BloodRayne: Betrayal ReviewJosh Vanhorn
Creating old-school, 2D side-scrollers is nothing new for developer WayForward Technologies (A Boy and His Blob, Contra 4, Batman: The Brave and the Bold), and with BloodRayne: Betrayal, the team has created one of their best yet.
If you're hoping for a continuation of Rayne's story from BloodRayne 2-or much of a story at all-you're not going to find it here, and in fact the few lines of monologue and dialogue you come across in the game can often be flat-out laughable. The good news is that what WayForward may have foregone in delivering an enthralling story, they've made up for in beautiful animation and smooth gameplay.
The first thing you'll notice when jumping into Betrayal is the fluidity of the hand-drawn animations. They're gorgeous. From launching high above your enemies with an elegant backflip to severing a monster's head in slow motion at the end of a crowded battle, Betrayal looks great.
There are of course negatives when it comes to this style of flash-based animation. You can often be hit at the end of an animation before having time to recover, whether this be while performing Rayne's health-restoring grapple; or at its worst, when getting up from being knocked down by a prior attack. This can lead to a few frustrating moments, although when each checkpoint fully restores Rayne's health and most enemies can be instantly killed by holding in circle (B on 360) to suck their blood-restoring a large chunk of Rayne's life meter-it's hard to stay mad.
Even with the ability to recover health at the push of a button, Betrayal remains challenging during your initial playthrough. Firstly, you must learn the attacks of your foes before being able to easily tear them apart. Once you nail the slight learning curve of the combat, you'll find the melee mixes solidly with the gunplay to present a satisfying number of ways to exterminate your prey. When it comes to combat, the boss fights are the icing on the cake. Not only are the bosses in Betrayal a blast to admire, but they hit the player with just the right amount of difficulty to feel formidable yet fair. And then there are the multiple platforming sections later in the game where one wrong move will have you falling to an instant death in a pool of acid, or causing you to be chopped to bits by the giant buzz saw spinning on your tail as you attempt to outrun it through narrow corridors. These sections particularly were some of my favorites. WayForward has done a great job at keeping the player from feeling overwhelmed by placing checkpoints in all the right places, though I do recommend switching to the D-pad for the greater part of these areas, as Rayne's somewhat floaty controls can make using the analog a more daunting experience than it needs to be.
Betrayal gives you 15 chapters to slice and dice your way past, with your first playthrough taking on average around 6 to 7 hours. And there are a couple reasons to revisit Betrayal once you finish. Hidden skulls are scattered about each level, and for every 5 you collect you are allowed the choice of upgrading your health or bullet count. A few of these skulls will take some skill and thinking to get hold of. There are also online leaderboards that rank you based on your score at the completion of each chapter. I seemed to be unable to grab a ranking higher than C, even when I thought I had blown through a level while barely taking damage. In other words, it's not easy. And if you're a trophy/achievement hunter, these hidden skulls and master rankings will come into play there as well.
My biggest complaint about BloodRayne: Betrayal would have to be the lack of unlockables and upgrades as you progress. You will obtain a new weapon and ability in the second half of the game; however using that weapon in prior chapters is forbidden. Even in subsequent levels, your newfound ability will be accessible only when WayForward wants you to use it. It's all a tad disappointing. Another drawback is the repetitive enemy design, which is particularly noticeable in the first few levels. Fortunately, as you advance further into each chapter, this becomes less apparent.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Betrayal. The combat is satisfying and the challenge is tough enough to provide a sense of accomplishment upon conquering everything the game throws at you. There were even moments when I caught myself humming along with the gothic metal/orchestral soundtrack, melodies of which are certainly Castlevania-esque. If you're a fan of 2D action platformers, there's no reason to pass this one up.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.