A Fortnight of Fright: Blood

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Retro
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As Halloween night draws near, Chad has taken it upon himself to dig into the vaults to bring you some of his favorite horror-themed video games. Can you handle the madness? Read on, if you dare!

Spill Some!

Duke Nukem's Blood Cameo

Caleb was making fun of Duke Nukem before it was cool.

Rising from the dead with a pitchfork in hand, a gunfighter named Caleb drags himself out of the grave to do battle with the minions of Tchernobog, the dark god he once served. Such is the setup for Monolith’s Blood. Caleb shambles out of the crypt to battle the other undead, with revenge on his mind and a song in his heart.

Now, I only had the shareware version of Blood when I was younger (I think it came on one of the PC Gamer demo discs), and after seeing and hearing me play it, my mom would under no circumstances allow me to buy the retail version. The game is a gruesome and visceral experience, with such macabre occurrences as heads flying from bodies, slain cultists letting out pained screams as they gave up the ghost, and disembodied hands attempting to strangle you to death. However, the game isn’t all axe-wielding zombies and decapitations; Caleb readily spouts one-liners, most of them referencing flicks like Army of Darkness, and even sings a showtune here and there. There’s a solid mix of horror and humor, and, in spite of some of the stomach-churning imagery, Blood never seems to take itself all that seriously.

Beyond the atmospheric considerations, it’s a solid shooter. Like its action-movie themed counterpart, Duke Nukem 3D, Blood uses Ken Silverman’s Build engine, and features probably the best version of the engine that was ever fielded. There are plenty of enemies, ranging from zombies and cultists to giant spiders, phantasms and fire-breathing hellhounds (the latter of which are the bane of my existence). There’s a good variety of weapons, too – instead of a pistol you have a flare gun that sets enemies on fire, you have your coach gun, tommygun and three kinds of dynamite, too. However, it’s the more unusual, “flavorful” weapons that really make Blood unique. For one, there’s a bottle of hairspray, and you can set the aerosol stream on fire. One of the more unique weapons is the voodoo doll. The primary fire stabs it with a pin (or you’ll stab yourself if no one’s around), and the secondary fire is an instant kill which destroys the doll. The voodoo doll’s instant kill features some unique animations on some enemies, like the Butcher’s skin just falling off. The final weapon is the Life Leech, which is a skull on a stick. A magic skull on a stick. It uses souls to power it, and if it runs out it pulls its energy directly from Caleb’s health. Yeesh.

Jason Mask in Blood
References to horror flicks abound in Blood. Here we see a rather iconic hockey mask.

But if you stripped away all the horror trappings, you’d still have an excellent game, and for one reason in particular: the level design is fantastic. Blood was one of the last games designed with the old-fashioned, labyrinthine level design that characterized early shooters, and while the levels would certainly work if they were, say, re-skinned for Duke Nukem 3D, they’re full of wonderfully macabre touches that really make them stand out. The game takes you through funeral homes, derelict ships, a haunted hotel straight out of The Shining (complete with frozen Jack Nicholson in the hedgemaze), and a very familiar summer camp. The two expansions to the game are also well-designed, with plenty of clever tricks and traps to tempt the unwary.

Blood received a sequel in 1997 (using the same LithTech engine as SHOGO: Mobile Armor Division), and while it’s a great action game that continues the tradition of one-liners and ludicrous, headkicking gore, it’s not nearly as good as its predecessor. Blood 2: The Chosen seems to be missing a lot of the variety and charm of the first game, even if you can wield half your arsenal akimbo. It feels a little less like a horror-based game and more like a gothic-punk shooter a la White Wolf’s World of Darkness. However, the storyline is less vague than in the first and there is some genuinely good gameplay in there – it just fails to live up to the first game.

I won’t deny it, Blood is my favorite Build engine game. It’s pretty cool that a game can succeed at being dark and creepy as well as funny all at the same time. If you haven’t played it and it sounds like your kind of game, I advise you to hop on GoG and get a copy. It’s a gory, groovy good time.

View Previous Fortnight of Fright: Alone in the Dark 

View Next Fortnight of Fright: Clock Tower


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