Gamers may remember a time when video games did not like THEM very much. It seemed as if every game’s sole purpose was to frustrate players at every turn. Back then console games emulated arcade games so insane difficulty and unresponsive controls were the standard and we just had to deal with it. While the video game industry has (thankfully) evolved and mostly dropped these annoying and archaic tropes there are still some titles out there that are faithful to the frustration formula from the 1980s. Enter Bloodrayne: Betrayal, a game that adopts the worst characteristics of those old games and reminds us how much better games have gotten and just how terrible old game design used to be.
First off let me say that I am not a fan of the Bloodrayne franchise. I know of it but I couldn’t tell you who is who if you lined up the main cast in front of me. All I know is that Rayne (the main character) is a hot half human/half vampire chick who fights other vampires for some reason. My lack of knowledge of the series didn’t interfere with the game however since whatever “story” (and I use that word loosely) that’s present in Bloodrayne: Betrayal is largely forgettable and incomprehensible. There is no voice over work and whatever dialogue that’s spoken is done with word bubbles. But thankfully the gameplay more than makes up for the lack of story. Wait… [re-reads first paragraph] that’s right, the gameplay is trash. However let’s not worry about the lack of story or its poor execution since that is the least of Bloodrayne: Betrayal’s problems.
As I said before, the gameplay of Betrayal is a throwback to side scrolling hack n slash games. On the surface that sounds great to an old gamer like myself but unfortunately those aforementioned problems also come along with the package. Controls are unresponsive at best and make the many platforming sections almost impossible to get past since you need precision to make some of the jumps. The animation (which is one of the only good parts of Betrayal but we’ll get to that later) actually hurts the game since Rayne will lock into an animation and won’t stop until it’s over. This inevitably leads to you getting attacked in mid animation of course. Nailing a tricky jump only to drop off the platform you’ve landed on because Rayne continues to slide forward is aggravating beyond belief and caused me to shut my Playstation 3 off in anger many times. There are also certain platforming sections that you have to navigate when you take on the form of a raven. Why a raven and not a vampire bat is beyond my ability to understand. I guess a vampire woman who can transform into a bat makes too much sense. I’d talk a little bit about these sections of gameplay but there isn’t much to say. Traversing platforms as a raven as every bit as infuriating and aggravating as when you’re in normal form.
Possibly the worst aspect of platforming is high jumping. Instead of having a system in place that is tried and true like hitting the jump button twice to jump higher you instead have to quickly change direction from left to right or right to left as you run and press jump at the same time to reach a higher ledge. You have to purposefully run in the opposite direction of where you want to go! Forgive my bluntness but whoever decided that this would be a fun game mechanic let alone a functional one should be severely whipped for an hour. I was stuck on the final stage forever because of this ridiculous way of jumping.
Combat fares a bit better but again those scripted animations will get you hurt or killed more than they should. Rayne cannot cancel out of a combo and has no ability to block and can only really do a dash to escape from danger. However dashing usually just leads you to trouble as it often seems to place you right in front of an enemy who is more than willing to slice your head off. There are several different combos that can be performed but you’ll be better off with just button mashing on the attack button and jumping from left to right and hope you survive the endless enemy hordes. You can suck your foe’s blood if you need to regenerate health but usually after you are done doing so you will be instantly attacked, negating whatever health you may have regained. The animation for getting up off the ground after you have been knocked down is excruciatingly slow and is made worse by the fact that you can be hit while you are getting up. Sounds fun so far doesn’t it?
Now before this turns into a complete bloodbath let me talk about the presentation which is the only area of the game that is actually cool. The reasons that I (foolishly) bought this game were because of its art direction and music. The game looks incredible and is a feast for the eyes. Rayne and all of the many monsters are all drawn and animated beautifully. The backgrounds are all really nicely designed too and are very vibrant even though the game world is set in a vampiric Gothic setting. The music is mostly straight up heavy metal but there are some nice piano and orchestral pieces tossed in as well. When the metal and symphonic elements are combined is when the music really shines. It’s a shame that there are only around seven songs on this soundtrack because it’s really quite spectacular if you’re a fan of symphonic heavy metal like I am.
Unfortunately an amazing presentation can’t save Bloodrayne: Betrayal from being a massive disappointment. What should have been a cool 2d side scrolling romp ends up being nothing more than an exercise on patience. Developers Wayforward may have had noble intentions with this title but the potential for greatness is lost in a sea of unresponsive controls and trial and error based platforming. The game actually has decent replay value if you are willing to replay each level to get a higher grade but this point is almost moot since the experience of just playing any given level once is so annoying. I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to play this game so unless you hate yourself or are a glutton for punishment then I would suggest that you stay far FAR away from Bloodrayne: Betrayal. Save yourself the money and aggravation and play something else instead. Forgive me for using a bad vampire pun but this game really SUCKS.
- Gorgeous art style and animation
- Headbanging metal soundtrack
- Unresponsive controls
- Trial and error based platforming
- Canned animations that will get you killed often
Bloodrayne: Betrayal was developed by Wayforward technologies and published by Majesco entertainment. It was released on the Playstation network and Xbox live and is available now for $14.99 and 1200 Microsoft points respectively. The version played for this review was a digital copy bought from the Playstation network.