These days, it feels like every other ‘new’ game being released is a remake or a remaster of some old game. There’s value in this, however, as it’s wonderful to have great games that were previously locked to old platforms brought onto modern devices with improvements and additions. But, just because a game is retro, doesn’t mean it needs to be revisited. Some games are best left in the past, and BloodRayne is one of them. While it may have a mildly interesting premise in 2002, BloodRayne ReVamped is a boring, shoddy, and nearly-broken mess of a game that you should definitely avoid.
BloodRayne places you in the role of Rayne, a half-human half-vampire ‘dhampir’ living in the '30s during the height of the Nazi regime. Hitler has formed a secret organization to investigate how the occult can be utilized to aid the Nazi effort, and this has resulted in Rayne being called in to deal with the problems which that obviously has started to cause. It’s far from a gripping narrative, and it’s not helped at all by the dull, bored performances from the voice cast, but there’s something vaguely alluring to be found in what a schlocky mess the story turns out to be. It’s in that ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ category.
Gameplay could be most closely described as a 3D platformer with hack-and-slash combat and shooting elements, but unfortunately neither the platforming nor the combat proves to be compelling. Where contemporary titles like Devil May Cry and Ratchet and Clank ran, BloodRayne mostly crawled and this is due to a litany of issues.
For one thing, the controls feel stiff and unintuitive, which make the rare instances where precision is required rather frustrating. For example, Rayne is supposed to automatically tightrope walk across narrow platforms she lands on, but you have to get her to land right on the platform or she’ll instead slide off it like there’s butter on her shoes.
This would be bad enough, but the levels are similarly dull and oddly designed. Simply put, there’s no sense of flow or logic to how each level is laid out, there’s just a smattering of buildings, rooms, or islands that feel rather haphazardly strewn about. There’s nothing worthwhile to find in these environments aside from more guns or ammo, so exploration isn’t rewarding, and most enemy encounters are over almost as soon as they start. Especially for a linear game such as this, there’s usually some sort of ascending ‘interest curve’, so to speak, where a level reinvents itself and throws interesting new situations at the player. For BloodRayne, that curve remains flat, as you quickly realize this game doesn’t have much else to show you beyond the ideas it introduces in its first few minutes.
One would think that the combat in a release that’s ostensibly focused around it would be at least worth the price of admission, but BloodRayne drops the ball again. The problem here is that there’s no meaningful feedback, and the balance is all over the place. Swiping at enemies with your swords or blasting them with a shotgun doesn’t make them stumble or fall back in the way you’d expect them to, which means most encounters devolve to you mashing a button a few times until the enemy just suddenly falls over or explodes or something. That important connection that usually exists between your attacks and the enemy’s reaction in other games is basically nonexistent here. Meanwhile, if you’re running low on health, you can just tap ‘Y’ next to the nearest humanoid enemy and watch as Rayne effortlessly latches onto them and sucks their blood while they put up zero resistance, getting back at least a quarter of her health bar in the process.
There’s something to be said about the value of making the player character feel like an unstoppable and powerful force, but BloodRayne’s combat unfortunately feels like there’s a ‘God Mode’ setting that you can’t turn off. Enemy resistance is pathetic and simplistic, while Rayne is so absurdly overpowered that any sense of challenge or intrigue is immediately lost. It’s not fun to mow through a few weak enemies at a time, and Rayne unlocks a new combo move every few minutes to widen the power gap even more.
In a better game, these new unlockable moves would lead to deeper and more interesting combat, but BloodRayne doesn’t take advantage of any of its potential in this regard. Instead of giving you a few distinctive weapons, attack types, elemental effects, or something to spice things up, you’re instead reduced to mashing the attack button and watching as her basic combos or firearms do all the work. Later on, you get a time slowing effect and a zoom-in feature, but neither of these have any meaning when there aren’t any enemies that necessitate you use them. Moreover, having no scoring system, currencies, or upgrade paths for Rayne further reduces fights to feeling more like filler than meaningful encounters that you look forward to. They aren’t fun to participate in and you get literally nothing out of them afterwards.
So, the story is pretty rough, though not unenjoyable, the gameplay is basic at best and annoying at worst, but what about the graphical improvements that came with that new “ReVamped” subtitle? Well, for what it’s worth, this is the best that BloodRayne has ever looked, but that’s a layered statement. Textures are much more detailed than they were in the original, real-time dynamic lighting is present, and things like enhanced reflections on water showcase that this is running on more modern hardware. That’s about where the improvements stop, however, as models are still just as chunky and low-poly as they’ve always been. This port as pitched as a clean-up of the original game rather than a full-on remaster, and there’s only so much you can expect out of a game that came out almost 20 years ago, but it still feels like a little more could have been done to spruce up BloodRayne’s visuals.
While the relatively untouched visuals may be excused given the scope of this port, performance is unacceptably poor, further reducing the draw of this re-release. The most egregious problem is that the frame rate is all over the place — sometimes it’s 60 FPS, but as soon as a few enemies appear onscreen, it dips comfortably into the sub-30 FPS region. Say what you will about Switch’s relatively low graphical power, but it’s inexcusable for a game from the sixth generation of consoles to be this poorly optimized.
Worse yet, we weren’t able to play any more than a half hour at a time without the game crashing and necessitating a restart. Luckily levels are quite short and saves are rather frequent, so these restarts didn’t erase too much progress, but the crashing issues only further underline what a disappointing and poor port this has turned out to be.
We won’t mince words here, BloodRayne is a joyless and frustrating experience that’s a complete waste of both your time and money. The combat is dull, the level designs are uninteresting, the graphics are merely passable, and all of this is dragged down even further by rampant performance problems and crashing issues. The value BloodRayne has in modern video game discourse is largely as an interesting reminder of how far we’ve progressed in game design over the past couple decades. We’d recommend you give this one a hard pass; if you’re looking for a horror-tinged, combat heavy adventure featuring a titillating and badass female lead, we’d recommend you go with Bayonetta instead.