Stop us if you've heard this one before. A half-human, half-vampire antihero, along with a long-haired, trench-coat-sporting associate, goes to war with a largely underground society of vampires who are looking to come up in the world and turn the human race into their slaves. No, they didn't make another lousy Blade game. It's BloodRayne, that other half-human, half-vampire hunter of bloodsuckers everywhere. The original BloodRayne game debuted in 2002. You controlled the heroine, Rayne--a busty, redheaded alternative to Wesley Snipes' comic book-inspired vampire hunter--as she hunted down Nazis, vampires, and Nazi vampires in the 1930s. The game featured a fairly straightforward story and style of gameplay that, while not spectacular, proved to be a pretty entertaining experience for fans of comic book-style action games. BloodRayne 2, the suitably named sequel, punches up the stylish action of its predecessor, giving Rayne a whole new slew of enemies to chop up, as well as a whole host of new ways in which to do it. BloodRayne 2 hit the Xbox and PS2 late last year to reasonable acclaim, and now, 10 months later, the game has come to the PC. Why it took this long becomes apparent as you play this halfhearted console port--the developer was evidently unable to get the controls to work quite right on the PC. Couple this with the fact that none of the problems from the console game have really been fixed here, and what you've got is a pretty unappealing product.
When we last left our vivacious, vampiric vixen Rayne, she had just put the squeeze on her evil vampire father, who had been working with the Nazis and doing all manner of evil deeds. At the beginning of this game, which is now set in modern times, Rayne is on the hunt for her siblings in her expansive family. It seems that Rayne's dad had been quite the rolling stone, fathering scads of both pure-blood and half-breed vampires all over the world. However, Rayne soon stumbles upon a reunion of sorts among her father's many children, who are conspiring to produce a "vampire apocalypse" of sorts, by unleashing an insidious new weapon called the shroud. The shroud is a blood-fueled blanket that covers the sky, allowing vampires to walk around in the daylight and essentially do as they please. It's up to you, as Rayne, to quell this vampiric uprising and prevent humanity from becoming vampire cattle.
Rayne's gameplay focuses largely on style over substance, though it isn't necessarily shallow. Rayne comes equipped with a pair of arm-mounted blades as well as some rather nasty kicks, and both her slashes and kicks are assigned to specific keys. Simply pressing one or the other in succession creates some basic combo attacks, but by holding down the target button while attacking, Rayne will target a specific enemy and gain a whole new set of dodges and counterattacks, which come in handy against some of the quicker boss enemies. When distance is required, Rayne has a chain she can use to latch onto enemies and send them flying in any desired direction. Rayne also has access to a pair of blood-powered guns called the Carpathian dragons. The dragons require blood to work, and if you run out of ammo, they'll begin draining Rayne's blood supply. Thankfully, there are more than a few enemies scattered throughout the game who are willing to donate to the cause.
By enacting Rayne's "feed" attack, so long as an enemy is vulnerable (meaning it isn't holding a large weapon with which to smack her down), Rayne will pounce on the poor schmo and dive straight for the jugular. This is how Rayne gains health throughout each level, and in the process, she can also reload her blood guns by pressing the fire button while drinking up. Once you're done with your blood donor, you can either toss that enemy aside or kill him or her in spectacular fashion by using one of Rayne's execution moves. By performing one of a few different button combos, Rayne will do anything ranging from simple stabbings to out-and-out slicing and dicing of an enemy, sending limbs, torsos, and heads flying every which way. These moves are gruesome and hysterical, though unfortunately, there aren't a ton of them--only 12 in all--so they do get a little repetitive after a while.
Wesley Snipes comparisons aside, Rayne has more than enough talent to put a stop to her own vampire apocalypse--even if this one doesn't feature Stephen Dorff at the forefront of it.
Fortunately, this is not the only method of execution the game provides you, because Rayne has several contextual moves she can use to put the pain on the bad guys as well. For example, Rayne can slide down certain pipes and rails, and while she is sliding, you can make her extend her blades outward, thus sticking any enemies that might be standing along her slide path. Another example involves Rayne's chain attack. Several puzzles in the game require you to clog or jam an object--such as a wood chipper or a garbage truck--that is blocking your path in order to pass. How do you do this? By sticking a baddie with your chain and flinging him into the aforementioned object, resulting in a bloody mess. There are also all sorts of sharp objects you can fling enemies into outside of kill puzzles. Rayne is a nimble little minx, and she can hop, skip, and jump all over levels with Prince of Persia-like precision. Every single level in the game contains at least a few lengthy jump puzzles, which feature bars she can hang from, pipes she can climb up, and so on. From these bars, Rayne can angle herself in such a way that she can shoot enemies from her perched position, thus making her tough to shoot. Aiming this way is a little tricky at first, but it works well enough once you get used to it.
The remainder of Rayne's abilities come in the form of special moves and powers that are tied into a meter below her health meter. These abilities include a special aura vision that lets her see enemies in other rooms as well as secret entrances; a time-shifting ability that lets you slow the action down into bullet time and even lets you speed up Rayne so she's significantly faster than the rest of what's onscreen; and special blood rage and fury abilities, which power up Rayne's attacks quite a bit and make her pretty much impervious to harm for as long as the bar stays powered up. These moves are all useful, but unfortunately they're too useful. None of the enemies in the game--save for some of the bosses--are tough enough to stand up to Rayne normally, let alone when her special-abilities meter is at full strength. So really, all you need to do is save your blood rage mode until you're up against a particularly strong enemy, and most times you'll be able to slice right through that enemy in no time. You'll need to use specific attacks and patterns to beat some boss enemies, but many of them can be easily defeated with simple button mashing while the blood rage or fury is turned on.
In fact, BloodRayne 2 is an easy game overall. No doubt there are sections that will require multiple tries to beat, but this is usually when you aren't immediately aware of how you're supposed to proceed. Most times, the game uses the magic of cutscenes to thoroughly explain how you're supposed to get through a section of a level, but occasionally, it doesn't provide you with the right clues, and the intuitive response isn't always the right one. Aside from these occasional miscues, BloodRayne 2 is a very straightforward 10-hour game that doesn't require much exploration or thinking. It's pretty much just "kill all the bad guys, move to another room, solve a quick puzzle, and repeat." Of course, Rayne's myriad of stylish abilities and methods of killing off opponents certainly counterbalances the game's simplicity to a degree, but if you were hoping for a little more in the way of variety, it isn't here.