BloodRayne 2

BloodRayne 2 - Windows, XBox, PlayStation 2 (2004)


This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Bloodrayne

After the success of BloodRayne, it didn’t take long for TRI and Majesco to deliver a sequel. Rayne in the meantime has made a bigger leap in time, as now the game is set in a vaguely modern day/near future setting. While the ending in the first game made it seem like players would go for Rayne’s father Kagan to enact her revenge, in the end the hunt takes place off-screen. Shown is only the final scene where Rayne confronts Kagan, seemingly a Nazi-collaborator. But the vampire lord has held captive one Sir Trumain, who apparently raised Rayne like a father after her family was killed by Kagan. (No, we never heard of him before.) She finds the two competing to get hold of an artifact called the Vesper Shard, and Kagan of course got the upper hand. Seeing how he probably won’t make it out of the situation alive, anyway – his intestines are torn out and strapped around his neck – Trumain blows up himself, Kagan and the Vesper Shard with a grenade. Betrayed of her revenge, Rayne instead turns her anger towards her many siblings. She begins hunting down the less humane children of her vampire father, organized as the Cult of Kagan in his honor, decimating them one by one, decade for decade, until only a handful of them remain …

Anti-Heroes

Rayne

Rayne is back to kick some ass and suck blood, and she’s all out of blood. She has very visibly matured over the past 70-or-so years, and became an even meaner killing machine since. Once again voiced by Laura Bailey.

Severin

Now Rayne’s contact with Brimstone. He keeps frequent radio contact with her during her missions. He likes to tease Rayne, which she answers with usually snarky, but sometimes also flirting remarks. It is alluded that he might be no ordinary human, either, and he apparently has a dark past with Ephemera. Voiced by Troy Baker.

Professor Trumain

Rayne’s newly introduced foster father, who taught her to control her savage urges and use her abilities for a good cause. He is killed off shortly after he first appears, to give Rayne yet one more reason to hate Kagan.

Villains

Zerenski

Zerenski is the first of the remaining children of Kagan Rayne seeks out at the beginning of the game. The closest to the traditional, aristocratic European vampire image, he’s hosting a big party for the city’s upper class in his mansion… with an unpleasant surprise at the end. Akin to the original Dracula, he can turn himself into a swarm of bats. Voiced by Dameon Clarke.

Slezz

Not a full-fledged member of vampire society, Slezz is an ancient Babylonian monster called “Winged Shakab” and used by the Cult of Kagan as a breeding machine. Slezz is blind and orientates by scents, although that sense of hers is not infallible, either. Voiced by Christopher Sabat.

Ephemera

The most deceptive and seductive of Kagan’s brood, always plotting even against her own kin. Very fittingly, her powers allow her to become one with the shadows. Voiced by Scarlett McAlister.

Ferril

Short-tempered and blunt, Ferril is almost the counter opposite of Ephemera, save for their common tendency to betrayal. She is physically the most fit among the vampires, and her body is full with animated tribal tatoos. Voiced by Liza Gonzales.

Xerx

Xerx has a rather weak body for a vampire, and appears carelessly stitched together. Giving his interest in morbid experiments, like the breeding of incredibly fat humans as “blood cows”, it appears not unlikely that he might have done that to himself. Xerx is the most loyal to Kagan’s cause among the cult. Voiced by Robert Bruce Elliot.

The Unraveler

A vile creature that exudes a foul stench wherever it goes. The nature and origin of the Unraveler is not further explained.

Kagan

The cruel father of Rayne and all the other vampires in the game. He was killed during WWII while pursuing the Vesper Shard. Or was he? Voiced by Troy Baker.

While clearing out the remainders of the Culf of Kagan, Rayne stumbles on a huge underground operation, with humans trafficked away like cattle to a secret processing factory and terrible experiments. Even worse, the cult pursuits a well prepared plan to unleash a vampire apocalypse on the world, by obscuring the sky with a constant layer of thick, dark purple clouds, the Shroud. Dhampir or not, even Rayne can’t have that, all the better since saving the world goes along well with completing her personal vendetta.

German Fun Fact #3

Other than its predecessor, Bloodrayne 2 was officially available in Germany, though terribly mutilated. A word that gains a particular ironic quality in this case, as Rayne on her part can’t mutilate the enemies, anymore. Every single drop of blood has been removed as well.

Rayne still executes her fatalaties as if nothing had changed, only the enemies don’t take any visual damage from even the most gruesome cuts. The presentation is made even more comical by the fact that the sound effects of spurting blood and cut limbs are still played. Despite those serious changes, Bloodrayne 2 received an 18+ rating (higher than the uncut version of Nocturne got five years before).

Rayne hasn’t been lazy those past years and learned a much wider variety of moves. There’s now a seperate button for kicks, which are useful to disarm enemies and chain into complex combos with her blade attacks and dodges, almost like in a fighting game. The best way to showcase how deep the fighting system really is would be this tribute video by mctronken, words can hardly do it justice. When holding onto enemies for her meal, she can execute one of many gory fatalities, now the preferred method of recharging the rage bar. Except for the sniper vision, all of her vampire skills return, but are now upgradeable. Aura Sense appears in a different design, but has the same functionality, until it gets first improved during the story. Afterwards, Rayne can send a ghost image of herself to feed from enemies without even touching them, on the highest level it’s possible to get minions under mind control. Dilated perception is expanded to allow Rayne to move in full speed while everything around her slows down, and even stop the time. Blood Rage’s first upgrade simpy amplifies the effect, with the range of her blades visibly enhanced and a very high chance to dismember enemies. The ultimate power is the Blood Storm, which pretty much destroys everything around, but also completely depletes rage energy. Except for the basic Aura Vision, use of special powers now always uses the rage bar, making feeding an even more central mechanic.

Once again Rayne isn’t stuck with her melee abilities only, although the way in which guns are used has changed significantly. Instead of reusing the old weapons of slain enemies, Rayne early on finds a pair of vampire handguns, the Carpathian Dragons. Starting out as your average pea shooter, they eventually evolve to emulate the complete standard shooter repertoire, from machine guns to flamethrowers. While most minions are best taken on in direct combat, there are a number of bigger enemies that are much harder or even impossible to destroy without the right gun mode. All this comes at a price, however, as the Dragons demand a blood sacrifice in place of ordinary ammunition. Their chambers can be recharged just like the rage meter, but as soon as they run dry, they tap into Rayne’s system and start devouring her life energy.

The erotic undertones are undeniable (Xbox)

Finally, Rayne’s most advertised new combat ability were the new physics involved with the harpoon. Instead of pulling enemies directly towards Rayne’s feet, they can be thrown around all over the place, now. This opens a ton of new ways to kill, be it impaling, electrifying or burning enemies alive, or even just throwing them around until they won’t stand up, anymore.

That’s enough new combat mechanics for more than one sequel, but what makes BloodRayne 2‘s gameplay even more fulfilling are the many new “spectacrobatics”. Rayne is much more agile than before, the tank controls of the former game replaced with a more modern relative movement. To make sure players won’t find themselves hacking away into thin air, Rayne can lock onto enemies, which are then the pivotal point for her many evasive moves. Like most modern action game heroes, Rayne can dodge sideways and backwards, but also take a leap above the enemy, placing her behind her prey for easy feeding. Did she rely on her jumping only to get around the stages in Bloodrayne 1, areas are now set up to support a lot of new exciting activities. Climbing poles, hanging on to scaffolding and grinding down rails (while being able to extend her blades for some casual dismemberment on the way) are only a few of the possible maneuvers.

Processing humans into rations for the undead

BloodRayne 2 certainly has a more polished feel to it, maybe a bit overpolished, though, as the game feels a bit streamlined compared to its predecessor in order to make it more “gamey”. While in many ways a good thing, one cannot but lament the linearity of areas with little room for exploration, or experimenting in ways to mess with the engine, as everything appears more specifically laid out for the player. The harpoon mechanics are a promising concept, but it is abused too much for the easy way of “drop that many enemies into environment hazard to make things go kaboom and then proceed”, while alternative ideas, when Rayne uses the potent tool to pull down a hanging container, for example, are remarkably underused. Also harpoon-unrelated concepts like vampire doors that can only be seen in Aura Vision the game simply forgets about beyond the first act.

This is halfway redeemed by the fact how well scripted the stages are, and their very distinctive themes despite the whole game taking place in the same city. Most fun, however, brings the ridiculous amount of carnage Rayne can inflict on them. The amount of destructable objects has been raised exponentially (although of course there are still those pieces of wooden furniture standing in the middle of the room that are indestructable for no other reason than time and budget limitations), stuff explodes everywhere and of course the killings are more celebrated than ever, now with enemies sliced in half, skulls cut open and any other kind of mutilation that would give Hannibal Lecter an appetite. Fountains of blood go without saying. Like all the games that precede it, BloodRayne 2 is definitely not for the easily offended.

The bosses are equally affected by the up to date design philosophies, so most of them are “puzzle battles”, practically impossible to win without knowing the one correct strategy, but very easy afterwards. Zerenski, for example turns into three bats and takes off to hide in a huge swarm of ordinary bats, so only Rayne’s Aura Vision can expose him. Later fights become more elaborate, but it’s always a question of knowledge rather than skill. The simple mano a mano duels aren’t gone, though, but reserved for the many mini-bosses in between. As an odd exception, the very final boss fight also falls into that category. The ordinary fights are now actually more challenging, with even standard sized minion groups putting up a decent fight in the later stages, especially as Rayne’s ability to heal herself at the cost of her foes becomes less and less reliable.

“And I thought someone was gonna lose an eye!” (Windows)

BloodRayne 2 was the first Infernal Engine game to adopt that certain glossy look that can also be seen in Æon Flux and Ghostbusters, and it fits the attitude quite well. Like it’s predecessor, the game is full of visual effects as if to showcase the capabilities of the engine. With higher resolution textures and more lighting passes on models, the PC version once again looks best, but the console versions have also been optimized much, this time retaining reflections and real time shadows. BR2 is one of the better looking games on the original Xbox, and the PS2 port doesn’t look too shabby, either, despite the obvious lack of bump mapping that makes things look more plastic in the other version. There’s also a couple of odd minor differences. The Xbox seems to render the game in a slightly more narrow angle, making especially Rayne look a bit more voluptuous, whereas on the PS2 the design of the standard costume’s pants differs ever so subtly. The Gamecube has been left out this timme, assumingly because of the limited space on Gamecube discs. Equal to all versions, even the PC, is the fact that dead enemies no longer keep lying around for Rayne to behold the concequences of her doings. Instead they disappear into thin air within seconds after they’ve drawn their last breath, only leaving behind their puddle of blood.

The soundtrack in the original BloodRayne was nothing to write home about. It was always just kinda there, with no sense of connection of what was going on at the screen. These times are over, as the sequel features one of the msot dynamic and exciting action game soundtracks of its time, that fans of the music in Blade or The Matrix will just love.

The voice acting in the story sequences is once again the icing on the cake. Laura Bailey reprises her role as Rayne, and some other familiar actors return as well, though naturally in different roles. The mild bickering between Rayne and Severin is a pleasure to listen to, and the villain encounters, too, especially Kagan’s overly bad-ass-evil-overlord voice. Rayne got even more one-liners to drop during the fighting, making her come off almost like a female counterpart to Duke Nukem. Lines like “You saw the blades, what did you think was gonna happen?” are at least as classy as the platin blond macho’s most famous quotes.

Xerx: “Unless you’d like to follow me to hell? You’re certainly invited.” (taking elevator up)
Rayne: “Yeah, he’s in my family, all right. IDIOT! Hell’s the OTHER way!”

When finished, BloodRayne 2 opens up a whole bunch of extra options. Next to an interesting concept gallery are options to select any stage directly, as well as a lot of alternate costumes. Unfortunately, there’s not much incentive to actually go and use them except to drool over the more revealing ones, no alternative paths, not even a higher difficulty level. Infact, the game is made even more easy this way, as all of Rayne’s moves and health bar upgrades remain unlocked. The game has a rather steady modding scene that could offer a solution to at least the latter dilemma, but so far changes made to the game are almost exclusively cosmetic, eg. concerned with getting Rayne and all female enemies into more skimpy clothes, or out of them altogether.

The many faces of agent BloodRayne

The most ambitious fan project by far is mctronken’s FSAA Patch, which seeks to update the game’s graphics to support all the more recent special effects supported by modern 3D cards, but also by swapping all textures in the game with high definition replacements. The changes make the game look absolutely gorgeous, but needless to say, this poses an insane amount of work, and for years now only the Act 1 textures are available (work still seems to be going on, though).

BloodRayne 2 running with the FSAA patch and HD textures (PC)

Following the example of NocturneBloodRayne 2 left its game world and characters in a foxhole of apocalyptic proportions that never got resolved due to Majesco’s financial difficulties and the eventual parting of TRI with the publisher. In more recent time, however, the series appears to be close to a revival, with the tentative title Bloodrayne: The Shroud among the announcement list for Nintendo’s new 3DS handheld and another reveal supposed to take place soon. Terminal Reality doesn’t appear to be involved with any of those projects, though.

Removed Content

The available material about the development history of BloodRayne 2 is richest among Terminal Reality’s games. The game itself contains an unlockable gallery mode that shows a ton of character models, concept drawings and so on. Those, however, are meant to supplement the material that actually shows up in the game, more interesting imagery can be found at the official web site for the game. There are several preview screenshots that show Rayne sucking the blood of several party guests at Severin’s mansion, whereas in the final version those only show up briefly in a FMV cutscene. There are civilians in some of the later chapters, but all of them are scripted to die before Rayne can reach them, effectively preventing her from the immoral act of killing innocents.

One of the major bullet points to advertise the game was the possibility to kill enemies in creative ways with the harpoon. While it mostly boils down to throw minions on pointy, burning, electryfying or otherwise hazardous objects, the mechanic was once supposed to offer more variety. Creative Director Drew Haworth mentioned using enemies’ corpses as a bridge over larger bodies of whater in an interview with Gamespot prior to the game’s release. It seems that this feature like the extended balroom scene had to surrender towards the technical boundaries of the console versions, as enemies vanish quickly after they die.

Bloodrayne 2 is also a game obsessed with destruction of inanimate objects. It seems a carousel in the Twisted Park was intended to play a role in the rampage. The original model shown in the in-game gallery still had the horses intact, supposedly for Rayne to take them apart. Apparently someone already did that for her by the time she arrives at the location, though, as the horses are nowhere to be seen, anymore. Other preview screenshots show unused areas like a cinema, and known enemies appearing in locations where they aren’t to be found in the final game.

There was even a major enemy lost at the cutting table. The Roach Queen, who looks like she was a planned boss monster for the Twisted Park levels, where hordes of roaches formate into ephemeral hulks, was “the long-shelved remnants of a technology concept created by Fletcher Dunn and Mark Randel early in the development of Nocturne,” as Jeff Smith remembers. Given that she’s only ever seen on concept art, it seems likely that she got the boot early on during development.

Finally, a beta build shown in early 2004 used a very different OSD, with icons for all gun modes displayed at once and a mysterious third symbol next to the health and rage meters. Unfortunately, it seems those shots were exclusive to IGN, so once more there are no watermark-free versions available.

Comparison Screenshots

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