"This is my BOOM-stick!"
How many of you out there fancy yourself to be homicidal maniacs trapped in the body of computer gamers? How many secretly want to be known as "The Subway Avenger" or perhaps "Bofo, God of Pain?" Well, for those of you who smile every time you watch The Silence of the Lambs, there is Blood 2: The Chosen, a touchingly demented continuation to the schlock horror hemoglobin feast that was last year's Blood.
With the release of SIN and Half-Life, and with the impending release of Aliens Vs. Predator, Descent 3, and other innovative titles, one's standards by which to measure a First Person Shooter have been raised to a refreshingly intellectual level. But, to remind us all that what we really want to do is launch a grenade into a room of civilians and walk in laughing as the cloud of vaporized blood settles and the guts slide down what's left of the walls, there is Blood 2. It's one of the most refreshingly, unapologetic, straightforward gore feasts to come along in a long time. On top of that, it has a quality of gameplay and design that puts games like Quake 2 out on the street, unloved, unwanted, with a little "Will Strip For Silicon!" sign.
You reprise your role as Caleb (the undead gun-toting maniac from Blood) in a new story set 100 years after the original game. Unfortunately, it seems that in a rush to get the game to the stores in time for the holidays, the plot was highly truncated. The plot is mostly communicated through morbid and comic briefings in the loading screens and a few in game cut scenes.
You have 3 ways to play: as Caleb, as one of the other Chosen (Gabriella, Ishmael, and Ophelia: Caleb's woman), or in multiplayer. As Caleb, you get the full single player experience: guts, guns, 'n plot. As one of the other chosen, the plot is cut out and gameplay changes depending on which character you choose. Also, they each have different characteristics like height, strength, magical ability, and speed. In multiplayer, you kill your friends and can play soccer with their heads, if you so wish.
For graphics, Blood 2 uses MonoLith's proprietary engine, LithTech (Also found in Shogo). LithTech is just ahead of Half-Life and just lagging behind Unreal in terms of graphic appeal. Blood 2 features very effective textures, superb lighting, and very good looking, well animated, monsters. LithTech was originally designed for Microsoft and as such supports every single D3D card in existence. However, to enjoy Blood 2, it is highly recommended that you have a 3dfx voodoo, an equivalent, or better 3D card.
Where Blood 2 really shines is in the action itself. Kill all the enemies (while quipping stylish one-liners) and let god sort them out. Blood 2 has easily the most addictive, brutal, and all around appealing action of all the FPS games that have come out this year (Unreal, SIN, Klingon Honor Guard, Shogo... even Quake 2). This is due to both the excellent level design and the magnificent weapons and sounds.
Speaking of the weapons, there are 17 of them, each with 2 modes of fire. The weapons range from your trusty knife, to projectile weapons (sawed off shotgun, machine guns, sniper rifle, etc...), to explosive weapons (Howitzer, Napalm Launcher, Flare Gun), 3 Types of Sticky C4 Bombs, to Energy Weapons (Tesla Cannon, Death Ray, Singularity Generator), to slightly odd weapons (The Insect-A-Cutioner), and to focus weapons (magical weapons, Voodoo Doll, The Orb, Life Leech). In addition, certain 1 handed weapons like the submachine guns, 9MM Automatic Pistol, Shotgun, and Flare Gun, may be used in "akimbo" mode, where you hold one in each hand for double the punch but no alternate fire.
Also, you can only hold 10 of the weapons at a time, and you can't put down the knife. This interesting limitation adds a flavor of customizability to your character as your weapons choices often reflect the character you choose to play as.
The weapons themselves carry a very satisfying punch, thanks to the very nicely done sounds. The shotgun, for instance, is a pure pleasure to use. As with any game in which you portray a demented psycho freak out to save the planet and chew bubblegum, the satisfying sounds of death are most important. In Blood 2, they either fall to the ground screaming, bleeding, and twitching, or they say nothing. Nothing? Well, if you use the game's explosive weapons, the enemy will be splattered instantaneously just like the effect of a grenade in real life!
Beyond that, the sound is used to set the Blood 2's deranged comic tone. Harking back to the days of Duke Nukem' 3D, your character is a barrel full of one-liners. Most of these quips where ripped write out of those pinnacles of comic schlock horror movies, the Evil Dead series (The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, and Army of Darkness). "Good... Bad... I'm the guy with the gun!" "Who Wants Some? Who's Next?!" "Gimme Some Sugar Baby!" "Groovy!" "Who's Laughing Now?!" (In order to appreciate this game to the fullest, we at Game Revolution recommend you watch the evil dead series (Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, in particular.)
Unfortunately, the multiplayer levels are only standard, and a little uninspired, when it comes to design. Some of them feel like Quake 2 rehash. Given the distinct style of Blood 2, this is disappointing.
There are also a few bugs that mire an otherwise excellent game. For one, the Internet multiplayer suffers from the same broken network architecture that plagued Shogo until the 2.0 patch was released a while ago. Secondly there are a few little bugs in gameplay, such as bad collision detection when throwing sticky bombs that can result in some . . . er, sticky situations.
The AI is decent overall, but it sometimes cannot find you if you are on a higher plane of elevation, which can make some long range kills way to easy. However, a patch is on the way to fix the multiplayer and a patch has already been released to deal with a few incidental issues (like the sticky bombs).
Blood 2, in the final clotting, is an extremely enjoyable title which will supply most FPS fans with a much needed shot of action to the aorta. The comic tone and demented ambience are highly appreciated by all of closet mass murderers. So, if you sometimes find yourself sitting down in a room of your people, and you find yourself staring endlessly at each one of them, picturing them on the receiving end of your boom-stick (12 gauge Remington), then go out and buy Blood 2. And remember, shop smart, Shop S-MART! YOU GOT THAT!