Blade II (video game)
PlayStation 2 cover art
|Developer(s)||Mucky Foot Productions|
New Line Cinema
|Engine||Quake II engine|
|Release date(s)||PlayStation 2|
|Genre(s)||Action, Beat 'em up|
Blade II is a 2002 action/beat 'em up video game loosely based on the film Blade II. Developed by Mucky Foot Productions and published by Activision, the game was released for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Set six months after the events of the film, the game was originally slated for North American release the same day as the theatrical release of the film, but was ultimately released several months later, the same day the film was released on DVD. It was met with mainly negative reviews.
Blade II is an action game with a heavy focus on melee combat, although it does allow the use of firearms. The game is played from a third-person perspective, with the player controlling Blade's movement via the left analog stick. Melee combat is controlled via the right analog stick, allowing for 360o combat – the player moves the stick in the direction in which they want to attack and Blade punches or kicks in that direction. The player has no control over what kind of attack Blade executes, only the direction in which he attacks. Blade can also block, chain attacks together into combos and perform "finishing moves," such as grabbing an enemy in a headlock and driving a stake into their head.
A major feature of the game is Rage mode. Fighting slowly charges up Blade's Rage meter through three levels - "Sword", "Shield" and "Strength". If the player activates Rage mode on the first level, Blade will take out his sword and use it for a limited amount of time. If activated on the second level, Blade uses his sword and becomes invincible. If activated on the third level, Blade uses his sword, becomes invincible and increases in strength.
At the start of the game Blade is equipped with only a mach pistol, but as the player advances they can unlock other weapons and accessories; a shotgun, a glaive, armor, silver knuckles, UV grenades, and serum to increase his health regeneration.
The game opens with Blade (voiced by Tom Clark) and Whistler (Don Delciappo) receiving intel that a blood exchange is taking place between a street gang and a known vampire clan in the parking lot of Karkov Towers, a multi-company tower block and possible safe house for vampires. Blade arrives just in time to see the exchange, with a suited vampire disappearing into the tower carrying a briefcase. According to Whistler, the briefcase contains a vial of DNA and must be recovered. Blade fights his way into the tower through the underground car park, and then passes through the "Exploitika" nightclub before destroying the computer mainframe of a vampire-run company called Nth Phase, eventually heading up the tower after the vampire with the blood. Blade finds the vampire, who reveals that the blood is actually that of Damaskinos, former leader of the Vampire Nation, and the vampire mainframe is currently unraveling the DNA. Blade is able to destroy the DNA machine and then meets Whistler on the roof. Whistler gives him a canister of poison, which Blade puts into the ventilation system, killing every vampire in the building.
Upon returning to their base, however, Blade and Whistler discover that their ally, Dr. Grant (Kate Magowan) has been kidnapped by the Byron vampire clan. Following her GPS signal leads to a subway station where Blade fights his way through the vampires into the sewers, where he is joined by Whistler, who plants a series of bombs. Blade detonates the explosives and follows the sewers to Gaunt Moor Asylum – where the Byrons have taken Grant. Blade rescues her and she explains that the vampires are torturing humans to capture dark energy, an experiment known as Project: Vorpal. Blade escorts her out of the building and then returns to investigate Vorpal. He discovers that the vampires are using the dark energy to attempt to create a super vampire warrior much stronger than even a reaper. However, Blade is able to destroy the incubation chamber and Grant then reveals that the Arcan clan is behind the project, not the Byrons.
Blade heads to the Arcan's mountain base. He infiltrates the facility and destroys the dark energy storage chambers. He then meets up with Grant, who he escorts to the dark energy receiver. However, before she is able to take it offline she is caught in an explosion. As she dies, she tells Blade that he must destroy the core. He heads there, meeting Whistler, who plants a series of bombs. The duo flee the base and set off the explosions, destroying the core and putting an end to Project: Vorpal.
Blade II was first announced on January 22, 2001 when Activision revealed that they had partnered with UK based developers Mucky Foot Productions to produce the game for several as-yet unnamed next generation consoles. On February 2, in an interview with IGN, the game's director Mike Diskett revealed that the gameplay would be melee-based, but players would have access to Blade's sword and firearms. Diskett explained that Mucky Foot had pitched a game to Activision called Sky Ships. Activision passed on publishing the game but were impressed with Mucky Foot's work and offered them the Blade franchise. Diskett also explained that the combat system which would be used in Blade had originally been created for Sky Ships, and revealed that the game would be released for PlayStation 2 and Xbox.
The game was officially unveiled on November 20, when Activision announced it was not going to be a video-game adaptation of the film, but a stand-alone story which takes place after the events of the film. The 360o combat system was also demonstrated for the first time. The game was next shown at the 2002 Electronic Entertainment Expo, where the Rage system was revealed. On May 23, IGN published a full preview, having played the game at E3. Writer Jeremy Dunham liked the idea of the 360o combat system but found it difficult to get used to, and especially difficult to switch from one target to another. He also found the camera system to have faults, often getting caught behind walls and doors. However, he praised the game for capturing the spirit of the film well (something which he felt the first game failed to do) and admitted he was looking forward to the final build.
On June 20, IGN published an interview with Blade II lead artist Fin McGechie. He went into detail about the origins of the 360o combat system, which was born from the developers' frustrations with games that allow players to lock onto only one target at a time and force them to manually switch when they want to attack something else.
IGN published another preview on July 26. By this stage, the combat system had been finalized, but writer Hilary Goldstein was unconvinced by it. She criticized the fact that the player couldn't control what type of attack Blade did at any given time (punch, kick, elbow etc.), instead all that the player could do was control the direction in which he attacked. She also criticized the lack of a lock-on during melee combat, and felt the system in general seemed unfinished; "it sounds simple, but somehow it doesn't translate properly to gameplay as most combat looks more chaotic than it needs to be. With no way to lock onto specific targets in hand-to-hand combat, it can get confusing whom you're attacking. The combat-style, while different, is counter-intuitive to the way gamers are used to enjoying action games. That could mean a whole new style of gameplay for one person, but may be incredibly frustrating for a stubborn old-school gamer like myself."
Blade II received mainly negative reviews on both platforms, although critics generally found the Xbox version slightly superior to the PlayStation 2 version. The PlayStation 2 version holds aggregate scores of 53.09% on GameRankings, based on thirty-two reviews, and 49 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on twenty-one reviews. The Xbox version holds scores of 57.72%, based on thirty-two reviews, and 53 out of 100, based on twenty reviews.
GameSpot scored the game 4.8 out of 10, with reviewer Jeff Gerstmann arguing "Blade II has some of the worst enemy AI so far this year." He was also critical of the graphics, the sound and the controls, and concluded "If you find yourself out shopping for some Blade II-related items, take a pass on the game and stick to the movie. Poor AI, dull design, and lackluster presentation all add up to make Blade II a game that you should definitely skip."
IGN's Jeremy Dunham scored the PlayStation 2 version 4.9 out of 10, arguing "there isn't much to find beyond the horrendous controls and suspiciously bad gameplay." He was critical of the control system, saying "this is extremely difficult to get a hold of and will probably result in a mass exodus of gamers minutes after booting it up. Admirable as the attempt at a new attack system may be, we think that a more traditional method of attack would have been a better way to go [...] Truth be told, the developers didn't go far enough. If you are going to use the stick for attacks, then use it to its full capabilities (its potential is far more than "up and down" and "side to side"). Why aren't there projectile attacks or a deeper variety of standard fighting maneuvers? Innovation should be something that people chatter about excitedly, not curse at without refute." He was also critical of the graphics, and concluded "We hate to say it, but we saw this one coming from a mile away. Not up to par in any of the previous sessions we experienced leading up to its release, Blade II has turned into our most recent poster child for how NOT to make a movie-licensed videogame." Hilary Goldstein was equally unimpressed with the Xbox version, scoring it 5.2 out of 10. She was also critical of the combat system, finding it too limiting; "You don't get to choose to punch one fellah and then kick another. Instead, the direction of the attack determines what the attack is [...] The combat system seems to be begging for more. Chains, grabs, fluidity. But those things are absent. Because you have to use the thumbstick, and because the thumbstick represents the direction of an attack and the attack itself, combat seems very stilted." She was also critical of the story, missions and AI, and concluded "There are patches of Blade II that are good. Times where I play and think, "This ain't half bad." The rest of the time, though, I am struggling to get to the next ain't-half-bad portion. And those bits are too far apart to make the game stand up as anything more than a momentary distraction in video game life."
Eurogamer's Martin Taylor was also unimpressed, scoring the PlayStation 2 version 4 out of 10. He too was critical of the combat system, arguing that to achieve combos, the player had to play too slowly; "the way the system is implemented has turned Blade's martial arts abilities from a brutal dance of death to more of an awkward waltz of confusion." He was also highly critical of the fact that the sword is only accessible in Rage mode, he found the graphics average and the voice acting "worryingly bad." He concluded that "Blade II is a missed opportunity. What should have been a good chance for some Devil May Cry-style combat with fantastic characters and recognizable environments has instead turned out to be an extremely dull and awkward jaunt through some dull levels, and a combat system with complications that only serve to make things...dull. A decidedly mediocre title in short supply of redeeming qualities."
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