Monday, 11 November 2013

Blood



Sometimes, you just want to blow everything up. Sometimes you want to play the hero and save the world, beat the bad guys and just be all that is "awesome". Sometimes, you just want to cause as much misery and suffering on everything standing in your way through physical, electrical, magical and incendiary manifestations and as many of those combined as possible.

Welcome to Blood, please wipe your ichor-stained feet.

Built using the same engine as Duke Nukem 3D, with a few bonus features in the engine such as seeing through sector teleporters, Blood offers 4 episodes of chaotically filled levels with enemies, weapons, power ups, gore, keys and horror references. Yep it's one of those games. If Duke Nukem took the hero genre through sexist tones of adrenaline and muscles in gaming, Blood takes the horror genre through guts, gore and some of the blackest humour to grace a computer game.

It's hard to tell where the references stop and where the originality begins at times, even the enemies pay homage to zombies everywhere, evil dead films with the dismembered hands running around trying to choke you, cultists in garbs firing shotguns and tommyguns at you while tossing dynamite back and forth, gargoyles of various ilks from basic to boss standards, fire breathing dogs, spiders, rats, fish creatures, mimes, innocents (unarmed idiots), malevolent spirits and more await to be dealt with in many, many guises.

The plot and premise of the game is very simple. You're a former badass bastard in a Demon-God's army; you get thrown out along with your 3 pals and killed. Sometime later you awaken and go on a revenge spree against the creatures that took your place in the army and the God/Demon of the cult you had previously signed up to, while not realising the severance plan was rather harsh. Starting off by quoting straight from Army of Darkness with "I live, again", before running outside to stab a zombie to death with a pitchfork. There's no messing about here, if you down it, it will likely get back up again and attack, which if you're not expecting this, can be a killer. It's a quick and fast lesson on the subject of "Watch out, this game might be slightly more than you're expecting".

Blood does boast quite the assortment of ass-kicking and pain inducing weapons one could expect to find in a game. Pitch forks for the melee stabbings, flare pistol to light up enemies and have them running around screaming in various guises from pseudo arabic-latin to the hilarious "it burns it burns", shotguns and tommyguns for the bullet and pellet crowds, Napalm Launcher for the rocket fans, dynamite bundles for grenade fans, prox mines and remote mines for the wankers in multiplayer, aerosol can and lighter for a flame thrower or explosion of fire, Tesla cannon for the electric fans, the life leech which takes health off enemies or yourself if you've no ammo for it and the Voodoo doll while hits enemies when you stab or can kill them outright with obscure effects. There some extra items in there for scuba gear, health packs, reflective shields and so on though some of these cause a game to crash depending on the patch you have in the software.

The potential for causing mayhem and pain is nothing short of over kill. Blow enemies up and watch their flesh get ripped from their bodies, set them on fire and have them running around, use magic to disintegrate them in ways that the Nazi’s from Raiders of the Lost Ark would be proud of. Though the real interest comes when you're up against enemies that are outright immune to specific attacks or just very resilient to them. The Cerberus dogs and boss is a fire breathing monster group, so flame and explosions aren't going to be useful against them. While the Stone Gargoyle is rather resilient to bullets, and guess what you're only really going to be armed with the first time you fight one. (Though an alternative attack with the voodoo sorts the men from the boys on that one)

It still gives me a chuckle to have someone run out from cover, on fire, screaming.

The game's enemies also have a selection that not only cause damage but can mess your visuals up. Dismembered hands, if they get close to you, can choke you and turn the screen black; green spiders blind you with poisons while the red spiders make your view shake slowly back and forth. Sadly, that's it, which leaves you feeling there were some ideas and greater potential that just wasn't utilised to the fullest, even in the update/add-on pack where there's newer enemies but no newer effects.

Oddly for such a game, the music within it is rather fitting, suitably haunting within specific levels and even catchy to the point of becoming an ear-worm and having you humming along to the music while you set about murdering everything in sight.

The levels within Blood are a little disjointed in presentation. Some of the levels are rather generic and a few of them blend together too well in such a way that you can't help but feel "oh great, another fucking demon church" but the ones that stand out more are significantly more appealing to the player. From graveyards and churches, to churches and temples, to cathedrals (I'm not selling this well am I). Yes there's a gothic theme in the majority of levels but the variances can be rather vast. The most memorable levels are the Train, where falling off will get you killed; A theme park and secret level of a whole rollercoaster (yes you get to blow most of it up), frozen hotels that look like they're straight from the Shining (even has Jack frozen solid in a hedge maze at one point), War zone cityscapes, industrial complexes, maniacal genius' castles, a level of living flesh, and the final level... another fucking cathedral.

You cannot help but feel that there's something not quite heart-felt about the game when you're crawling through another frozen tundra, or another cave system. Yes, ok, plot wise the 4 big nasties aren't exactly holed up in cities and such but even so, why do the bosses reside in a mountain top cathedral, a cave, another cave and another cathedral? As you progress through the levels you start to realise at about level 7-8 that it's aiming towards the boss and it's getting SO very generic.

That said, the shopping mall level is hilarious with that muzak playing which later become elevator music in Blood 2. Given the music is so cheerful and upbeat, it somehow becomes more appropriate to the character and the game when butchering armies of zombies and cultists, watching them explode, burn and scream, to the sound of this piece of music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L928CmhAPQY#

It just happily fits the game, giving me the idea that Caleb, our hero-antagonist, is gleefully just butchering people left and right and it just so happens to coincide with defeating a greater evil. There's no real "good vs. bad" here, it's just "Which is more evil?" I suppose it could raise questions of what is the definition of "bad" and "evil", is it merely relative to the situation or circumstance and is someone automatically good if they oppose evil? But ultimately it doesn't do that, we could pretend it does but it's just a kill fest with a nutcase character butchering everything else in his path. You don't root for either side, but you sit back and just go mental on anything that sticks its head up for the purpose of being gunned down.

As with any good single player fight fest of guns, there are bosses and a final boss. (Halo 2... can I see you over here please for a moment). The culmination of level after level after level of conflict resulting in a one-to-one showdown with the big bad of that episode. The Stone Gargoyle (later just an annoying shit you can find in the first level of some episodes), A giant spider (spawning more little spiders, annoying now and later) A 2 headed fire breathing dog (incorrectly named Cerberus, which had 3 heads, come on people do your fucking research!) and the final boss being the demon god that started the whole cult, Tchernobog, which has the ever-so-lovely ability to just set you on fire as soon as look at you. While launching fireballs.

Of course with any boss battle, the higher the difficulty, the more health it has. In some cases having nearly 5x as much health from easy mode to insane mode, though with the same ammo available as there was in easy mode, players can find themselves running out of ammo, meaning you'll fight the boss with weapons that won't do any damage, or have to use the pitch fork, which is an instant death if you're against the final boss as it kills upon contact.

The game is certainly entertaining but it does have need for a little of what one might call, an acquired taste. Particular with the pop-cultural references to horror films, and while the game gets older, the references of course, become more obscure to the younger audience. But that's not a criticism of this game, but any game that uses pop-cultural references. In this case, the game becomes a sort of treasure trove of hidden snippets of referential material, a bonus for finding it and even more of one for understanding the origins.

But then, in the case of this game, take away the humour, the references and the aesthetics and you're left with a Duke Nukem mod. Yet in Blood's case, this is such a heavily adjusted game that it does stand up in its own right and actually plays and feels more like a different game than just being a Duke3D modification. It's rare given the high population of modifications being nothing more than a few tweaks and adjustments, but Blood stands proud as a game apart, a sick sense of humour, claret pissing from every crack and orifice with a huge grin on its face inviting people to come and take part in the insanity.

I'll be there every step of the way.