A little bit of background information on the story, taken from the Blood2 Manual:
The Cabal, the cult dedicated to the worship of the Dark God Tchernobog (Caleb's nemesis in Blood), has changed drastically over the years. No longer content to remain a disjointed army of fanatics, they have organized a corporation to front their activities. Cabalco, as it is called, has grown to hold global interests in every major economic market. The Cabal's operations extend throughout this entire corporation, even to the point of recruiting its members from Cabalco employees. Some join willingly, some not so willingly. They are everywhere, and they consider Caleb and the other Chosen to be The Great Betrayers, those that destroyed the 16th incarnation of Tchernobog. The Cabal has dedicated itself to stopping Caleb. Gideon, the current leader of the Cabal, referred to by his followers as The Word, has been raised from childhood to lead, and views the conflict between himself and Caleb as being very personal.
Unfortunately for Caleb, there is more to him than just being a pissed-off dealer of death and destruction. He is a living conduit of the power of every individual hes killed, including the Cabals Dark God. Gideon and his Cabal will not rest until they restore Tchernobog. To achieve their goals they will hound Caleb to the ends of the Earth, theyll destroy entire dimensions and bring the world to its knees.
Welcome to the world of Blood. Youre Caleb.
Graphics & Gameplay
A few months ago I was positive that this game was not really going to be one for me, I was sure that the comic styling missing from the original game would make it an unworthy sequel, but I was totally misinformed. Monolith have built on the success of the first game and produced something that is infinitely better. Sure they have the advantages of the new graphical technology, but the intricate storyline, the great assortment of destructive weapons, and the number of bad guys to dismember makes this game a sure hit.
After a trouble free install I fired up the game and was instantly amazed. The opening sequences are absolutely amazing, certainly the best looking cinematics I have witnessed in a game. Monolith obviously put a lot of effort into the opening sequence, and it shows. Generally a good opening sequence shows that the developer has taken care to perfect every detail. Did it continue to stun? Read on...
Your journey through the thirty carefully crafted levels begins on the subway, which you encounter more than once in the game, always with a rather unhealthy ending. Gideon has taken over the train and it's on course to crash, you must stop him. By the time you get to the front of the train he's gone. The game goes on this theme pretty much the whole way through, you are always after Gideon, and he is always one step ahead until you defeat him.
Shogo, the first sample of work using the Lithtech engine, was visually brilliant, and I was extremely impressed with the new Lithtech technology coming from a developer I knew virtually nothing about until a few months ago. In my view Blood2 has everything that Shogo had, and more. The level design is certainly better than Shogo, it is clearly evident that a lot of work has gone into the dynamics of the levels, and it makes for an impressive set. The engine shines in this atmosphere, and provides for some stunningly realistic environments.
As you go through the game, there are loads of little things that catch your eye, and then make you stop and think 'Wow, that was cool!' Things like the smoke in the steam room, the ringing telephones, and the Helicopters are all effects that contribute brilliantly to the bloody environment. If it's gibs your after, it's gibs you'll get... It doesn't get much more bloody than this, and the way you can even cut up legs and arms even after they have been dismembered from the bodies holding them makes it just that little bit more special.
My only complaint about the Lithtech engine is the software renderer. To be honest, it's awful, and in my view not even up to par with the Quake engine. You have to have a graphics card capable of rendering in Direct 3D to enjoy this game, and if you have that then you will definitely find the graphics extremely impressive. The outdoor scenes are not as impressive as the Unreal engine, but with a game like this it is important to find the right balance between graphics and performance, Monolith hit the spot. The game flows nicely and for me frame rates seemed more than adequate.
The engine as a whole was fluid and impressive. Large open areas were rendered just as speedily as tight corridors and multiple enemies and special effects could fill the screen with little slowdown, unlike Quake2 and Unreal. Overall the Lithtech engine is a great addition to the engine wars, and could well be the one to come out on tops. As far as todays technology goes, you'd have a hard time finding something that does it better.
Sound & Music
As with Shogo, Monolith did an excellent job with the sound in the game. The powerful, but not imposing, background music makes the environment seem all the more dark and errie. The sound effects themselves are cool, there's simply hundreds of them, but you never get the impression that they have been overused. The scripted sequences are extremely well done, and again they are not overused to an extent where you might feel they are trying to compensate for other areas. Some of the weapon sounds were a bit bland, but that was really my only complaint with the effects in the game, generally they were excellent and complemented well to the action.
So far i have only had the opportunity to play the game a few times on a small LAN, so I can't really provide a clear picture of how it performs on the internet. What I can say though, is it looks great, and plays well. I found it jerky at times even on a high end server but that could have been down to my configuration. The BloodBath atmosphere is excellent and the level I tried out, BloodArena, was perfectly put together. The textures on the level in high detail were perfect and the fogging effects really gave you the feel of a creepy environment. My DeathMatch experience in the game is not great, so I can't give a very good overview of how the weapons perform, but as far as the effects go, they are brilliant!
Being released around the same time as Valve's Half-Life, this game has a lot to contend with, and in my opinion does it well. I wouldn't like to compare it to Half-Life because it's a very different game, but I found it to be extremely enjoyable and the single player side of the game had no trouble controlling my attention span. The well designed levels, intricate storyline, and impressive graphics engine make for an excellent title. I would strongly recommend a 3D card for this game, the software renderer does not do the game justice at all, and is pretty unimpressive to be honest. With a 3D card, and a reasonable spec computer you can be assured of a great gaming experience in Blood2.
Scores, Specs, and Links
Here's what I gave it:
Recommended Specs: Win 95/98, Pentium II, 64MB RAM, 3Dfx or Direct3D compatible card.
Review by: Chris Longden, 11/29/98