The BloodRayne franchise has a reputation perhaps bigger then the source material itself. Started as a third person action game back in 2002 the big draw of BloodRayne was the main character Rayne who is a sexy redheaded half vampire or Dhampir, and a double bladed killing machine at that. The game itself was average, as was the sequel, but nothing could compare us for the awfulness that was Uwe Boll’s film treatment of the property simply called BloodRayne. The movie generated two more direct to video sequels which were even worse and the franchise seemed dead, until now. BloodRayne: Betrayal is an all new game focusing on the main character Rayne and her world, but it is a slick, hand drawn side scrolling action game and it is truly beautiful.
Released on XBLA and PSN, this new title developed by WayForward (A Boy and his Blob, Contra 4 DS) is a radical departure from the BloodRayne of old. Rayne is still the star and she is still an attractive, redheaded Dhampir, but she is far less sexualized then in past iterations. Featuring a barely there story that has Rayne infiltrating a castle with vampire hunting armed forces who dislike working with you but realize your skills are necessary.
The mechanics in BloodRayne: Betrayal are deceptively simple. There is a single attack button that can have different attack styles depending on your movements and jumps. The standard jump is enhanced by the ability to quickly reverse directions and do an extra high back-flip. You also have a high powered gun with limited ammo and the ability to drink blood to regain health. The blood sucking is possibly the coolest mechanic of the game as the standard drink kills the enemy and gives a short dose of invulnerability. You can also stop drinking which makes the enemy a toxic bomb that you can detonate at will. Add all of these abilities together and there is a surprisingly deep combat system to exploit, if you have the skills.
The game itself is fairly challenging to simply complete, but WayForward has also added a scoring system that rewards quick and careful gameplay and that makes the game brutally hard if you want a high score on each level. Throughout my entire playthrough I received the lowest score, F, on every level and while I know what I need to do to achieve the better scores it is oh so hard. As an example, the developer has added a timer to key battles in each level, if you defeat all the enemies within a certain timeframe you get a score bonus. Complete all the timed battles successfully and you get a larger bonus at the end of the level. There is a quiet brilliance to this strategy, you can enjoy the game and play it to its conclusion and then feel compelled to replay in order to achieve higher scores. It certainly compelled me to replay some levels, but it also encouraged me to nearly throw my controller when I missed the last timed challenge in a level by 2 seconds.
The game itself looks great, it is a hand drawn wonder with large vibrant characters that scale in and out of the screen. The animation is well done but not quite perfect, it is more then capable and looks great but there are times when you can see missed frames. The game itself controls very well, which is essential thanks to the challenging platforming sections, and fast reflexes needed to complete combat challenges quickly enough to score a bonus.
Overall I was very impressed with BloodRayne: Betrayal but it is not quite a perfect game. The story is wafer thin, more enemy types would have been appreciated, and the requirements needed to score higher are hard to the point of being frustrating. That being said the game is gorgeous, fun, and breathes fresh life into a property that has potential but was wasting away.
BloodRayne: Betrayal is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Suggestive Themes, Mild Language, Violence, Blood and Gore. This game can also be found on: Xbox 360.