Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Blood II: The Chosen (PC)

My final 'B' game for the year is going to be the infamous Blood II: The Chosen. It's not exactly the most highly regarded first person shooter ever made, but I figured I might as well give it a try, seeing as it came bundled with my copy of Blood 1.

(Click the pics to view them in a very slightly higher resolution. I'm playing it at 1024x768 in the hope that it'll stop it crashing every five steps I take.)

Blood II is set a century after the first game and our old pal Caleb the immoral immortal possibly-undead gunslinger is looking a bit thin these days. So the game is set in 2028 and it came out in 1998... damn that means we're over half-way to reaching the dystopian future!

This is from the pre-rendered intro video, featuring shots of Caleb striding down a dark subway tunnel while the main villain, Gideon, outlines his sinister schemes via a voice-over to get the player up to date with the story so far:
"We are the Cabal.
I, Gideon, am its sinister genius leader.
We have always lurked among you, like maggots in the bloated stinking corpse of a diseased rat, servants of the one that binds: the dark god Tchernobog.
Until a century ago everything was going according to our... evil plans; we never expected to be betrayed by one of our own.
His name... was Caleb.
He destroyed our god and absorbed the power of Tchernobog.
I. and I alone, will restore our dark god.
I will destroy Caleb, I will mash his intestines beneath my feet like rotten grapes and Caleb will die for the last time."
Delightful fellow. Though he's got a great voice; he's very... theatrical with his delivery.

Now we've switched to in-game graphics and it seems that Gideon here has hijacked a subway train.
"This is Gideon, your guest conductor. Hold on tight, the ride might get a little... bloody."
But Caleb's on the train as well and now he's mad! I guess that skeleton look he had earlier was merely a trick of the light.

By the way, just to help you figure out where this sits in video game history, the game hit shelves around a year after GoldenEye, and three weeks before a certain other notorious first person shooter that starts you off locked inside a train.

Unlike Half-Life though, here we start off guns blazing from the get go. The train's infested with Gideon's Cabalco employees (the modern version of Blood's hooded cultists) and they tend to shoot on sight, so I've got next to zero time to react here. I need to gun them down quickly and then eat their hearts to steal their power. Seriously, that's how I get health back in this.

Incidentally these have got to be the fastest firing Berettas I've ever used in a shooter. I've been managing almost 10 rounds a second with them... each. Plus there's no reload button so they just keep going until I run out of ammo.

Oh, that was the whole level then? Four train cars, then I reach the front and find that Gideon's bailed and set us up to crash into the train in front. No wonder they didn't bother to put an auto-map into the game this time.

Well that explains how Caleb's been keeping himself busy over the last few decades; he's been living every day like he's a GTA character. I'm awarding the game 15 bonus points for using the word 'behoove'.

The crash may have hurt, but it doesn't seem to have done my health meter any harm. Shame about all those other passengers though; I made a deliberate effort not to shoot any of them as well!

Gideon's running to the museum apparently, according to my omniscient objectives box, so I suppose I'm headed that way myself. I'm sure finding my way there won't be a huge problem though as there's only likely to be one way to go.

Wait a minute, the objectives box lied to me! Gideon's actually just standing here waiting for me at the top of the escalators. It's switched to a cutscene, but Caleb doesn't seem all that interested in chasing down or shooting the guy at this moment. In fact he can't even be bothered to turn to look at him as they talk; he's just standing with his back turned, waving his arms from side to side.

Just out of curiosity I reloaded my quick save and managed to get Caleb standing on the down escalator when the cutscene started, which soon left Gideon talking to a wall.

Well Gideon's ran off again so I guess I'd better go find that museum then. Fortunately there aren't actually any streets up here to confuse matters and the only way out of the station is through a gun shop. Man that place must get busy in the morning during the daily commute.

Right now though I'm more confused about this disconnected ledge over in the left corner here. There's no doors over there, no hidden alleyway, it's got a brick wall on two sides and a two story drop on the others. So how did those bins get over there? Does someone still come and empty them each week? If so, how?

Right, so I'm looking for an alley then. Thanks objectives box!

I can't seem to jump onto those boxes to get over that fence in front of me, so I'll see if I can get there through the LaundroHut on the left.

Nope, he just walked into the door and died. Man, Gideon really did have this all figured out after all; poor Caleb never really stood a chance. Either that or it was a random game bug, but what's the chances of that, huh?

By the way, it took me forever to get this game to even run on my PC. I ended up having to either lower the resolution or turn the music off, though which one actually fixed it I have no idea. I ain't planning on touching either of those options now that it's actually mostly working.

They claim that he just stuck his head in too far.

Well he's kind of facing the wrong direction for that, but other than that I don't see any reason to doubt them. Though I'll scare the shit out of them with my Mac 10 anyway, just to watch run around the LaundroHut, waving their arms around.

I love the little sight on the top of the thing by the way, which will no doubt come in useful next time I want to snipe someone with a spray of submachine gun fire. Well to be fair, every gun has a secondary fire mode, and in this case pressing right mouse button does make him pull the stock down for a more accurate shot. But I have to wait a whole bloody second for him to flip that thing down every time I pull the trigger, so I'm going to stick to my old school technique to increase accuracy instead: running right up to an aggressor and shoving the barrel into their gut before pulling the trigger.

Huh, the LaundroHut is a dead end? I mean sure there's a door there, but it's sealed.

Someone was apparently a fan of the telephone call joke in the first game as there's another ringing phone on the wall here. I picked it up and it turned out to be someone phoning me specifically (well a Mr Cal-erb, but that's close enough), to ask if I've ever been a video game character. Whoa, fourth wall breaking messages a whole three years before Max Payne did it.


LATER


I've searched the LaundroHut top to bottom, I've tried breaking through all the railings, and I've backtracked all the way over to the crashed train and back, but I just can't find this bloody alleyway it told me to find!

It wants me to go swimming in the brown water doesn't it? Aw crap.

The funny thing is that it's not even pulling the usual video game 'blocked road' trick here to keep me fenced in to this street; this is really the end of the only path from the train station. I guess passengers must get airlifted in or something.

Whoa, nice gargoyles. I think I must have taken a wrong turn and ended up in Gotham. -500 points though for giving me a basketball and a hoop and not letting me take a shot.

These Cabalco corporate cultists around here are a real pain in the ass to fight because they are pinpoint accurate with every shot and chances are good that they'll be shooting at me before I've got my crosshair lined up on them. The game's going to wear out my quick load key at this rate.


SOON.


Alright, I am finally on the museum roof! Only one short drop from here and I am inside the building and that'll be objective completed!

I really should not be trying to shoot these commandos from up here with this gun, as it's burning through my pistol ammo and I'm mostly just killing floor tiles right now; but I can't help it, the gun demands to be fired! I mean look at all those casings flying out of the thing, raining down like golden metal snowflakes on Christmas morning. Or something.

Blood 2: The Chosen Tchnerobog display Sugarhill Gang Rapper's Delight
Well I ran into Gideon again at last, but he turned out to be a hologram (I knew that guy seemed more transparent than usual) and I was ambushed by commandos. I was half expecting the metal guy at the back to stomp out and try to kill me too, but he seems happy enough to stay put.

They've got some information there about him but the texture is so low res and blurred that I can barely make any of the text out:
"Was a hip hop hip [...] to
the hip hip hop you don't stop...
Rock it to the bang bang boogie."
Huh? Oh this must be an animatronic of Caleb's old boss Tchernobog! He always did like the Sugarhill Gang, or at least he might have if Caleb hadn't murdered him 50 years before they became famous.

To be fair Tchernobog did kind of murder him and his gang first in a dumb scheme to gain more power. He was a bit of an asshole really. The Cabal still worship him though, so I'm going to go over and hit the animatronic controls to... I dunno, make him do a little dance.

Hey, the animatronic activation switch made him explode and blow open a path out of this locked room into a corridor below! Well that was convenient.

Wake up Caleb, we've found Gideon again! He's right there, shoot him! Stop hanging around in that doorway doing your idle animation and empty your pistols already! Or at least move your damn mouth when you talk, you look like a PlayStation 1 model.

Gideon finally realises that this cutscene is just going to drag on like this unless he does something, so he has one of his minions shoot Caleb with a massive sci-fi gun.

Unfortunately for Gideon, the sci-fi gun had sci-fi side effects. In fact all it does is open up a swirly green portal for this new character to step out of. The sinister genius trio have somehow summoned the woman with the minigun from that loading screen art I showed earlier, and they seem as surprised about it as anyone.

This is soon revealed to be Caleb's old buddy Gabriel, who was murdered back in Blood's intro video. But then so was Caleb himself, so that's apparently not as big of a deal as you'd expect. Also she goes by the name Gabrielle now, as she has been transformed into a woman (it's a long story).

Gabrielle asks Caleb to let her team up with him like the olden days so they can figure out what's going on. Caleb basically tells her to fuck off, so she does. Gideon slinks off as well though, so the chase is (once again) on!

Well look what just dropped out of a swirly green portal at me. It seems that the Cabal's singularity gun has torn a few new holes in the fabric of space-time and now I'm being harassed by these acid spitting creatures as well.

They're much tougher than the average goon but honestly it's a pleasant change of pace to fight an enemy without infallible aim for once. Maybe I'll even get a chance to use this flare gun I picked up on him. The weapon is a total letdown compared to the powerful Blood 1 flare gun, but it'll help me save my shotgun ammo at least.

There's one thing that bothers me though: where do I go next? This place is a total dead end. Oh no... don't tell me I'm going into the 'water' again. I don't wanna go into the water.

HOLY SHIT, I really didn't want to go into the water.

How do I get this thing off my face? I'm firing off my weapons, but seeing as they're not pointed at Caleb's head they're not a whole lot of use right now.

Well Caleb's dead again. Man Gideon has this all wrong; he thinks that he has to come up with some ingenious and complex scheme to kill the guy, but that happens all the time for the dumbest reasons. An couple of average Cabalco goons could take out Caleb! It's the quick load feature that Gideon really needs to deal with.

Also "Make the hurting stop!" is a terrible catchphrase for an undead gunslinger and Caleb should probably whimper less.

These facehugger creatures are apparently called bone leeches and they're sneaky little bastards. You can just about see one in front of me now, swimming up.

I'm going to try to creep forward very slowly and lure them after me one at a time, because even though I've learned that tapping the action key gets rid of them, I have no interest in letting them anywhere near my face.

Huh, I'm back here again? That whole trip through the museum just took me right back where I started!

It's all a clever metaphor about revenge you see. It doesn't matter whether you succeed or fail, it'll always bring you back around to square one in the end without anything to show for your efforts but a wounded spirit and bitterness in your heart. Plus maybe a new shotgun.

This isn't like Deus Ex by the way, where I can explore a central hub area with other levels branching off it, this is a brand new level here. It just so happens to dump me back at the LaundroHut to retread old ground. I suppose this means that the sealed door inside will be open now.

Got him right in his Achilles heel.

Yep, the LaundroHut door was an elevator to the sewers. Because why not? Now I have to hunt down a set of valves to switch off this steam so I can get across the bridge.

I am enjoying this more though now that I'm fighting these blokes carrying pipes, because I'm actually allowed to dodge them. I can run right up and blast one point blank with both barrels (thank you alt-fire) and then slip out of the way of his friend's attack, just like I was playing a classic first person shooter in fact!

Whoa, I've found the Predator's lair down here! It's filled with trophies and bombs and... a Skaarj poster? I suppose it makes sense that the Predator would be a fan of Unreal. Now it's got me wondering if all those 'Valve Access' signs were a reference to the Half-Life developer.

By the way, in case you're curious (I was), the release order according to wikipedia was:
  • 1998 May 22 - Unreal
  • 1998 Oct 31 - Blood II: The Chosen
  • 1998 Nov 08 - Half-Life
Releasing a horror game at Halloween seems like a smart move to me, I can definitely see the logic in that. On the other hand, rushing a near-future sci-fi horror PC FPS out onto shelves before it's ready, just in time to put it up against Half-Life... well that seems like a bit of a tactical error in retrospect.

Oh that's just cruel, putting the Predator's disc weapon on the table and not letting me take it. I suppose it's for the best though, as that thing scared the crap out of me in Predator 2. When Danny Glover was climbing down that building with that thing near the end I was just waiting for the inevitable moment where he slipped and accidentally sliced his whole arm off.

Man it's times like this that I wonder why I'm still playing Blood 2 when I could be rewatching Predator 2 instead. 

Uh... I got nothing to say here. I just thought this screenshot looked cool.

Oh wait, I can talk about that little medikit icon in the bottom left of the screen. Like Blood the game has an inventory and... yeah there really isn't much to say about that either is there?

Of course the sewers would take me to the Center for Disease Management's basement. It seems to be full of these annoying human enemies though so I think I'm just going lie down here for a while instead.

Ah, the digitised photograph faces on painted bodies look. There's something that didn't survive the 20th century. Wait, when did Perfect Dark come out again? Oh whatever, it's close enough.

I don't suppose either of you are carrying any shotgun ammo are you? Because I can't find any around and I'm barely breaking even on bullets from killing the guards. It doesn't help that the pistol, submachine gun and assault rifle all use the same ammo.

Whoa, could this be the first appearance of the 'long, peaceful, glass elevator ride up the side of a skyscraper' trope in first/third person shooter history?

Well I've only got 20 shots of my Tesla rifle left and half a health bar, but I think I'm in with a shot at taking out the next set of enemies. If I abuse the fuck out of the quick save button that is, reloading every time I miss a shot or take damage.

Or I suppose I could just uninstall the game and never think about it again.


CONCLUSION

From everything I've heard about the game I was expecting my time spent playing Blood II: The Chosen would be saturated with despair and frustration, but I actually found that I was just kind of bored of it.

I mean it is how it looks, you run through areas and shoot at the dudes in suits before they finish killing you. If you're lucky you'll get a health heart from their corpse, then you go jump on some bins or stab some evil scientists to look for more health and then continue to the next area to get instantly shot at again. Eventually you run out of ammo and get killed by one of those portal enemies teleporting in behind you and eviscerating you. Though I did like how whenever I loaded a save game all the dead enemies on screen would be standing up for a second, before collapsing to the ground.

The voice acting for Caleb and Gideon is good, the story less so, and the cutscenes are as unskippable as they are unbearable. But the game allows you the option to play as one of the other three resurrected Chosen (like Gabriella earlier) instead of Caleb, which seems to deactivate the story entirely. I suppose it wouldn't make much sense if Gabriella chased Gideon into the museum only to find herself leaping out from a portal; though now that I think about it, it didn't make a great deal of sense anyway.

If you forced me to admit whether I'd voluntarily continue playing this any further, then I'd reply... no. I actually came very very close to declaring this as being Not Crap, so I decided to play it just a little bit longer, just to be sure and man I can't bear the game any more. I can put up with crappy enemies if I'm given the resources to deal with them, but I got to the point where I wasn't getting anywhere without quick loads and that ain't much fun for me.

If you want to tell me that I'm a bad bad man for not liking Blood 2 enough, or that I'm a terrible human being for liking it at all, then feel free to leave a comment with your feedback!

2 comments:

  1. Man, I reinstalled and played through Blood II just last week. It was a hell of a lot harder than I remember it being but mostly for bad reasons: lack of resources, hilariously piss-weak weapons, enemies with perfect aim, and explosions that can hit you through walls. Yeah, constant quicksaving/loading was the only way to get through it.

    I kind of like Blood II (it does have some cool moments and a fairly unique atmosphere) but I couldn't for a second call it a good game. If only GT hadn't rushed it out the door. What could've been, eh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with every word you wrote and I would add that Lithtech 1.0 sucked in general as a game engine. Lithech 2.0 should have been the 1.0. Kiss Psycho Circus Nightmare Child was done in 2.0 and it was a really well made , fun to play game.
      If only Blood 3 would get made

      Delete

Semi-Random Game Box