Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Vampire The Masquerade - Bloodlines: The Review

Developers: Troika Games
Publishers: Activision
Released: November 19th, 2004
Platforms: PC

Right off the bat i was... unsure about bloodlines. 

I got it free with S.T.A.L.K.E.R: shadow of chernobyl one day and knew nothing about it, save that it was a video-game rpg made in the half life engine  based on a pen and paper/LARP (like action role play) game akin to dungeons and dragons, albeit set in a vampire controlled L.A.

Nether-the-less i gave in and tried it. since the idea of owning a horror game and not playing it, at least for a review, left me huddled in a corner, rocking back and forewords in a fetal position.

okay, not really, but still i felt like i had to give it a try.

So the game is a somewhat free roaming game, with 5 "hubs" that are a lot like a level from tony hawks underground 2 meets the early street levels of max payne. You play  as a male or female character of your choosing form one of several subclans of vampires. each with different abilities ,some magic based, others brutish savages and everything in between. 

Gameplay wise its a 3rd person horror themed action adventure with rpg elements. you have your typical wasd movement, aim with the mouse as a crosshair and either shoot in fps mode of swing a weapon in 3rd person. everything is simple to control, even though the jumping is akin to a crab performing gymnastics.  the controls are slightly self piloting. you dont pick a lock, you right click on a lock and either do or dont, its not like thief or oblivion were you actually pick it yourself. Its a little gripe, but i like my games, not just horror, but across the board, to have a little room for self expression in it. Here the gameplay, whilst enjoyable, feels like its an unfinished tech demo for a playstation game. I know the whole "self expression" thing sounds uppity and pretentious, but this IS a ROLE PLAYING game, yet it never draws you into the character, you never make it your own, you cant choose appearance, very few dialogue trees come to different final conclusions.

.....i know im going off on a tangent here but it is a fallacy rpg that appears to give to the player the freedom it promises, and in gameplay alone you can see that it would have easily worked on the consoles as a straight up 3rd person action horror game.


Storywise you can slightly affect your choices but overall its quite a linear experience in comparison to most rpgs, its rpg-lite. you are given the "embrace", become a childe of the night and are part of a clan, you are then cast out to do menial tasks for the night un-life of los angeles. during the beinnings of you getting into all these political shenanigans things start to go very awry. a ship, full of dead seamen and a sarcophagus driftsto shore, a powerful vampire suddenly becomes reclusive, and a serial killer is on the loose.  Say what you want about its shallow designs, it does have a good number of sub-plots ,seperate from the core narrative, and i like that. whilst there isn't much choice, there is a choice WHEN to do most things and these little stories actual take up more game than the core story missions, and not unlike gta you will find yourself doing these way before heading onto the next area to fight another boss.

Graphically speaking its of the time. its made in the half life engine, which means details, but also a kind of ...i dont know, feeling you in a box with buildings painted around the edges. its not sandbox gameplay, its lunchbox gameplay, a close emulation, though it lacks the true freedom of its larger, sandier counterpart.
the characters are well designed, although a lot more time is spent on the women's cleavage than buildings which is A: questionable and B: unsurprising given this is a game about vampires, natures enemy of the corset.
All in all the graphics have character, they do have a tendency to jar, with the likes of warcraft and stalker contained in the same level, but the overall design thematically works soundly.

Overall i, not a pc gamer, but part of the console playing sub race whos primary evolutionary traits are playing first person shooters and being loud, Found bloodlines to be that rare thing. -A pc game i can actually play, its witty, exciting, though never scary. The music and graphics suit the dark, comic-noir feel and most importantly i had fun. if you own a pc that can play it, as a horror fan you should play it.


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