Back from a week spent in the 90’s. Well, at least that’s how it’s felt thanks to the recent arcade releases. Over the last seven days I’ve dungeon crawled in a Gauntlet-esque way, put the K back in Kombat and have now surprised myself by dipping a toe into the ancient seas of the 2D side scrolling, hack and slash genre I’d considered long dead to this modern age, HD ready cyber warrior I’d become.
Yet the biggest surprise of all has undoubtedly been just how much fun this final retro jaunt of the week, via the downright superb Bloodrayne: Betrayal, has been.
Proving once and for all that gameplay is God in the video gaming world, Bloodrayne:Betrayal doesn’t need to rely on the whistles and bells that so many of todays retail titles cling to in the hope of disguising a lack of quality lurking beneath its shiny veneer. Bloodrayne: Betrayal instead utilises the ideals of yesteryear. Simplicity is key, the tempo high and the challenge is very, very real.
BloodRayne, as we are well aware has a chequered history at best, and I know I wasn’t alone in approaching this latest title with extreme caution and less than stellar expectations. The good news? WayForward have done a truly fantastic job at giving a dying franchise the shot in the arm it so badly needed, and it’s taken a back to basics ideology to achieve it.
There is a story binding things together here but it’s paper thin, making fleeting appearances but never honestly raising the interest. Rayne, the Dhampir is called in to assist with the elimination of a vampire gathering and, well you can discover the rest for yourself.
Now, although the story is minimal to say the least, this isn’t actually a bad thing, in fact it’s quite bloody good as BloodRayne: Betrayal doesn’t need a tale to drive it. The story here is akin to lift muzak wafting away in the background as you travel between floors, keen to get back into the action….and what action it is!
Armed with blades and a pistol you’ll soon be slicing and dicing your way across the screen as enemies fall shredded, and occasionally decapitated to the blood soaked floor. Controlling Rayne is as simple as it comes, one button for blades, one for pistol, one to dash and one to jump. Yet as simple as that is, button bashing will only get you so far. To progress to the later levels, and there are fifteen in all, takes some genuine old school skill. Linking the moves together is not only vital against the increasingly difficult and numerous enemies it’s also deeply satisfying. Watching Rayne tear through a screen full of bad guys is a joy to behold.
Along the way there are collectables in the shape of hidden red skulls, these along with some online leaderboards give each level a fair bit of replay value and because the quality of the play it’s never really a chore to go back over old ground.
The graphics are beautiful. Characters seem to pop from the screen before the lovingly created backdrops, everything is crisp and clear, while still retaining the dark gothic tones that really give depth to each level. It’s old school meets new in the best possible way.
Unfortunately the sound isn’t quite so appealing, a metal-esque track bounces along in the background and fairly quickly becomes like nails down a blackboard, the saving grace here is that thanks to the brilliance of both graphics and gameplay it’s easier to forgive the accompanying racket. It’s a shame though as the game opens with a haunting piano track backing the title screen, my hopes were built before being dashed to hell with the headbanging fare that came next.
Overall BloodRayne: Betrayal offers gamers willing to forget about a franchises weaker moments something quite special. It’s a game that is going to test all your skills and gets gradually tougher to the point where you will scream in anger, yet because of great design and smooth as silk gameplay you’ll persist and eventually succeed, and that’s a great feeling.
Gaming should always be about fun first and BloodRayne: Betrayal hits that nail squarely on the head. It not only gives a nod to the 2D side scrollers of the past, it also sets the standard for the 2D future. Leave preconceptions at the door and grab some gaming action the way we used to do it 20 years ago!