BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites

Year: 2021
Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: WayForward
Genre: Action
Review Date: 1/1/23
Rating: **

When I first played "BloodRayne Betrayal" back in 2011, I was so angry and disappointed that I didn't even bother writing a review for it. It was so relentlessly difficult that I didn't last more than 20 minutes, and the horrible controls and lack of variety immediately turned me off. Ten years later, WayForward decided to revisit the game by remastering it and bringing Laura Bailey and Troy Baker back in for some voiceover work. They also "rebalanced" the difficulty so that it wouldn't be so insanely hard. While I definitely appreciate these improvements, they still didn't fix the broken gameplay, which is a major source of frustration and aggravation.

The story is incidental and not even worth mentioning. Once again, the Brimstone Society calls on Rayne to help them locate Kagan's castle and destroy his army of vampires. Unlike the previous two "BloodRayne" games which were 3D, "Betrayal" is a 2D scrolling action game with cartoon stylings. Rayne herself looks like an awkward Western attempt at anime, but she's not unattractive by any means. While the dark gothic artwork is beautiful, it's not always apparent what can be interacted with and what's in the background, which can lead to instant death scenarios. One difference I noticed between the original version and the remastered version is that the light hazards are nearly invisible in the remastered version, whereas they were very obvious in the original. That caused me a lot of unnecessary damage early in the game. The checkpoint system is mostly fair and completely replenishes your health, but Rayne can't revisit those rejuvenating fountains for some reason. They're a one-shot deal, which is kind of lame. An excellent, but overly repetitive music score by Jake Kaufman ("Shantae") does a good job of setting the tone and pace.

It's a standard hack and slash game with some platforming elements thrown in, and it's hard to decide which is worse. Combat is monotonous and boils down to mashing the same attack button over and over. Rayne also carries a gun, but it only holds six bullets and you have to be very careful about using it. The only way Rayne can replenish her health is by feeding on enemies, which is clumsy and doesn't always work. Additionally, instead of feeding, she can bite enemies to infect them, and then detonate them as explosive bombs, which makes no sense at all. However, it's a move that you have to use to deal with certain enemies and barriers. I only encountered six different enemy types, and you'll end up fighting the same generic bad guys 90% of the time, which becomes very tedious and uninteresting. Rayne's movement is where the controls really fall apart, as she's slow to respond to inputs and lacks precision due to unnecessary skidding. Her default jump isn't enough to actually jump on ledges, so you have to perform a difficult and awkward backflip in order to traverse most areas, and landing where you want is needlessly hard. It's another piece of artificial difficulty that could have easily been replaced with either a double jump or a wall jump, as well as the ability to stop where you land rather than sliding to a stop (and often to your doom). Many of the platforms are narrower than Rayne's stance, which just adds insult to injury.

That said, the "rebalanced" version of the game did allow me to make a lot more progress than the original, and I nearly made it halfway through before giving up. After about three hours, the monotony and ever-increasing difficulty finally sucked all joy out of the game and I found no desire to continue abusing myself with it. If you have any love for the original "BloodRayne" games, you're probably better off avoiding this one as it just tarnishes the memory of those earlier experiences. It's also not clear where "Betrayal" falls in the "BloodRayne" timeline, and it really feels like a one-off side adventure. It's sad, because Rayne is such an awesome character and WayForward is capable of doing so much better than this.