Full Review: She wants to suck your blood? and you probably wouldn't mind it either.
Around 2 years ago Majesco released one of the bloodiest guilty pleasures to ever hit a console (that I'll play, at least) - BloodRayne. You took control of the sensually-charged "dhampir" (half human, half vampire) title character, with a variety of super-human abilities and a whole whack of Nazis and monsters to kill. The game most unfortunately suffered some inherent problems, unbalanced gameplay and a certain unfinished feel not the least of them. And although Bloodrayne 2 still has some of those same issues, the game's even better than the first and still has me pumped, even though I've already been through it.
The second installation of the series starts you off with some changes from the first: Rayne's blades are shorter, you no longer pick up weapons, the special vision modes (and blood rage) are tiered, and a couple new game play additions were made - pole and rail sliding, the latter being somewhat underused.
The first BloodRayne was based on two types of combat - melee (which utilized kicks and blades on Rayne's forearms) and gun play - you'd pick up the weapons of fallen enemies as you progressed through the game. This time around, however, you'll quickly find "dhampir" guns - a pair of weapons whose ammo is replenished by feeding, or more specifically, feeding them: there is a separate blood reserve (the primary being your health) for the guns, and once you're feeding you can pull the firing trigger to have Rayne feed the guns rather than her health. In the event that you run out of reserves but continue firing, the weapons will start to drain Rayne's health, something you need to be cognoscente of in the middle of a battle. As you progress through the game, the guns will conveniently acquire new modes (such as the rapid fire, shotgun, flame and rocket variety) and each of those can be upgraded (you can "hold" more "ammo" for them) through regular use. Early on the guns aren't really very necessary, and though there is a boss battle or two that pretty much requires them, their use is pretty much optional throughout.
The game's main focus is rather clearly that of melee combat, and while the collision detection has gotten a lot better than what it used to be, it still isn't quite perfect. Having said that, dismembering enemies is almost too fun, and running around slashing various types of monsters and thugs is exceptionally enjoyable. No Nazis this time around, but rather a large variety of goons, mercenaries, vampires, dhampirs, specialized hunters and a large list of other delectable baddies thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, while all of the specialized enemies are uber cool, they are all almost impossible to feed on, in turn making it almost impossible to replenish your health and/or rage - and without the regular goons to feed on, there are unfortunately a couple areas of the game which are significantly harder than the others. Almost too hard, in fact, to be enjoyable. The fact that your stats carry over from level to level don't make things easier either, as there is a portion of the game you might call an outright gauntlet of exceptionally difficult to dispatch enemies. Having said that, the rest of the game doesn't suffer any major balance issues, and the boss battles are an outright blast.
Still taking the view that boss battles are best designed as enemies with a special and specific weakness, they aren't generally overly hard but still have enough of a kick to keep you interested for the duration. Each one has a gimmick that's more often than not relatively easy to deduct, and though the battles can be challenging and time consuming, you generally won't get too frustrated with them to want to stop playing. They also tend to provide plenty of "food" for chopping, dicing, feeding or filling your rage meter as needed.
Unlike so many other sequels, Rayne has not mysteriously "forgotten" her previous powers - she can still slow time, use blood rage, check out her objectives and look for vampire lairs. In fact, this time around, she learns to upgrade them as she goes - dilated perception (slowing time down), aural vision (mainly to check for objectives, and though they will both consume rage - which is earned by either slashing, kicking, or causing one of many special feeding fatalities - they will also work when your rage meter is empty) and blood rage (which can be used as long as you have rage in reserve) each have three tiers. As each ability upgrades it becomes more powerful (though you can still use the base abilities): aural vision will eventually open up ghost feeding (Rayne can feed upon an enemy without actually making contact) and eventually what is basically an enchantment (making enemies into allies), dilated perception grows to a slower time and eventually freeze time (which is exceptionally cool and very useful) and blood rage ends up being blood fury and finally an uber-powerful blood storm. However, each one drains your rage meter pretty quickly, so it's necessary to upgrade both your health and rage bars, achieved by causing "carnage" - essentially mixing enemy killing with environmental destruction. This can be achieved through your basic slicing and kicking or more likely, through the use of the chain weapon.
Rayne's chain is now more than a tool to pull enemies towards her for feeding (in fact it doesn't even do that any more); it is now used to grab enemies and fling them helplessly about (if they aren't to powerful, that is) over ledges, through windows, and onto sharp environmental hazards. It can also be used to attack certain objects and weaknesses on bosses that the guns (for whatever reason) don't affect. However, it only works if you've targeted something.
Targeting is essentially both an asset and a bit of a hindrance - in a one-on-one situation it gives you the ability to acrobatically fly around enemies and more effectively dice them up (in addition to allowing you to use the chain) but in larger numbers it means you're more vulnerable to attack from behind and to the sides. Having said that, the targeting itself is well done and aids a fair bit in boss battles and gun fights, though you can no longer fire at two enemies while targeting as in the first game.
While the in-game cut scenes aren't exceptional, the few "CG" cut scenes are all very well done (as in the first game) and it's a shame there weren't more of them, though the well-written story progresses fine despite it. It's a respectable 10 hours long (give or take) and though there STILL isn't any multiplayer (at least give up co-op!!!) there is a pretty reasonable amount of replay to be had still. The voice acting throughout ranges from mediocre to excellent (the woman who did Rayne's voice manages to jump between being exceptionally pissed off and just oozing with aggressively charged sexuality) and the visuals are all a bit higher than they were last time around - from environments to textures to models and lighting.
The newest feature, however, is the rail system. Rayne can not only swing from horizontally jutting poles (and swing from pole to pole, hang from one or rest on top of one) and climb vertical ones, but she can slide down and jump between railing, pipes and other such inclined cylindrical objects, extending her blades outwards if you should so choose. The former is pretty much consistently used throughout the game, but the latter is somewhat underused, though it may have lost that "coolness factor" if they'd used it too much more - it's one of those things that's around just enough for you to want more of it.
The AI isn't exactly genius, but for the most part won't hesitate to attack you in groups and such. It does, however, occasionally glitch, as do parts of the game world, keeping that somewhat "unfinished" air about the whole experience. Another month of QA might have helped smooth it out, but alas, nobody's perfect.
The camera is really the only other semi-significant change, seemingly a big farther out than last time around. While this does let you see the impressive architecture a little bit more, it detracts from the immersiveness of the action a little and more camera options might have been nice.