While it might seem like yesterday, it’s scary to think there ten years have actually passed since half human, half vampire BloodRayne first made her gaming debut. It’s even more alarming that it’s been twelve years since the release of PC title Nocturne featuring Svetlana Lupescu, the template character for what would become the auburn haired queen of the undead that we know today.
Now after all this time and multiple attempts by Uwe Boll (that purveyor of crimes against cinematography) to ruin the franchise beyond repair, BloodRayne returns once again in Betrayal, a downloadable release for PSN and XBLA.
Most notably it’s produced by WayForward, the people behind such 2D delights as A Boy and His Blob and Batman: The Brave and the Bold on the Nintendo Wii. Both of these titles were criminally overlooked and just like WayForward’s other projects, both had strong visual styles. BloodRayne Betrayal is no different in that respect.
Sent by the Brimstone Society to infiltrate a mysterious castle and stop a nefarious demonic plot, the player takes control of BloodRayne in 2D for the first time in the history of the series. Lifting the character out of the 3D plane has worked extremely well here, so much so that you’ll wonder why it hadn’t been done before. The dark colour palette and style are a joy to behold, fitting the gory theme to a tee as blood flows, heads roll and bisected enemies crawl across the ground in sheer agony. The visuals are also accompanied by a notable (and rather fantastic) soundtrack that really wouldn’t feel out of place in an older Castlevania title, much to its credit.
Enemies, both vampires and the host of other-worldy abominations that are encountered as the game progresses further, land on the screen and BloodRayne’s skill-set allows you to deal out as much punishment as you see fit until the keel over. In fact this is actively encouraged by the scoring system which rewards player for chaining together hits, using flourishing moves and generally being deft enough with the dash manoeuvre to avoid getting smacked in the face. As well as her signature arm blades BloodRayne also has access to fire arms which deal out heavy damage, capable of downing a line of foes. If it doesn’t kill them outright then it allows the player to mercilessly stomp them into submission.
Being half Vampire Ms. Rayne also has a nifty trick up her sleeve – she is able to grab hold of smaller foes once they are stunned and drain them of their blood to revive her own health. Handy if you’ve taken to much damage in between the fountains which act both as level checkpoints and fully restore her. The blood-draining tricks don’t end there though – by part draining an enemy and infecting them, she can also then trigger them to explode, causing massive damage to anything unfortunate enough to be in close proximity. This is just one example of the moments where Betrayal really shines as a title. Throw in later elements like morphing shape to negotiate spiked levels and upgrades to the guns, and there’s enough attention to detail to keep the player going through the games fifteen levels, long after other side scrolling slashers might have fallen by the wayside.
Betrayal’s combat, soaking the screen in blood as Rayne mercilessly carves through the unfortunate souls in her way, is something which the player will either love or hate. Undeniably it does have a certain floaty element to it, reminiscent of recent 2D titles like Shank which don’t quite translate the necessary feeling of momentum required between the joypad and onscreen movements. Betrayal’s lack of being able to cancel animations doesn’t help here either, however the game is predominantly about attack patterns and timing. The player who is focused and steady with their attacks rather than just mashing the pad will have much more success (as well as looking waaay more of a bad ass in the process).
Much like the games difficulty level, which is less than forgiving on times (although helped by some sensible check pointing), the controls aren’t insurmountable for a patient and initially forgiving player. In fact it’s arguable that if you find the control element too frustrating it’s probably more of a reflection of your mindset than the game itself.
From this reviewers point of view what lets Betrayal down more than its learning curve is that it never feels like it reaches its true potential. The style cries out for it to have been made as a Metroidvania exploratory title, rather than a journey through linear levels. Yet for all the times it skirts around the edges of this, the developers have stopped short of fully taking that route and it’s debatable that there won’t be a player out there that isn’t left longing for something a bit more substantial as they work their way through the game.
Arguably there are enough titles like that on the market already, and it’s always easy to berate a game for being something it isn’t. Instead let’s look at what BloodyRayne Betrayal is; another example of WayForward’s quintessential style and a title that, while it might not get everything right, is still a valiant and entertaining effort which signals a welcomed return for BloodyRayne into the medium which first brought her life.
Let’s hope that next time the developers provide a little more refinement and expansion on the ideas found here, to make it an essential purchase.