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TITLE: Blood
PRODUCER: Monolith, or visit the Blood Homepage
CATEGORY: Action

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Out For Blood


7.5/10 Review by Jason MacIsaac
You are the former servant of Tchernobog, an evil god. You're "former" in two ways--Tchernobog expelled you from his service as a demonstration of "sacrifice," and…you're dead. But don't let that stop for extracting revenge against an ingrateful demon.

When someone asks you if you're a god, you say...yes!
After playing through the Blood shareware, I can't say I was stunned. It was a Duke-style game with horror movie themes. Not bad, but it didn't blow me away. Once I played the full version, I changed my mind. It seems that they were saving the best tricks for last, and there is some great excitement for the patient.

Blood's strength comes from doing the basics right, and then adding a few extra bonuses to the genre. For example, we promise you've never seen a collection of weapons like these. Flare gun, hairspray flame-throwers, voodoo dolls...Weapon effects are quite impressive. Things blow up reeeeel good, just as they should. The Guns Akimbo power-up, which gives you two guns at once, is a real rush. Monster and level design is up there with the best of them, and once the lead starts flying, so does the meat. This game is gory like you wouldn't believe, with gutted human corpses lying and hanging everywhere. Even the installation is gross. Despite this, the game has its fair share of humor. Caleb, your character, sounds like Clint Eastwood, if he'd gone into horror instead of westerns. He's been known to sing a song while he waits for you to make up your mind. He'll make some Duke-like comments. "I think I'll donate some blood--somebody else's."

It's got its problems. Getting close to most things means seeing a lot of pixels. For some reason, it won't tell you how long it took you to complete a level, or what the level is called. Okay, not a huge deal, but occasional crashes under Win95 are harder to live with. However, after the last batch of Duke and Doom clones I've played, Blood is much more welcome. To tell you the truth, once I saw my bullet trail stitched across the walls and those shell casings rattling all around me, I was sold. I love making a mess, and Blood sure is good at that.

Audio/Video Audio/Video:
Lots of Blood movies in the theater!

Level design is big strength here, some of the levels looking more like real locations than even the ones in Duke. The train station and actual moving train levels are very well done, so is a hospital level. I also like what looks to be a nightmarish seaworld, full of gillmen instead of trained killer whales. There's also a more than a few horror movie sets, such as a hedge maze reminiscent of The Shining, and a mad scientist's lab.

The monsters are bitmaps, but well drawn. You may want to shrink your window size for best effect here. You've got different kinds of zombies, cultists, sea monsters, and a few more mundane monsters like rats and bats. The best-looking one is Cerberus, the two-headed hell-hound. Each has its own sounds. The sound of the Phantasm will cause you to wet yourself.

There is one other aspect I feel I must mention--the music. The music is fantastic. Dark, moody, evil, forboding...It's done in the style of some of the best horror movie soundtracks, and it makes the CD alone worth listening to.

Storyline Storyline:
Unlike most 3D shooters, there are cut scenes after each episode to advance the plot. The advance copy I received was a little glitchy, so I only saw the opening movie (this bug is fixed for the retail version). This helps give Blood a little more direction than most games, like Dark Forces.

Caleb, your dark angel of death, seems to be a little different from Duke Nukem. Caleb is more psycho, if that's possible, giggling insanely when the gore and bullets begin to fly. Whereas Duke liked Steppenwolf "Born to be wiiiiiild..." Caleb seems to be fond of Frank Sinatra.


Strategy
I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought
Strategy and Tips:
Sometimes the best strategy really is to run away. Some of those monsters are really tough. When you see one of those hands, retreat and fire like mad. When you see one of those Phantasms, just retreat like mad. There are tough beyond belief. Often, you don't have to kill one to progress through the level, so I say run like Hell.

If you find yourself confronted with an excessive amount of monsters, try check some of the corners or holes in the wall they are likely to have come crawling out of. The game won't (usually) abandon you to hordes of zombies. There's probably a power-up, such as a Guns Akimbo in the corner. Take a look around, and if you find it, get out those Tommy guns.


Playability Playability:
I think you know the basic drill by now. Shoot the monsters, find the keys, find exit. As with Duke, there are toys to interact with, such as phones, a jukebox, the wheel of a pirate ship...Level design is again excellent. The start of every level looks like the end of the previous level, giving you the impression of a continual, running world. A couple of things did strike me as lazy though--they have very explosives in placed to blow up walls strategically, so that the level becomes more circular in a deathmatch. This is fine, but they're useless in single-player mode. It's kind of disappointing to blow open a wall, hoping to find a secret, only to find some part of the level you've already explored. Normally, designers tag these features to appear in deathmatches only.

However, there are some cool things that bring new fun to the genre. If you've played the shareware, you know can damage most walls. But, your weapons also leave behind shell casings in the registered version. This is a nice touch of realism, and it makes an area really messy after prolonged fight--we like that. In multiplayer mode, the casings do disappear after a time. Got to keep the framerate down.

Most levels are designed around a horror movie theme. This gives Blood the chance to make some funny references to the genre. The zombies cry "More brains" (Return of the Living Dead), and if you look around the hedge maze, you'll find a frozen Jack Nicholson, still holding his axe.


Compare to Compare To:
Blood is very much like Duke Nukem, with its interactive "real" location levels, and its mix of ultraviolence and humor.


Nice/Not So Nice Touches Nice Touches:
Excellent multiplayer support for this game. You can play a deathmatch, a cooperative match (with or without monsters), and there's also a quick setup so you can play on an online multiplayer service, such as TEN. There are also some levels designed strictly for multiplayer use. There is a soccer field/stadium which looks much more convincing than the final level of Duke (it's even got showers). Here you and your friends can play zombie-head soccer (you can kick their heads around).


Not-So-Nice Touches:
Remember the face-huggers from Duke Nukem? They're nothing compared to the disembodied hands of Blood. If they get a hold of you (specifically, your neck), you're dead. I've tried everything I can think of, and every cheat code I can find, but I couldn't get it off. They will really piss you off, because they hide them too well. It turns out that you can get rid of them by hitting the space bar like mad.

Run this game in DOS, I had a little trouble with crashing and slowdown in some of the busier moments of the game.


Manual Manual/Hint Book:
Nice doggy...cute little pooch...maybe I got a milk bone...
Monolith sent us an advance copy which did not have a manual. I'm sure the boxed version will have one. Unless you've never played a 3D shooter before, you shouldn't have any problems with this game.


System Requirements System Requirements:
P75 or better, 16MB RAM, 80MB free disk space, 4X CD ROM, VGA colour, Sound Blaster or 100% compatible. DOS 6.2 or better (will run under Win95, but not well).

Summary Summary:

The Case For: Excellent level design, cool weapons, butt-ugly monsters to blow away.

The Case Against: A few aggravating aspects, some problems with Win95.

The Verdict: 3D shooter fun with some new twists on the game.

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