Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Halloween is just around the corner, and with it come countless national and familial traditions to indulge in. Whether you’re watching showings of Hocus Pocus or partaking in kinky cosplay sex, we here at LewdGamer wish you all the best on this most horrifying of holidays. To commemorate the most sinister day of the year, we’ve decided to review the most appropriate game possible for the occasion. Since I never realized I had yet to play the aforementioned game until the last possible moment, we’ll be reviewing BloodRayne instead.
BloodRayne is a multiplatform video game from the ancient era of 2002, back when a game being multiplatform meant, you could buy the title on literally every major system and not worry about missing any exclusive bonus content. While the initial release of BloodRayne on the Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox was in the appropriate timeframe of October 2002, it took roughly 11 months afterwards until the game was released on Mac and PC, the latter of which will be the version reviewed. The game was developed by Terminal Reality, who previously released Nocturne on PC in October 31st, 1999, a game which BloodRayne owes its atmosphere and at least one locale to.
In BloodRayne, you control the titular young woman on her journey to find out the mystery of her father. Of course, this is actually not true at all, and we won’t learn of what becomes of this story until the sequel, which we’ll save for another time. Rather than her debut game centering around her mysterious past, Rayne herself is recruited by an organization known as the Brimstone Society to carry out tasks for some reason or another. The game proper begins with Rayne being mentored in using her abilities as a dhampir to more adequately investigate a series of paranormal occurrences in Louisiana. Much like a one-night stand at a Halloween party, it doesn’t quite go as planned and before long, you’ll wind up on a mission to kill Nazis in a South American mountain base to stop them from unearthing a mysterious, all-powerful relic. Of course, unlike a one-night stand at a Halloween party, you won’t wake up the next morning to discover that the entire adventure was brought upon due to excessive alcoholism. While the train ride that is BloodRayne makes stops at rather unexpected stations, the straightforward plot won’t be winning any awards for its narrative achievements.
Of course, in order to win any achievements for its story, BloodRayne would have to treat itself more seriously than your average primetime TV drama. The game knows full well how silly it can get, which is reflected most often in the writing and voice acting for the game. Nazi soldiers flail around in a panic upon being disarmed, Rayne herself acknowledges the absurdity of certain situations at points, and the amount of times the title abuses the “fake death” trope is done almost comically. The highlights would have to be whenever Rayne decides to get snarky, which is roughly about 50% of her dialogue at the absolute minimum. Don’t misconstrue me, however; while BloodRayne is certainly comedic at points, much of that comes from the game acknowledging the situation in some way, be it inane or perfectly serious. There will be points where the atmosphere can get downright unsettling and almost haunting, although much of it is centered around one specific portion of the game.
BloodRayne was released towards the end of that weird transitional period where video games could use more powerful hardware to create vaguely spherical objects rather than octagons, but just before video games in the 6th generation truly began to shine. Rayne herself suffers from the dreaded tank controls of late ’90s horror games, though it’s a non-issue if you’re using mouse and keyboard on PC. The majority of my time with BloodRayne was spent using M+KB after a brief romp with a controller, the former of which was generally quite comfortable for a game initially exclusive to consoles. No matter the platform you’re playing on, Rayne is capable of running, jumping, somersaulting, slashing, shooting, and even necking her enemies to death. On paper, this all sounds pretty standard, but I assure you that’s quite a bit to take in for 2002 game design. Likely due to her vampiric roots, Rayne can run at comically fast speeds and bound higher than most buildings are tall, both of which seem to be elements the game is designed around. Rayne is also equipped with forearm-mounted blades and spiked footwear, her primary methods of attack. Impractical as it may be, Rayne can use these to either slash enemies wildly or randomly execute a spinning attack that will kill enemies instantly.
Initially, Rayne will only be able to execute a single slash attack to dispatch enemies that seldom put up any defense besides firing guns at her, but as certain parts of the game are crossed, more moves will be added onto that slash attack until she eventually gets a full 5-hit combo. For a hack ‘n’ slash, there’s definitely a lot of hacking and slashing, but not a terribly high amount of variety in doing so. Bayonetta this is not, so you’d best get used to that single ground combo, because it’s going to comprise the majority of your offense. Of course, using blades isn’t the only way to kill Nazis or other paranormal entities you may or may not chance upon in BloodRayne; there is also the option of using firearms, which the ’90s have proven to be very potent weapons against Nazis, paranormal entities, and demons. Often times, running across a gun will cause Rayne to pick it up and add it into her catalog of weapons. The firearms are divided into four light guns, two heavy guns, two grenades, and a single special weapon. BloodRayne even uses a neat system to replace weaker firearms in your inventory with stronger ones should you walk across them. This leaves you with plenty of time to weep over shotguns being rare weapons in the special category. Interestingly, special weapons will sometimes miss ammo if you pilfer one from a fallen Nazi, as though he dipped into its ammo supply before you stole it, or something obscene like that.
Attacking enemies with Rayne’s blades will slowly build up her Blood Rage mode, which is the obligatory “fuck shit up” mode in all good action games of the era. This mode will inexplicably boost the sharpness of Rayne’s blades, allowing them to gore through enemies instantly for easy kills. Not only that, but Rayne also enters a “bullet time” state in which time is slowed, which should provide you with ample time to decimate everything on screen. It arguably serves its purpose as the “fuck shit up” mode too well, since only a few bosses in the entire game will take more work than a simple Blood Rage to kill. While certain enemies will attempt to block it, blood rage can more or less be used to circumvent any semblance of challenge BloodRayne throws at you. Of course, there are no recovery items in the game, with the only means of healing yourself involving resorting to vampirism. With the press of a button, Rayne can either leap onto a nearby enemy and begin sinking her teeth directly into their vitals, or throw a harpoon at a distant one to achieve the same end. Despite feeding off whatever life the enemy has left, you’re not invincible to anyone else that might be around. It’s quite easy to abuse the health gain to overpower any damage enemies deal early on, but that’s obviously not going to remain true for the entire game. It’s the only way to regain health in BloodRayne, so get used to the succulent noises of Rayne feasting on humans, mutated humans, and anything in between.
While the core combat of BloodRayne barely serves its purpose, the rest of the game is surprisingly and positively brimming with variety. The first act of the game uses assets, weapons, enemies, and unnamed NPCs that are never recycled anywhere else in the entire game, helping it stand out in spite of its brevity when compared to the following acts. Even when the game truly begins, things soon take a turn into unexpected territory, forcing you to change just how you approach enemies. New enemies and environmental hazards continue to get thrown at you as the game progresses, keeping things relatively fresh all the way to the end. There’s even an unexpected genre change at one point, which is so crazy that even Rayne herself starts mocking every opponent she faces for the duration of it. Speaking of opponents, while the goal of BloodRayne is to kill higher-ups in the local army, not all of them are anything like the average elite soldier. Most of them are undeniably reskinned elite soldiers, but some are introduced through cutscenes that establish their own character, followed by a unique fight that will likely take 10 more seconds than usual to finish with Blood Rage activated.
Of course, I’m willing to bet you’re tired of all this talk about Nazi officers at this point. That’s soooo 2002, isn’t it? What you want to know is just how BloodRayne made it past LewdGamer’s rigorous tests to validate a title’s lewd factor. To this, I direct you to none other than the protagonist herself. Fans of goth girls should feel at home with Rayne, her skin-tight pants & corset, and her sharp tongue. While it may be difficult to be titillated by polygons of this time for some, the occasional CG cutscene is quite kind to her design, and shows off her slim figure much better. Naturally, there is also the added bonus of being half-vampire, as Rayne’s fangs are quite visible whenever she speaks. As mentioned not that long ago, Rayne can also drink the blood of her enemies to regain health, which is accompanied by delectable slurping noises and the distinct, wonderful noise of Rayne moaning as she feasts on her prey. It’s also accompanied by the sounds enemies shouting for help, so whether that adds or detracts to the charm of the aforementioned sucking is all up to you. Additionally, every single female character (all three of them) has copious amounts of breast jiggle every single time they make even the slightest of body movements. There’s also the option of modding the game outright, but seeing how that’s not an official part of the game, we’d never officially factor that into the game’s base lewd content, no sir.
As I’ve touched upon thus far, the sound design in BloodRayne is what really helps accentuate the better aspects of the game. Certain sound effects on attacks or enemies serve their purpose, but they can sound as though they were taken from a public library of stock sound effects. The voice acting in the game is generally layered with enough cheese to make six grilled cheese sandwiches with, ranging from Laura Bailey’s intentionally dry performance as Rayne, to the various soldiers that will shout many things as you eviscerate them. It’s not that the voice acting is outright bad, so much as it seldom cares about being serious. There’s all of one or two instances in the game where the tone in Rayne’s voice does not consist of playful, condescending wit, and it only happens during relatively serious scenes. Meanwhile, the soundtrack has no such explanation for being extremely forgettable throughout the entire game. When the soundtrack isn’t comprised of generic techno beats, it consists of the occasional ambient noises during the areas of the game rooted more in horror than in camp.
Sadly, the soundtrack isn’t the only shortcoming in BloodRayne. Once again, the combat is rather bare-bones, and the game overall feels distinctly unpolished. It’s not enough to actively hamper the overall experience, but it’s quite noticeable when a particular type of enemy can often wind up running atop your head after a leaping attack. Animations as a whole can come off as rough, almost to the point of exaggeration. Something feels off when a character is briskly walking to a door, yet their actual movement speed is way faster than what Rayne herself can achieve. The game is full of small, off-putting quirks in that vein, which actually winds up unintentionally adding to the aforementioned B-movie levels of charm the game has. What does hamper the experience is how some boss fights can boil down to a war of attrition if you’re ill-equipped, due to how the game’s mechanics work. Honorable mention goes to the game’s final boss, which is an experience akin to playing a game of darts, except the dartboard is slowly being pulled out of the planet’s atmosphere and you’re strapped to a unicycle. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, one of the vampire senses is by no means optimized for M+KB controls in the slightest; the vampire sense is intended to be used as a means of sniping enemies from afar, but the aiming in this mode is more sensitive to the slightest touch than a young woman under the effects of an aphrodisiac.
Ultimately, BloodRayne is a rather shallow, unpolished game, but it’s got charm and a killer (and murderous) protagonist. If this review has been incredibly mixed in conveying my overall impressions of BloodRayne, think of it like this: For every ten people in the world who made it tradition to marathon horror classics such as Halloween and Friday the 13th, there’s one person who rewatches cult classics of the horror genre, such as Evil Dead. BloodRayne is a prime fit for that latter category, worth an occasional revisit for its style, novelty, and Rayne. Just don’t make the mistake of watching the BloodRayne movie for Halloween. We care about you too much to see you get hurt.