BloodRayne 2: Terminal Cut Review
I have given a name to my pain… And it is BloodRayne 2.
BloodRayne was OK. It was never particularly underrated, no one could mistake it for some misunderstood classic, and it certainly wasn’t a “hidden gem” (bleurgh). It was fine. But it was filled with excessive gore and jiggle physics, so of course it did well enough for original developers Terminal Reality to begin work on 2004’s BloodRayne 2.
Laura Bailey returns as Rayne, the immortal and deadly dhampir who halted the Nazi’s occult dabblings in 1938. Decades later, Rayne is joined by the enigmatic Severin (Troy Baker) on a personal mission for the Brimstone Society. They’re on the trail of a powerful cult run by Rayne’s own half-siblings – the undead offspring of vampire overlord Kagan (Troy Baker again, on 50 cigarettes a day).
BloodRayne 2 is structured like a traditional beat-em-up. You enter a room, some enemies appear as generic techno music flares up, then you kill everything and watch a short cutscene showing the way forwards. Sounds simple enough, but something feels off from the moment you take control of Rayne. The zippy, death-dealing acrobatic from before is gone, replaced by a lethargic doppelganger who moves like a direct-to-video-era Steven Seagal in high heels.
In the first game, Rayne’s arm blades were unpredictable to say the least. You were never quite sure which body part was about to be severed, or when it would happen. This time around, they’re just terrible. Every single enemy has an embarrassment of health, and you will count the seconds spent slowly whittling them into submission. It’s far more efficient to just drink everyone to death using the returning feed mechanic, even if you don’t need the health.
Guns are back too, but rather than using everyday firearms, Rayne is lumbered with the Carpathian Dragons – a pair of vampiric weapons that offer half a dozen different firing modes. They use blood for ammunition (harvested from enemies at the cost of being unable to feed on them), and once out of juice they’ll start sapping Rayne’s health with each trigger pull. Thing is, they feel pathetic until upgraded, but the upgrade process is based on individual kills with each ammo type and takes so long that you might as well completely ignore them beyond the handful of moments BloodRayne 2 demands their use.
But let’s say you really wanna get to grips with the combat mechanics of BloodRayne 2. The good news is Rayne can block now! The bad news is she’s heavily reliant on a lock-on system designed around fighting one enemy at a time in a video game that LOVES throwing mobs at her. I hope you enjoy getting rabbit punched and repeatedly knocked off your feet, because playing this game as intended is a first class invitation to stun lock city. You could try out Rayne’s unlockable combo moves, but the time spent starting one is more than enough to get dogpiled. Not that it even matters. Forget all about the combat. Say hi to the grappling hook.
In BloodRayne, the grappling hook was just something that reeled in Nazis for a quick snack. In BloodRayne 2, it’s a way of life. Stick an unsuspecting goon with it and fling them onto a pile of jutting rebar or out the nearest window to instantly dispatch them. You’ll even get to watch a slow motion cutaway of your victim ragdolling into the next dimension. This is hilarious the first time it happens. It’s still pretty funny the 15th time. But by the 50th time? Please, I’m tired and I miss my family.
The whole game has been structured around this thing, to the point where you’ll often find progression blocked until you’ve flung a certain number of infinitely spawning goombas into some sort of environmental hazard (like a spinning fan, or the back of a garbage truck). This gets old real fast, due in large part to how random the hook feels (further exacerbated on mouse and keyboard). It’s like trying to lasso an octopus with a wet noodle. But keep at it, because every kill made with the hook adds points towards permanently increasing Rayne’s health.
So why even have blades? Well, we had to talk about boss fights sooner or later. As a general rule, fighting something important enough to have its own life bar is either the easiest or hardest part of BloodRayne 2. Outside of a few gimmicky encounters, you’re forced to duel them the old fashioned way. Your best friend in these situations is good old Blood Rage – making a triumphant return alongside the slow-mo power you’ll use maybe twice. As in BloodRayne, it’ll make you temporarily invincible while you deal extra damage, essentially guaranteeing victory.
But to use Blood Rage, you need rage points. To get rage points, you need to inflict damage with your blades. If you don’t have any rage points, you’re in trouble. BloodRayne 2 knows this, so every boss is accompanied by a steady trickle of easily-stabbed mooks. But if your health is low, you’ll want to feed on them instead. You’ll eventually end up having to do both, all while trying to avoid the boss that can kill Rayne in just a few hits. It’s tiresome enough to make you stick on God Mode and call it a day.
At least it’s pretty. 2004 was a bumper year for good graphics, with titles like Doom 3, Far Cry and Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay knocking many socks off. BloodRayne 2 slots nicely into that same year with detailed environments and effective use of lighting and shadows, all looking better than ever in Ziggurat Interactive’s second Terminal Cut (which also features absolutely vital controller support).
It’s not uncommon for sequels to take a “one step forwards, two steps back” approach, but BloodRayne 2 feels more like half a step forwards… and then a sharp tumble backwards down several flights of stairs. It’s a shame, since I truly believe there’s still life in this franchise. Why not take a cue from the Uwe Boll films and have a wild west prequel with vampire cowboys? Or how about one set in 1980s Miami with Rayne going undercover to bust undead drug dealers? Come on, Ziggurat, I’ll even write it!