What happens when you take a little known comic book character and place him in a movie? Well from the looks of the box office receipts from Blade I and II, it would equate to success. But what happens when you place him in a next generation video game and introduce an innovative concept? You get Activision’s latest Dud, Blade II for the PS2.
On paper the game looks great, you’ll assume the role of Blade, a half-man/half vampire that has earned the nickname ‘daywalker.’ As Blade, you’ll get some major vampire ass as you fight to halt their devious plans. Let’s give the player a 360 fighting system and some kick ass weapons and you have one hell of an action game, right? Right? Wrong. Here’s how the game really turns out, you assume the role of a man who sets out to stop the bad guys from doing evil. Utilizing an amazingly impractical control scheme, he must rid the world of some of the most mundane and snooze-inducing enemies in the history of video gaming.
This game was doomed right from the start, the intro movie is in essence an advertisement for the movie Blade II. The inclusion of the trailer really dampened my spirits and made me feel like I was playing some sort of marketing vehicle rather than a game that is set 6 months after the conclusion of the major motion picture. The inclusion of the DVD extras doesn’t help matters either, the whole thing feels like an interactive advertisement. If the game were a movie tie-in then I would perhaps be more understanding but the game itself is set six months after the conclusion of Blade II, an obvious attempt to differentiate the game from the movie. It doesn’t make sense though, if they thought hard enough to set the game ahead of the movie then why give it the same name? This is just another one of the baffling questions that you’ll no doubt be asking yourself as you try your best to cope with the loss of your hard-earned money.
Blade II is a beat-em-up of the most stereotypical kind. Most of your objectives revolve around you entering a room and disposing of all the vampires before you can move on. Your next goal? Enter another room and dispose of your enemies. And after that? Enter another room and… you guessed it, destroy all of your enemies. It seems like absolutely no effort was placed into mission or goal structure, it’s just fight fight fight until you set off the trigger that will unlock the next door. It’s programming of the most primitive kind and it really pays testament to the rest of the game’s quality.
Goals of this sort were common in games of the early 90's, a sign of just how far behind this game truly is. Of course this wouldn’t be a problem if the fighting in the game were fun but even the much talked about 360 degree fighting system fails to deliver. Utilizing the right analog stick, you fight in the direction that you’re pressing. This allows you to control which direction you’re fighting regardless of your character’s orientation, another concept that sounds good on paper. However, the system is so unpolished and disjointed that it makes fighting feel more like a chore rather than a joy. You’ll need to time your button presses or else Blade will keep performing the same move over and over. It would have been nice had the timing brought forth more combos but it just wasn’t to be, what you’ll find yourself doing is using the same combo over and over and over to dispose of all your carbon copy enemies. What really hurts this game though is that you can’t select your method of attack, each direction has an attack designated to it, this means pressing the direction your facing will always yield a punch and only a punch. Pressing back and left will yield a kick and only a kick. Also, you must remain in one spot while doing combat. Have an enemy that is just out of your reach? Too bad, you’ll have to move closer and then perform the attack again as opposed to attacking while progressing towards your target. The system is just too hard to get the hang of and at many times, too impractical to use. Though innovative in thought, a little too complicated in practice.
Even more baffling about the combat is Blade’s limited use of the sword. A small bar gradually fills as you kick more and more vampire ass. When it reaches a certain point you’ll see the word “Sword” flash on the screen, pressing R1 will allow Blade to unsheath a sword and do some massive damage to his enemies. Now this is great and all (decapitations totally rule!) but why can’t Blade use the sword at all times? Is he too weak to wield it? Is he too scared to use it? The game doesn’t answer these questions, instead it forces you to use a considerably weak weapon (melee attacks) as opposed to a much stronger weapon (the sword) without much explanation. Usage of the sword considerably increases gore and the funfactor, why limit the action? It’s inane decisions like this that really hamper this game.
In addition to the sword, you’ll be able to bring along your usual fodder. Pistols, Shotguns and glaives are the order of the day here. To their credit, the weapons are amazingly fun to use but again their use is limited. As you use them you’ll find that like the sword, they’re much easier to utilize and yield far more gore than the melee attacks. You won’t be supplied with much ammo though, so you’ll have to conservatively use another one of the game’s few entertaining aspects. Is it any wonder why this game is receiving such a low rating?
I’d like to discuss the game’s AI. All right, I’m finished. Why so short? Simple, there is none. The game relies heavily on the gang mentality rather than any sort of strategic approach. To make matters worse, the enemies have a tendency to attack you ‘black ninja style’ in that they’ll surround you and attack you one at a time. If you want an idea of how braindead the AI is think of the puddy patrol from the old Power Rangers TV show and subtract a few dozen IQ points. They’ll stand perfectly still and wait for you to hit them, that’s it. On most occasions they’ll just stand still as you beat the living hell out of their buddies. There seems to be very little AI coding in the game and if it exists you’ll need a microscope to find it.
Perhaps most puzzling about the combat is the way that Blade disposes of his enemies. Aren’t vampires usually disposed via a stake to the heart or something of that sort? Well apparently, Blade doesn’t read old folklore because he demolishes his enemies with his bare hands and feet. Just a few simple shots to the head will vanquish even the most stubborn of vampires. Who’d have known that the proper way to get rid of Dracula was to just beat him into submission? I guess Blade don’t take no crap from no one, not even 2000 year old myths.
If there’s one thing I can credit the guys at Murky Foot with it would have to be their persistence to continuity. The control is bad, the AI is bad, and not to be outdone by the other aspects, the graphics are bad. Much of the game features bland, poorly textured and poorly constructed environments that are eerily reminiscent of your last generation PSOne game. Every time you reach a new area of the game you’ll probably find yourself experiencing massive amounts of déjà vu from being surrounded by the same bland textures over and over again. Even the architecture on the game is horribly out of date. The cars are so blocky that they look as if they were constructed from a pile of lego blocks, same goes for the furniture. It looks like the guys at Activision should go on Trading Spaces and get some new decorating ideas from Frank.
Player models fare much better, however, as Blade has received a rather large amount of attention. The Blade model looks pretty good and is a pretty accurate representation of Wesley Snipes. His enemies and cohorts don’t fare quite as well, however, they are so awfully generic and mundane that they have a hard time being memorable or noticeable. We’re talking generic beat-em-up fodder here. There are a few places where signs of brilliance are trying to push their way through (the nightclub comes to mind) but those moments are far and few.
The music in this game sounds like it was taken straight off of Fatboy Slim’s Greatest Rejects album. Everything has a sort of upbeat techno feel to it but it just doesn’t quite work in this game. Activision emphasizes slow and rhythmic fighting but decides to set it against a fast paced and hectic techno soundtrack? It’s like slowly trying to count from one to ten while someone else is counting from one to one hundred as fast as they can. In short, it’s an un-necessary distraction that again, detracts from the overall gameplay. The other sound effects don’t fare quite so well either, it’s your standard beat-em-up assortment of “ughs” and “oofs” that litter this average title. Repetitiveness is the word of the day here and it carries onto the audio department.
This game is full of so many glaring errors that you have to wonder why it was green-lighted in the first place. The old formula, search for the key (destroy all enemies) to unlock the door is out of date in today’s highly advanced age. Most of yesteryear’s tricks, such as enemies that spawn out of nowhere, are alive and well in this sub-par brawler. Sometimes you’ll see flashes of brilliance become hampered by some seriously questionable decisions. Why limit the use of the best aspects of the game? Why add in-game save points on some stages? Why was this game even made? I suppose some questions just aren’t meant to be answered.
A game that is full of potential but is hampered by some seriously questionable production decisions.
Rating: 5.8 Flawed
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile