|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: WayForward Technologies|
|Pub: Majesco Entertainment|
|Release: September 6, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Violence, Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Mild Language|
by Patriel Manning
During E3, I had a chance to check out some of the many throwback titles that make up the 2D Renaissance that's been taking place for the last few years. One such title was BloodRayne: Betrayal. I even got to talk very briefly to Shawn Velasco, Designer/Director on the project.
Fans of the series may remember that the last entry was made in 2004—by the former industry standard, that's almost a full generation and a half ago. It should come as no surprise, then, that there were more than a few changes to the fundamental gameplay mechanics. In fact, Betrayal barely resembles its predecessors. Most noticeably, Betrayal cuts back to two dimensions. That's not to say this is a bad thing, however.
Considering WayForward's legacy and the glut (the good kind) of retro-style 2D platformers that have been released of late, I had to ask about the team's influences going into this project. Stryder was certainly one that was apparent to me. "I've heard a lot of Stryder," Velasco said about the comparisons that he's heard made to Betrayal. "I've heard a lot of Castlevania, obviously. When you have a gothic vampire game, I think that's an inevitable comparison." It was also immediately apparent that Capcom's Mega Man X series had an influence on Rayne's abilities, as she could wall jump and dash much like the Blue Bomber.
There's a very specific reason that all of these influences are so readily detected. According to Velasco, "When you're making a side-scrolling game, there's the right way to do it and there's the wrong way to do it. And if you do it the right way, well, that's the same way that a lot of other really great games did it."
As for the in-game action itself, it's definitely a hack and slash title. Rayne's arm blade scythe deals make quick work of most of the baddies, and she's got a pistol with limited ammo for ranged attacks. You could also infect your enemies and send them away to "greet" their comrades with a friendly explosion. This is, of course, if you prefer not to drain them of their blood to refill your health meter. Speaking of blood, I can't remember seeing this much in a side-scroller for a while now. (Strangely enough this game will be rated "Teen" according to Velasco.) Every kill filled the screen with it. Because of the particle system that's running in the game's engine, it was all animated realistically enough. When I say realistically, this is assuming gallons of blood spew out of the orifice where your enemy's head sat prior to his untimely decapitation. Maybe "believable" is a better word.
Aside from the fact that Betrayal is now a 2D-sidescrolling hack and slash, the biggest changes can be seen on Rayne herself. The series' titular character has gone from overt and "whorey" to a toned-down "hot" with an emphasis on her ability to dispense beatdowns. The art style of the previous games has been abandoned in favor of hand-drawn characters and backgrounds, with a few particle and lighting effects thrown in for good measure. The attention to detail is astonishing; Rayne herself has 4,000 frames of animation alone. To put that into perspective, A Boy and His Blob had 4,000 frames of animation in total.
Speaking of the art style, Velasco told me, "it's all hand-drawn—these are 2D images—and then our goal, of course, was to make it look like a graphic novel. WayForward is located in Valencia, which is just north of here right next to CalArts… that's where Disney gets all of their animators, so we have a lot of really awesome elements… Once we decided to hone in on this [art style,] we went full bore on it." There is definitely a graphic novel feel to the game, and, surprisingly enough, it's a great fit for the BloodRayne universe.
However, I still had to ask why such a change would be necessary now. "It's been a long time since anyone's seen BloodRayne," Velasco replied, "so WayForward is the company that developed the game and we're a company that specializes in this type of game, you know, side-scrolling action." With Contra 4 and A Boy and His Blob under their belt it's hard to disagree. These are two titles that received widespread praise among both fans and critics. The 2D side-scrolling format actually makes a lot of sense for this project.
At any rate, BloodRayne: Betrayal is shaping up to be a reboot fans should be able to get behind, and newcomers might also be able to enjoy without the needless tedium of trudging through the main character's backstory. Expect more info in the months to come.
CCC Contributing Writer