his goal of global domination.  Rayne’s siblings have picked up where their father had left off and formed the Cult of Kagan, a group bent on the supremacy of the vampire nation. 


We pick up sixty years later and Rayne has hunted the Cult of Kagan almost into extinction, or so she thought.  Still teamed with the Brimstone Society they begin their assault on one of remaining vampire lords and stumble upon a new discovery; the Cult of Kagan have figured out how to escape the destructive powers of the sun and are creating horrible perversions of nature.  Now Rayne must find out who is behind this new threat and put a stop to them.

Everything about BloodRayne II has been vastly improved in the graphic department.  The first title featured a fairly blocky but decent representation of Rayne and her aggressors, but Terminal Reality has really pushed the envelope on BloodRayne II.  A quick scan of our screenshots will show you a side-by-side comparison of Rayne from both games and gives you a sense of the level of detail that has gone into this sequel. 


The levels in BloodRayne II are detailed and well populated.  You’ll find trash and boxes in the streets as well as tables, chairs, candles, and clocks in homes.  One particular level will bring you into a large subway with wrecked cars and debris all around.  There are rails to slide down, cars to bounce off of, and enough garbage to actually provide useful cover.  Only in a rare few instances does this game show that it was developed for the PS2 as well as the Xbox and the inherent cuts that go along with that.


The enemies in BloodRayne II are really my only complaint in the graphic department.  They are fairly stock and you’ll be seeing clone after clone as you cut your way through the levels.  The enemies all have the same voices as well so it really exacerbates the fact that they are literally cookie-cutter enemies.  I do have to admit that it does make it more satisfying to rend them into small pieces though to vent my frustration with this small oversight.


One thing that really stood out for me in BloodRayne II is the level of detail in the cutscenes.  You can download one cutscene at the official website and I encourage you to do so.  Terminal Reality has really pushed the envelope with their CG and they deserve to be commended for it.  Bravo! 

The same actress from the preview BloodRayne titles, Mrs. Laura Bailey has reprised her role as Rayne and is joined by other quality voice actors including Brice Armstrong and Trok Baker to round out a very well-executed voice score.  There are a few moments where you’ll groan at some of the one-liners that Rayne throws out but given the subject matter it is hard not to expect it.  Other than the occasional one-liner, Rayne is fervent in her quest to crush her siblings and at times it borders on a rage-fueled desperation.  It was nice to hear some quality work after playing so many Resident Evil-level voice acted games the past few months. 


Unfortunately the quality controls that were used on Rayne and the other major characters in the game were lost some time before they reached the various minions for the game.  It is true, their voice work is great, but it is also very repetitive and entirely out of place most of the time.  In one early level you are tasked with crashing a party to take out a vampire lord.  The minions, who look like rejected extras from Clockwork Orange, have great voice-overs.  Get used to them, you’ll hear them over and over.  As you have cut your way through wave after wave of enemies they will continue to tell you “Excuse me miss, the party is in the other hall” and similar phrases.  It is entirely out of place and breaks any level of immersion the level might have otherwise had.

The first BloodRayne title suffered from a camera that required an undue amount of attention to really focus on the action.  Terminal Reality has spent a great deal of time making sure that this is not the case in this title and gives you a 360 degree rotational camera that will float in an third-person behind the shoulder view that doesn’t seem to suffer often from being too close to the wall.  The issues that I ran into with the camera seemed to stem from fighting around multiple pillars, such as in the Meat Packing plant level, but was easily remedied with a quick tap of the camera controls.


Rayne’s controls are fairly simple.  The left analog stick controls her movements while the right analog stick controls the camera.  The D-Pad gets a great deal of use as it provides access to your powers including Blood Rage, Aura Vision, Dilated Perception, and the upgraded version of all of those powers with a simple double-tap.  The left trigger locks your target and the right trigger fires your guns (when you get them, they are a little…different this time around).  To add to the fun you can also harpoon your opponents with the Y button and then fling them by hitting a direction afterwards.  Jumping, kicking, and blade attacks go without say.   You can also cycle your targets with the white button and change fire modes for your guns with the black, although I think I would have preferred a cycle forward and backwards option with those two buttons.   Also included is the ability to remap the controls, select auto-lockon, change the vertical or horizontal axis inversion, vertical autocenter, vertical speed, and horizontal speed which will allow you to tweak the camera to your personal preference with a little bit of work.  I wish more developers paid this much attention to something so important.


At first pass this will seem like a button masher, but as you get into the game, mashing the buttons will simply get you killed.  You need to get comfortable with the controls as you will be gaining more and more special moves as you slay other vampires.  For instance, you will earn a move that spins Rayne around with her blades extended beheading everyone in her wake.   It requires a Street-Fighter-style circular movement that takes a little bit of practice to pull off in combat.  This, combined with some of the more advanced rage moves and powers provide some depth to the game that is otherwise not apparent on the surface.

The issues present in BloodRayne stemmed from the combat engine.  It was cumbersome and often difficult to lock onto targets to feed or fight. BloodRayne II has a reworked fighting system allowing Rayne to lock onto single targets using the triggers and allows you to switch between multiple targets with the black button.  The use of Rayne’s Dhampir powers such as Dilated Perception allows you to execute Rayne’s new attacks and combinations.  With over 30 new combinations to use on your enemies coupled with the new gun set you can certainly do a great deal of damage to your enemies very quickly.  It is important that you deal a great amount of damage quickly as you must incapacitate your enemies to a degree now before you can feed on them or use their blood to refill your guns. 


The overall gameplay engine, with all of its revamps (no pun intended) is still run and gun on the surface.  The addition of powers that evolve as you play adds a new layer to the game.  Your power may start off as simple Aura Vision but will evolve into Ghost Feed allowing you to feed from a distance while still fighting.  The third tier is locked and certain bosses must be defeated before you can use those powers. 


To round out (again with the puns!) Rayne’s new skills, she can swing around poles and lop the heads off her enemies as she zips around like some sort of leather-clad helicopter blade.  Sequences where you’ll slide down or around poles with your blades extended in slow motion are featured throughout the game often allowing you to kill several of your enemies all at once increasing your carnage meter and eliminating some of your opposition at the same time. 


Unfortunately BloodRayne suffers from two things that are hold-overs from the previous title.  The first offender is the difficulty level.  BloodRayne II features a difficulty range that goes from playschool to insane without any warning and can frustrate even the most stalwart adventurer.  The second issue is the wave after wave of enemies.  While you can’t have mass carnage without the masses, the game can quickly degrade as you cut through your 50th clone of the same badguy.  Granted, now you can puree’ them into fans, throw them off buildings with your harpoon, or carve them into giblets with your new moves, but the end results are the same.  After a few levels you’ll grow tired of the same cookie-cutter enemies and find yourself trying to burn through as quick as possible to get to the next boss or cutscene.  Don’t get me wrong, the gameplay isn’t bad by any stretch, just a tad repetitive.

BloodRayne II has a set of Extras that you can access as you go through the game by accomplishing certain objectives (carnage amount) or by simply beating the game.  This can include new costumes, movies, and art.  While the cutscenes alone are probably worth playing through the game once to unlock all of them, the game is a little too linear to motivate you to go through the exact same levels but in a different costume.  The RPG-lite experience system adds more flavor to the action elements but won’t have you going back to level up to see how powerful you can become as many of the powers are unlocked by defeating enemies or through story progression rather than experience. 


If you were a fan of the first game, this is a no-brainer to pick up as it outclasses the first title in every way.  If you are new to the series, this isn’t a bad place to start…if only it didn’t end so quickly.  The game can be beaten in a weekend or in a rental.  For me, it’s a keeper but your mileage may vary.

BloodRayne II has been 2 years in the making. The graphics, sound, cutscenes, and overall production value of the game shows what 2 years of work can do for a project.  BloodRayne II improves on its predecessor in almost every way, even if it still features the same maddening difficulty level as the original.  The revamping of the Infernal Engine has paid off and there are plenty of new tricks to show off in this title.  Fans of the original will enjoy the game and storyline, while newcomers will enjoy a good hack and slash with great graphics.

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