Blood review, on 1997
It's a War
Why computer games flare such wretched and aggressive competition and arguments between gamesplayers, I will never know. If one type of person loves Duke Nukem 3D, the lively, colorful and action-packed 3D shooter from 3D Realms, while another type of person has his heart attached to Quake, the moody, visually stunning, frantic multiplayer kill-fest game from id Software, then does it make either of them more right or wrong than the other? The gaming world is constantly split, forking paths zig-zagging all over the map, each gamer walking down his own route, following his own opinion on a title. Is it so hard to say, "let's agree to disagree"?

And here, I find myself with Blood to review; a hopeless cause some might think, as no matter what I say, someone will disagree. Worse still, they will take the fact that I have a different opinion as a brash insult to their personal taste. So to combat the inevitable feedback, this review is turning into more of a, shall we say, report on Blood. I can give you the facts.

What's What
Blood indeed bears many similarities to Duke 3D. The project was, in fact, being handled by 3D Realms at first, who were contracting a software developer to create the game. The developer got bought out by Monolith Productions, who then went ahead and bought all rights to the game, taking 3D Realms completely out of the loop.

Although not a true 3D game, like Quake, the infamous Build engine has gone through a number of enhancements to try to fool you into seeing 3D as much as possible. Most noted improvements have given the designers the ability to put rooms above rooms, and use some true 3D objects (the gravestones on the first level, for example). As with Duke, your battle with undead forces takes place in many realistic settings, authentically designed buildings, with rooms, locked doors, closets, and all manner of things that you can honestly look at and say, "yeah, that could really be there".

The personality of your main character, and all the creatures you encounter, are quite lively and entertaining. The cultists chant their black magic and curses at you in evil sneering voices, slaves run around looking thin and decrepid, arms flailing in the air, trying to dodge fire (you may want to hit them anyway, for target practice). The masked avenger in a fedora and black trenchcoat that you play will often hum little tunes to himself if you stay still a few seconds, along with commenting on bits and bobs laid around the levels. You can read more about the game in the review of the shareware version which was released a couple of months ago.

Full Release Additions
The commercial version gives you a stunning 42 levels to get through, of which all the ones I played are very large and intricately-designed. Getting through buildings and other types of structures or vehicles (the first level of episode 2 has you working your way through a pirate ship, and you're running around a moving train on episode 1) is a prominent part of the game, which can often have you feeling quite lost and claustraphobic - lots of small, closed-in rooms, locked doors everywhere. Luckily, there is an automap.

The actual design of the levels are very well done, and I especially liked the way that they all linked together. That is, you usually start the next level where the previous one ended. It's a shame that some of the 'secrets' that can be found by pushing a switch or blowing open a weakened wall don't actually lead to a reward, but just a way back to an earlier part of the level already explored - this is basically to enhance the levels when played in multiplayer, but just leads to disappointment for single-player.

My favorite part of Blood is definitely the variety of weapons you have to play with. There are 12 in all, and they are really fantastically fun to cause some damage with. Along with the cool flare and tommy gun you get in the shareware, you now have three different types of dynamite to plant or lob at your enemies; the regular dynamite you can explode on impact or have it run on a timer, a stick with a proximity sensor attached so it self-destructs when someone gets close, and the remotely detonated dynamite for some precision bombing. You also get to use your handy zippo lighter with an aerosol spray can and burn the bad guys with your makeshift flamethrower. The peak of the pack though, originality at its finest, you have a strange voodoo cane, with a skull fixed at the end, which spews several hot balls of fire from the head, and then finishes with a magnificent beam of light glowing from the eyes. The voodoo doll is great too; dig your pin into the body of the cursed material, and watch the enemy before you squirm (although, this also drains hits from your health, too).

Blood's most advertised feature is - wouldn't you know it - the blood. Yes, this game goes off the scale for gore and guts, although I find it no more shocking than any other cartoony type violence really. They've increased the 'blood spurt' level from the creatures since the shareware version, and now you'll know you've killed a couple of monsters in each room as the ground gets sloshed and reddened. There's some neat touches, like the dead guys twitching feet, the tommy and shotgun shells flying off and actually staying on the ground, and the cool way you can play soccer with the zombies decaptitated heads.

You would have thought that a 3D action like this would follow on the success that Duke 3D managed to stir up. While the game is being heavily promoted by GT Interactive, the noise from Internet users about the game has been surprisingly quiet. My theory for this comes from these observations:

Blood is sickeningly hard. At first, I thought it was just me not being as good at 3D games as I'd hoped I was. But know this: I've completed the original levels of Doom, Doom 2, Duke3D and Quake without using one cheat code. With Blood, I could barely get past level 3 on the easiest setting! I hinted on this crazy level of difficulty in my shareware review a couple of months ago, but after dying constantly, with the frustration in me gradually creeping up, it's my opinion this game is just too hard to the point of almost being unplayable.

Why? Well, the monsters, for one. Usually, these guys are pretty dumb, often off target - and they need to be, because there's only one of you, and thousands of them. But in this game, as soon as you round a new corner, you can barely turn fast enough to see what's shooting at you before you're dead. The basic cultist, with the basic shotgun, has a rate of fire that can finish you off from 100 health and 100 armor in maybe 3 or 4 seconds if you haven't spotted where he's shooting from. And that can be tough, when the enemies have been placed up in hidden sniper spots.

All the 3D action's I've encountered, allow you to charge into a room of baddies, and usually survive if you keep moving, keep shooting, and just use a bit of brute force. Not here. The snail-paced caution you have to use in Blood if you want to survive pretty much removes the word "action" from the description of the game.

The other almost fatal flaw is control. Quake players will understand why the mouse is the only choice when it comes to managing your player in these games. The mouse provides you with precision, allowing you to direct the speed of your turns with pinpoint accuracy. So you can imagine my disappointment when I found myself being forced back onto the keyboard - yes, you can use the mouse to play Blood, but something is lacking. No matter how much tweaking you mess with in the configuration, adjusting the mouse sensitivity, it never seems to directly control your movement - when the mouse stops moving, your character continues to turn just that inch more, as though some inertial force was involved. It's disorientating, and practically impossible to play.

The shareware version was highly praised, because as a value for money product, it was superb. 10 free levels of new 3D action, with 6 original weapons and many enemies. The full Blood retails at $59.95, and for this price, you would really expect something special. Single-player is probably more involving than that of single-player Quake, but unless you're a die-hard and expert action gamer, with a tolerance for keyboard control, you may give up on this long before even exploring the later levels.

As for multiplayer enthusiasts, this game certainly won't knock Quake from the top with its 8-player limit, jerky Internet play, and control problems. It's a shame because the weapons themselves seem especially geared to making the players enjoy hurting their friends a whole lot more.

A worthy addition to what's become an infinitely swelling collection of 3D action titles on the market, but definitely try before you buy.