Sometimes it takes a developer several tries to properly bring his vision of the game to life. Just look at the original Metroid and then think about how it led to Super Metroid. It’s not that the original was bad, but it was a rudimentary initial look at what Yoshio Sakamoto actually had in mind from the beginning. The same can be said for the BloodRayne series. While the first BloodRayne was a sloppy attempt at an early game for the characters, BloodRayne 2 introduced a much more sophisticated and enjoyable take on the formula. Unfortunately, BloodRayne 2 is still not a great game, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be praised for its improvements.
BloodRayne 2 takes place in our time, so secret Nazi troops cannot be found. Rather, the narrative is a much more personal tale of revenge. The plot revolves around Kagan, the vampire father of Rain, and the vast family of illegitimate dhampir children he has spawned over the decades. This twisted “family” has formed an organization called the Cult of the Kagan, whose goal is to create a dark world in which vampires can freely walk the earth. So, Raine sets out on a quest to not only kill all of her half-siblings, but also kill her father and avenge the fact that he killed her human mother. It’s not a very detailed plot, but the story is nonetheless vastly improved from the convoluted and dull mess of its predecessor, as it just has the right mix of camp and cool.
As with the plot, this time the gameplay looks more streamlined and thoughtful. You’ll still wander through linear levels that swing between brief platformer challenges and arena-style brawling segments, but it’s the small details that make it all the more appealing. First, the enemies are actually fighting a decent fight, so you’ll have to make full use of Rain’s advanced set of moves to properly deal with the endless waves of thugs and creeps. Beyond that, things like environmental kills and special finishing moves add that extra layer of flair that was sorely lacking in the first game, and Rein’s controls generally feel much tougher and more responsive.
However, the absence of any evaluative or meaningful progress systems continues to limit the potential of this combat system. Facing enemies is challenging and enjoyable at first, but they can easily become repetitive and outdated as they start to blend together over time. Rain does gain some skills and attacks as her adventure continues, but there is still a widespread feeling of stagnation because she doesn’t seem to get much stronger over time. BloodRayne 2 has nice fights, but there is a long-standing feeling that there could be a lot more of them with a few simple additions.
As in battles, the level design has also improved and became more thoughtful. Whether you’re roaming mansions, factories, or sewers, each place feels different with some easy-to-play tricks that mix platformer and acrobatics. Plus, Rain’s tighter handling extends to her platforming prowess, so things like pole-switching and rail grinding feel a lot more tactile than the fluid and imprecise frenzy of the first game. We would still like to see a little more variety in the environment – there is many concrete rooms here – but it’s clear that the developers put more effort into making the levels look like places instead of video game levels, and that effort has pretty much turned into a much more enjoyable experience.
In terms of presentation, BloodRayne 2 is still pretty mediocre, but clearly runs on a more advanced engine. Things like the larger environment, more dynamic camera, and detailed character models show notable advances in technology, things that are only fueled by the improvements added in this reissue. It’s still clear that the title is from the mid-2000s, but elements like realistic shadows cast from fire or reflections from a marble floor soften the rougher edges significantly. You won’t be at all overwhelmed by what you see here, but the visuals have aged better than the screenshots show.
Unfortunately, performance hasn’t improved much for this recording. The good news is that we didn’t notice any significant frame drops in action, which overall provides a much smoother gameplay experience compared to ReVamp from the first game. The bad news is that BloodRayne 2 is also prone to some glitches, which requires restarting and losing progress every time. This is something that can most likely be fixed over time, but the fact that this release has issues like this generally pretty disappointing.
We feel it is necessary to make special mention here how much better implemented BloodRayne 2 seems like a cohesive experience compared to its predecessor. There is a nice sense of “intentionality” in this adventure that ties all of the parts together in a much more satisfying way. It feels like the developers spent more time learning every aspect of the game and went through a rigorous process of excluding what didn’t work and adding what worked. It’s rare to see an episode undergo such a quality transformation from one recording to the next, and we’re impressed that the original developers of Terminal Reality were able to pull this episode out of the fire as well as they did. If a hypothetical third game (no, Betrayal doesn’t count) from this era represented the same qualitative leap forward, we believe this series could be something with real vitality.
Is BloodRayne 2 better than its predecessor? Absolutely. Is this the game you want in your collection? Eh. Tighter controls, better level design, and more fun combat make BloodRayne 2 an undeniably superior player in the series, but it loses much of its brilliance when compared to contemporaries like Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, or the original. god of War… There are worse things that you can buy for twenty dollars, but this is such an unremarkable game that you have to play once, and then never. If you are particularly fond of the more simplistic and sometimes confusing game design of the era, BloodRayne 2 might be worth giving a try, but even so, we advise you to wait for the sale.