BloodRayne: Betrayal Review
For those looking for an old school inspired challenge.
Usually the thought of having to write up a BloodRayne review would induce crippling migraines and the erratic uttering of various four letter words that I can’t type here for obvious reasons; so bad have the previous installments been. But in this particular case I must admit I was intrigued and even a bit excited to get my hands on this particular title. Why you ask? Well because this game was made by WayForward Technologies, the California based developer responsible for bringing Contra back to its roots with Contra 4 on the Nintendo DS.
It would be nice to say that, like in the case of Contra, WayForward brought the BloodRayne series back to its roots. Problem is, the series didn’t have much in the way of roots to begin with and even if it did, that certainly isn’t a place you’d want to visit. The two previous games were clinics on how to improperly execute a decent idea for a game. What WayForward has done is show us what the game should have been in the first place.
Betrayal is an old school styled, side scrolling hack-and-slash bonanza. Some may see this as a step backwards for a series that started its life in three dimensions, but this is hardly the case. Developers sometimes forget that the most enjoyable games are those that are easy to learn but difficult to master -- a lesson well learned by BloodRayne in this title.
Its influences are immediately apparent: the game is a marriage between the original Castlevania’s side scrolling action and macabre sense of style and Contra’s hardcore difficulty level. There’s even a nod to Golden Axe in the form of a hand drawn map that shows you progressing from chapter to chapter.
The story of Betrayal follows Rayne as she kills a bunch of people and creatures for no real defined reason. Let’s be honest, no one has ever played a BloodRayne game for the story and Betrayal doesn’t try to dress itself up as particularly deep experience via unnecessary story complexities. This game is all about the action and there is plenty to be had.
When you first start playing you’ll likely find yourself doing a lot of button mashing. The game lets you get away with this for the first couple of chapters, but you’ll soon find that in order to progress further, your play style will have to evolve to be more deliberate and tactful. Rayne has a nice variety of moves to master and there are even small portions of the game that serve as tutorials for different move sets; these are not optional, so you’ll have no choice but to complete these in order to proceed. Even though these segments can get annoying, you’ll undoubtedly emerge from them a better and more well rounded player as a result of them.
Oh, and the game is gorgeous. Rayne has never looked better than she does in her anime inspired 2D debut. Characters practically pop off the screen and at times the animations are so smooth you may forget that you’re playing a video game. My only real criticism aesthetically speaking is the lack of enemy character models. Like in most hack-and-slash games you’ll find yourself pummeling the same handful of enemy types over and over and over, but it seems to be even more limited than other games in the genre. While this doesn’t detract much from the fun factor of eviscerating them, some more variety would have been nice.
The boss battles are pretty fun, but generally they are rather simple when compared against the levels that precede them. This isn’t to say that they’ll go down easily -- pattern recognition and timing are paramount to beating any boss in this game, but once you memorize their move set, it doesn’t prove too hard to bring them down.
Through the course of playing this game you’ll no doubt find that you die a lot. Betrayal is not a game that can be simply breezed through. Your skill and patience will both be challenged, but the game is actually quite fair. While the game is intended for a more “hardcore” audience, the fact that Rayne has infinite lives means that anyone can get through it. Those looking for a deeper challenge will turn their attention to getting the coveted grade of “Dhampir” on every chapter, a task that is certainly not for the faint of heart. Initially I found it difficult to get anything above the lowest grades, but practice makes perfect and it pays off in spades here .
A good solid evening of playtime will see you through the entirety of Betrayal. Though the game is short there are plenty of reasons to come back again and again, such as reaching higher chapter grades, collectibles, and a challenging trophy/achievement list that will test even the most dedicated of gamers. WayForward has packed a lot of punch into their first (and hopefully not last) BloodRayne game and finally delivered to us the title that our favorite Nazi killing Dhampir deserved.