Written by: Stoo

Date posted: October 1, 2004

A lone fanatic, about to be dual-gunned down.

Doesn’t time fly? When I first started constructing this site, Blood 2 was just a couple of years old, dating from the days when the Pentium III was king and the Voodoo3 considered pretty awesome. Back then I had long hair, painted my nails occasionally (hanging around with goths does that to you) and was full of, erm, youthful hope for the future. Or something sappy like that. The criteria we set down for “old games” in those days was being able to run on a 90Mhz Pentium, so the likes of Blood 2 really didn’t qualify. Then… bam… its 4 years later, I’m older and allegedly wiser with a couple of university degrees and broken hearts and a sensible haircut, and this game is an oldie. Well, not old in the same sense as Wolfenstein 3D of course, but it’ll run on hardware considered well outdated by today’s standards.

(edit: 8 years later I’m looking at that intro and shaking my head. Also I have stupid hair again).

(edit: another 8 years, hair mostly sensible, but the intro still sucks).

Blood 2 is the sequel to a fairly well-received shooter from 1997, which first introduced us to Caleb, the red-eyed, straggly-haired, trenchcoat wearing undead anti-hero. Over the course of that game, set in the late 19th century, Caleb defeated the dark god Tchernobog and its cult of followers known as the Cabal. Now, a century later, the Cabal has returned, rebuilt as a massive and wealthy international corporation. Behind the scenes they plot to bring back Tchernobog, and also have their revenge upon the “betrayer” Caleb. Obviously, he’s not happy about this. The best way of dealing with the matter? To blast a bloody swathe through ranks of Cabal fanatics, parasite-infected zombies and horrors from another dimension, tracking down the Cabal’s leader Gideon and putting down an end to his plans.

Closer than you want to be to a Drudge Lord.

The appearance of this game has what I find to be quite a recognisable “feel” of the times. Powered by Monolith’s own Lithtech engine it of course makes use of 3D acceleration, and is a slick and speedy affair, although everything is also a bit smooth and plastic-looking. Still, it does give you a number of fairly cool and varied levels to play through. There’s a bit of the boring old standby of running around in sewage pipes and concrete tunnels, but to be fair even the mighty Half-Life resorted to that at times. Meanwhile at its best Blood 2 does bring us some bloodbaths in more interesting surroundings like corporate office blocks, museums and secret temples.

The action itself meanwhile is fairly standard “run-and-gun” fare. Nothing particularly deep or involving, but still quite entertaining. Blasting monsters, diving for cover, tracking down keycards and so on. The enemies are a varied bunch, some sitting back flinging fireballs, others leaping up to claw your face off, so there is a fair bit of challenge in tackling a mob of them. My personal favourite would be the Zealots, chanting away in some arcane, evil-sounding language whilst fiendishly teleporting around to dodge your attacks and blasting you with magical bolts.

Meanwhile there’s the prerequisite wide selection of weapons with which you may deal death. Apart from old favourites like a minigun or rocket launcher, a fun option carried over from the first game is the flare gun, which leaves burning flares embedded in the flesh of the unfortunate target. Other options include acidic bugspray, a hi-tech black-hole generator, and some occult magical devices such as a Voodoo doll. To add a little variety most weapons have a secondary firing mode – a tradition that’s been around since the Duke3D days. Also returning from the original Blood is the option to carry two of many of the guns, one in each hand, for extra bullet-spraying goodness. You cannot actually carry all the available weapons at once, so are occasionally forced to make a choice as to weather you’d rather pummel your enemies with fireballs, bullets, magic etc.

When washing, always remember never to mix your whites with, er, a dead guy.

So then, we have the ingredients here for a fairly decent first-person shooter. However, Blood 2 was never a truly great game. Why? It simply lacked any factors to make it really stand out. Looking at other first-person games of the time, Shock2 had its RPG-hybrid nature, while Thief brought us sneaking and stealth. Meanwhile, Half-Life was at heart just as much a run-and-gun escapade as most other shooters, but made excellent use of scripting and level design to draw the player in and produce an incredibly immersive first-person experience. Blood 2 , alas, has none of this. Apart from a couple of nice touches, it’s by-the-numbers standard shooter fare.

In some ways it was a bit of a waste, actually. Given the setting of dark gods, fanatical cultists and evil from beyond trying to intrude into our universe, you might hope for some real atmosphere. A genuinely creepy horror-based game that has you creeping fearfully along dark corridors. Dreading whatever might be lurking around the next corner, be it a horrible twisted monster, or just a disturbing scene of mass carnage and slaughtered bystanders. Instead, we get… a shooting gallery. There are horrible monsters, yes, but you just gun one down, wonder down a corridor, have a go at the next. There’s nothing really unsettling or creepy going on here.

Jumpy face-hugger thingies. I hate them!

Oh, and one more thing; Caleb himself isn’t half as cool as Monolith want us to think he is. He constantly spews witticisms and one liners in his raspy voice, but rather than being amusing he’s normally just irritating. Especially when “ironically” singing cute songs about “bring me sunshine.” Take a look at the Sin or Full Throttle reviews for a better idea of what gravelly-voiced heroes should be like.

A short review then, for a relatively formulaic shooter. It’s gone down in the annals of gaming history as being in a similar position to Sin, in that it existed very much in the shadow of Half-Life which was the landmark title of that year. Don’t get me wrong. Blood 2 is a competent game, and I’d recommend all shooter fans have a go. It just never rises above competence into the realms of greatness. It’s also said that it wasn’t up to the standards of the original Blood, although I can’t comment there until I’ve played through that one myself. At any rate, once you’ve played the classics, there’s plenty of fun to be had with the runners-up like this one.