Blood II: The Chosen
Be honest now. With games like Quake II you have to ask yourself what the most important aspect of the gameplay is. If you think it's killing people, then you might think it slightly disappointing in one area in particular - the blood flow; or rather the lack of it. You don't get great arcs of claret shooting all over the place like you do in Blood II; shoot some inept grunt with a chain gun and all you see are a few spots of blood. The only really satisfying weapon is the rail-gun - a perfect example of instant gratification. It takes a small portion of luck and a near-perfect execution of timing, but there's nothing quite like railing an enemy, especially in multiplayer deathmatches.
The difference with Blood II is that no matter which weapon you care to use, there's an instant reward when you start drilling someone with shots. Blood shoots all over the place. It rolls onto the floor, spurts onto the walls; you even gets bits of brain in your hair. Well not quite that last part, but you get where I'm coming from.
The version of Blood II we managed to get our grubby hands on is pre-alpha. For those to whom the term means jack shit, consider it somewhere between a series of screenshots and an actual game; a bit like the final version of Frontier: First Encounters. You can just about play the damn thing for five minutes before it splutters back to Windows or locks up altogether. Textures flicker like a badly tuned TV set, creatures stand and float around the incomplete levels, and there isn't a power-up to be seen.
But - and this is the important bit - the various creatures meet with glorious blood-soaked deaths. Like the first game, Blood II looks like it's going to be bloody - just like Quake II quakes, and the fact that Unreal isn't particularly, well, real.
Where's The Cheese?
Even though many of the AI routines have yet to be incorporated into a playable version of the game, it seems that designers Monolith have got most of the creatures doing things that past games could only dream of. Soul-Drudges, or zombies, adopt a simple find-and-feast nature, while the agile Shikari hunt in packs and only attack when hungry or i when their source of sustenance is threatened. More intelligent foe use different weapons and will run, jump and duck depending on the situation they find themselves in.
The worrying thing about Blood II though - and this is a personal gripe - is that Monolith have decided to dump the cheesy nature of the original in favour of darker levels full of brooding menace. No longer can you enjoy Caleb's one-liners, or perhaps the over-the-top screams of fat blokes who lose their heads. Even at this late stage it might not be too late for them to slip in a few gags, but it is a worry nonetheless.
The Original Blood Is About To Be Bettered
With almost every software developer in the universe either working on a 3D shooter or planning to so do in the near future, Blood II will have to pull something special out of the i bag if it wants to get noticed. What we really need is a 3D game that gives us more than just an excuse to wander around shooting everything that moves.
So what have Monolith got on the burner? Well, let us point you in the direction of i Blood 1, which proved beyond doubt that they have more than a few tricks up their collective creative sleeve. And it's for exactly this reason that we believe they'll pull it off a second time and send us all into blood-soaked ecstasy with the sequel. I One thing's for sure: they couldn't have timed the release better. The only real contender ' that we know of for the 3D crown in the near future is SiN, although rumours that Half-life is imminent will be cause for concern for the creators of both Blood II and SiN. Time in next month when we'll be pitching both these titles against each other and telling you which one is more worthy of your hard-earned cash.
All that aside, what is there to look forward to? Well, quite a bit, really. We're promised 2I weapons, most of which will have dual modes. The assault rifle, a formidable enough weapon on its own, comes with an underslung grenade launcher which makes a satisfying thwop when fired. (Notable for it's absence from the version of the game we played was the tesla cannon.) Then there are the decapitator and the microwave gun, which sound obvious in their effects, but we can't wait to see them.
There's also a choice of four characters, each with varying abilities and choice of weapons - which bodes well for multiplayer bloodbaths.
While on the subject of deathmatching, there will be Chumiliation kills'. What these are we can only guess at right now, but they sound very promising.
With all the other 3D action games falling behind because of iD's Quake II engine, Monolith are forging ahead with Blood 2, which was, until recently, being powered using Microsoft's DirectEngine. Some fans have expressed concern over the 'feel' of the game (the screenshots are apparently too atmospheric - whatever that means), but Monolith are making assurances that the game will still be full of cheesy references and buckets of claret, only this time with a more intelligent storyline.
The chaps are keeping the finer details close to their chests, but when Blood 2 finally arrives in the autumn we can expect a great-looking game that'll be just as much fun as the first one.
About a week before a certain game recently hit the shelves, a package arrived at addressed to Chris. He shook it knowingly, and by the tone of the rattling contents it was obvious to everyone that he had himself a game. Now this in itself is no unusual occurrence, considering new Editor Chris was then our Deputy Editor. So with the enthusiasm he generally holds out for his credit card bills, Chris prized apart the sealed flaps and peered inside. "Ooh,"he said, "Half-Life.
Suddenly all hell broke loose: "Where's mine?" demanded Steve. "Why didn't I get one? I reviewed the bloody thing. Look, Mallo's got one." And indeed Mallo had, the fluorescent box held aloft in cup-winning fashion. "Bastard."
I searched through the shreds of paper on my desk, hoping I might have missed a bloody great padded envelope in my morning post. Nothing.
"What are you crying about, you've both completed it," argued Chris. "Well we haven't got a boxed copy," moaned Steve, "or a manual." "It's a nice manual," chipped in Mallo as he flicked nonchalantly through the accompanying booklet.
And indeed it was a nice manual. It was also Mallo's manual. And we wanted it. Everyone wanted it In fact, not since Quake ll had everyone been so looking forward to getting a copy of a game. We'd all played Half-Life, most of us had even finished it. The point is that up until then none of us owned a copy.
"Cheer up," said Chris, "here's Blood II."He handed me a CD in a grubby cardboard sleeve, followed by a photocopied manual. Just to rub salt into the wounds I had to take Half-Life oft my PC to fit Blood lion. It was either that or Quake II. Not an easy choice, I can tell you. Anyway, it's a choice I'm glad I made. First things first though: Blood II is not as good as Half-Life - in my opinion nothing is - although it does have a few subtle differences that set it apart, not only from Half-Life but also from every other first-person shooter out there. The simple rule I'm trying to state is: if you want the best, get Half-Life, if you simply want a great game, read on.
Developers Monolith have been busy this past year and a half. Not only have they been hard at work on the sequel to Blood, they've also been developing Shogo: Mobile Armor Division at the same time, as well as their own LithTech 3D engine that powers both games. Such a crushing work schedule makes other developers seem positively catatonic. Epic's Unreal took nearly five years to complete, while Ion Storm have delayed Daikatana so many times that when it eventually does arrive it's in danger of looking passe next to Valve's seminal effort, itself a year overdue. Conversely, Monolith have more or less stuck to their schedule.
But such strict adherence to the calendar has not been without cost. Instead of working on the game until it's finished, Monolith have opted for the 'let's patch it up later' option. Fine if you're American, but more than a pain in the arse if you have to pay BT for the privilege of downloading files that should've been there in the first place.
Bring Out The Branson
Give or take a few decades, Blood II picks up where the first game left off. Now in the future, the Cabal of old has developed into a worldwide organisation.
Cabalco, whose purpose is to serve the dark god Tchemobog, as well as make lots of money selling processed meat products to the masses. Caleb, the original anti-hero, makes a welcome return, and brings three new members to the cast list: Ophelia, Ishmael and Gabriella. Choosing one of the four Chosen, your aim is to run around the 30 or so levels in search of Gideon (the Richard Branson of Cabalco) and eventually destroy him.
Choosing Caleb is definitely the better option for one simple reason: the entire storyline revolves around him finding and recruiting the other three members against Cabalco.
Choose Caleb, and the game contains a wealth of cut-scenes that drive the story forward. Choose any of the other three, however, and the game progresses level by level without any narrative at all. Thankfully, each character is very different in both ability and in style, so unlike other games there's enough motivation to play through it more than just once.
Like the original Blood, a lot of thought has gone into the weapons. For one thing there are nearly 30 of them, many of which have dual modes. Favourites from the first game are back, along with an arsenal of new weapons. My particular favourite was always the sawn-off shotgun - a stalwart of every Quake clone perhaps, but Caleb's weapon of choice made more mess than most and always preceded a healthy dose of one-liners from the man himself. Other weapons are the flare pistol, which eventually turns the enemy into flailing torches; a voodoo doll; a sexy looking Tesla cannon; and a napalm launcher. It has to be said that the range of weapons and their effects are probably the best aspect of Blood II.
Ammunition for magical weapons is dealt with differently to conventional weapons. The voodoo doll, life leech and the orb use locus', which is gradually recharged at a rate dependant on which character you control. The current trend is towards location-sensitive shots, and Blood II includes them. Unfortunately though, there's no automatic weapon-switching, and the remote-switched bombs are way too ineffectual. For multiplayer games though, the range of objects and weapons - and the fact that you can alter the stats of your character - makes for some fast-paced and highly amusing games. Maybe not quite as instantly satisfying as Quake II, but definitely just as diverse as Jedi Knights deathmatch games, if not more so.
Like the rest of the game ,the creatures look and sound superb. Animation is smooth, surpassing even that of Half-Life. And if you've got a decent machine the real-time shadows add greatly to the effects. The AI is nowhere near Hatf-Lifds standards though. Like all games of this type, Blood II has the usual mix of monsters, from the slow-moving Bone Leeches to the fast-moving Shikari. Special mention has to go to the zealots, creatures whose demonic laughter and ability to phase in and out of existence makes them one of the few that can send a shiver down the spine. Shoot one and it disappears, only to fade in behind you.
Each of the four chapters that divide the missions have boss characters fitted as standard, but here they're something of an anticlimax as you strafe left and right in the usual manner, expending ammo like there's no tomorrow. They look good enough, but take away a sense of continuity from the normally well-paced story. A massive firefight with more of the standard creatures running about would have been preferable, for it's the more open areas that create the best battles.
Although for the most part the levels are well-designed, it isn't until about a third of the way through the game that the pace picks up. Until then there are too many corridors and small rooms, and not enough open spaces. The distribution of weapons is also slightly awry, although the fact that you always have at least one or two weapons out of ammo makes the game more tactical. There are certainly times when you have to use your knife just to conserve ammo.
As a sequel to a criminally underrated game, Blood II is more than worthy. With the choice of characters and weapons on offer, there's certainly enough to keep both single players and deathmatchers (at least when the patch arrives) occupied for quite a while. Some of the graphical effects are breathtaking. And although the levels are for the most part involving and well-designed, there are two major faults that keeps this game from achieving a Classic status: the first is the lack of pace, and the second is the Al. You can thank Valve for moving the gaming goalposts. A few months ago things would have been different, and if Unreal, Klingon and SIN had all just arrived this month then they would also have problems scraping a Classic rating.
Simply put, Blood II is more of the same: more guns and more enemies. Although it's not quite as pant-browning as we would've hoped, it's a stunning achievement considering the time Monolith have had to put it together. If, like Valve, they had decided to take another year to overhaul the Al, we'd be looking at what could have been the best game of Christmas '98.
Download Blood II: The Chosen
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
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2018-12-17 Blood II: The Chosen game added.