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PlayStation 3 Review: Blood Drive

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When you’re looking at the horror genre, the two icons that stand out the most are vampires and zombies. While the former may be sparkly and wooing teenage girls nowadays, the latter hasn’t changed much. If a zombie apocalypse happens there are two pastimes that rise to the fore: A) surviving the zombie horde and B) slaughtering zombies as a downtime activity.

Developed by Sidhe and released by Activision, Blood Drive is a campy new game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 that taps into the re-killing-zombies-for-the-heck-of-it mentality. The game is one part Twisted Metal and one part Dead Rising. The result is a title with some good moments and promise, but it fails in its execution of the concept. A lack of polish and a lack of inspiration really leave Blood Drive feeling like bargain bin fodder.

The game doesn’t truly have a story, per se. Basically, the zombie apocalypse happened and humanity persevered. Now there’s a combat arena of sorts where people get into supped up vehicles for the purpose of combating and racing each other in an area packed with zombies. That’s pretty much it in terms of plot, but then again given the motif of the game it’s probably for the best.

Blood Drive features an offline single-player mode and online support for up to four players. Just to get the conversation about the topic out of the way, the online mode is dead on arrival. In my time with the game not a single soul appeared available to play and I was never able to get something going with other players. That’s a shame because the game seems like it would be more enjoyable with other people. Alas, my experience with Blood Drive was destined for single-player.

Knowing that one is going to be flying solo with Blood Drive doesn’t help matters much. Sure the game has some decent modes and variants, but the core structure pretty much boils down to just playing through a tournament against the computer. There are some challenges to complete and one can always play single events if they want to kill some time, but both are failed exercises.

The game gets players to pick a character at the outset and there’s a decent variety in terms of strengths and weaknesses. All the standard ratings apply with some characters having better weapons or armor than others, while some have better handling and speed. The differences between most characters are negligible, but players are bound to find someone suited to their style. Once a character has been selected, the game also allows players to select a load-out that boosts certain attributes for the coming match. It isn’t Call of Duty or anything, but it’s appreciated and adds some nice flavor to the gameplay.

The game types aren’t bad either. There’s Zombie Roadkill, where players have to kill as many zombies as possible, Demolition Derby, where players focus on opponents rather than zombies, and Checkpoint Rally, which is essentially a race between checkpoints. There are variants on all three gameplay types and there’s plenty to enjoy about them. The problem is fact that the gameplay doesn’t support those positive impressions.

To put it bluntly, the cars in Blood Drive handle terribly. And when I say terribly, I mean a four letter word that I don’t want to include in this review. For a vehicle-based game one would think the developers would polish the experience a little more. That’s not the case, however. No matter the strengths and weaknesses of a character’s car, all the vehicles feel like they’re floating. Turning is loose and sluggish, and yet at the same time the slightest tap of the analog stick shakes your car this way or that. Sometimes it seems like the only way to turn is to use the handbrake, and even that doesn’t work properly half the time. Expect to slam into more walls than zombies as you struggle just to keep going in a straight line.

The actual “combat” focus of the game is loose as well. Sure there’s a decent variety of weaponry to pick up in each area, but the use of these weapons inconsistent. If you think driving in a straight line is challenging, just try hitting a target with missiles or flying saw blades.

While Blood Drive may have a lack of polished gameplay, there are times where it works. The game can be genuinely fun in parts, but these moments are fleeting and very inconsistent. The AI is pretty bad, zombies feel like a tacked on gimmick, and the lack of other players online really just brings down the overall experience. Ultimately this one is a rental for lovers of campy zombie horror or those waiting for the next Twisted Metal

The graphics in Blood Drive aren’t anything to write home about either, unfortunately. The environments are rather plain and repetitive, the zombie models don’t pop and lack detail, and the in-game effects (such as explosions and whatnot) don’t exactly pack a punch. Individual car models look alright and when the game is in motion everything gels together well enough, but the visuals of the game are just a little too rough around the edges.

Similarly, the audio in the game is a mixed bag. The effects and music are just kind of there to provide noise and don’t leave much of an impression. The voiceovers, however, are downright terrible. Commentators and characters ham it up to a ridiculous degree. It’s almost embarrassing and definitely not easy on the ears.

Blood Drive is by no means a must own, but fans of Twisted Metal and the games of that ilk may find it to be a fun diversion. When the game works, it works well. When it doesn’t work it’s an exercise in mediocrity that provides campy charm, but fails to deliver on polished gameplay. Overall I’d say Blood Drive is a rental at best.

Blood Drive is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, and Violence. This game can also be found on Xbox 360.

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About Todd Douglass