Sometimes it takes a few tries for a developer to properly execute their vision for a game. Just look at the original Metroid and then think of how it led to Super Metroid. It’s not that the original was bad, but it was a rudimentary initial take on what Yoshio Sakamoto really had in mind from the beginning. The same sentiment could apply to the BloodRayne series. Whereas the first BloodRayne was a sloppy attempt at doing an early character action game, BloodRayne 2 delivered a much more refined and enjoyable take on the formula. BloodRayne 2 unfortunately still isn’t a great game, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be lauded for the improvements it implemented.
BloodRayne 2 takes place in modern times, so there are no secret Nazi squads to be found. Rather, the narrative is a much more personal tale of revenge. The plot centers around Kagan, Rayne’s vampire father, and the extensive family of bastard dhampir children he’s sired over the decades. This twisted ‘family’ has formed an organization called the Cult of Kagan, which aims to create a dark world where vampires can walk the earth freely. So, Rayne sets out on a quest to not only kill all her half-siblings, but to kill her father and enact revenge for him murdering her human mother. It’s not a terribly in-depth plot, but this story is nonetheless vastly improved from the confused and dull mess of its predecessor, as it features just the right mixture of camp and cool.
Much like the story, gameplay feels much more streamlined and better designed this time around. You’ll still be roaming through linear levels that oscillate between brief platforming challenges and arena-style brawler segments, but it’s the little details that make it more compelling. For one thing, enemies actually put up a decent fight, so you’ll have to make full use of Rayne’s expanded moveset to properly deal with the endless waves of thugs and creeps. Beyond this, things like environmental kills and special finisher moves add that extra level of pizzazz that the first game sorely lacked, and Rayne’s controls overall feel much tighter and more responsive.
That said, the lack of any grading or meaningful progression systems still kneecap the potential of this combat system. Enemy encounters are challenging and enjoyable at first, but it can be easy for them to grow repetitive and stale as they start to blur together over time. Rayne does acquire some skills and attacks as her adventure continues, but there’s a pervasive feeling of stagnation that still sticks around because it doesn’t feel like she’s growing much more powerful with time. BloodRayne 2 has enjoyable combat, then, but there’s a lingering sense that it could’ve been so much more with a few simple additions.
Much like the combat, level design has gotten a boost here, too, and feels more thoughtful. Whether you’re roaming through mansions, factories, or sewers, each place feels distinct from the next with some light level gimmicks that mix up the platforming and acrobatics. Plus, Rayne’s tighter controls extend to her platforming prowess, so things like flipping between poles and grinding down rails feel much more tactile than the floaty, imprecise madness of the first game. We still would’ve like to have seen a little more variety in the environments—there are a lot of concrete rooms here—but it’s clear that the developers invested more effort in making levels feel like places instead of video game levels, and that effort largely translated to a much more enjoyable experience.
On the presentation side of things, BloodRayne 2 is still rather middling, but it’s clearly running on a more advanced engine. Things like larger environments, a more dynamic camera, and detailed character models showcase a notable advancement in tech, and these things are only bolstered by the enhancements added for this re-release. It’s still clear that this is a title from the mid-2000’s, but elements like realistic shadows cast from firelight or reflections off a marble floor soften the rougher edges considerably. You won’t be at all wowed by what you see here, but the visuals have aged better than the screenshots may make it seem.
Unfortunately, performance isn’t too much improved for this entry. The good news is that we didn’t notice any substantial frame drops in the action, making for a much smoother experience overall compared to the first game’s ReVamp. The bad news is that BloodRayne 2 is also prone to some crashing issues, necessitating a restart and lost progress each time. This is something that could most likely be patched out over time, but the fact that this release has such issues at all is quite disappointing.
We feel special mention needs to be made here about how much better realized BloodRayne 2 feels as a cohesive experience compared to its predecessor. There’s a nice sense of ‘intentionality’ to this adventure that ties all its parts together in a much more satisfying way. It feels like the developers spent more time examining each aspect of the game and went through a rigorous process of throwing out what didn’t work and adding in things that would. It’s rare that you see a series go through such a transformation in quality from one entry to the next like this, and we’re impressed that original developers Terminal Reality were able to pull this one out of the fire as well as they did. If a hypothetical third game (no, Betrayal doesn’t count) from this era were to represent a similar leap in quality, we believe this series could’ve been something with real staying power.
Is BloodRayne 2 a better game than its predecessor? Absolutely. Is it a game that you need in your collection? Eh. Tighter controls, better level design, and more enjoyable combat make BloodRayne 2 far and away the superior entry in the series, but it loses a lot of its luster when stacked up against contemporaries like Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, or the original God of War. There are worse things you could buy for twenty dollars, but this is the kind of unremarkable game that you play once and then never again. If you have a special affinity for the more simplistic and occasionally messy game design of the era, BloodRayne 2 may be worth a shot, but even then we’d suggest you wait for a sale.