Blood (PC) Review

By Athanasios 26.04.2022

Review for Blood on PC

Once upon a time, there was Doom… and everybody wanted to be Doom. The '90s were filled with its "clones," with some of the most successful ones, like Heretic running on the same engine. There was opposition to id Software's rule over the genre, with Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior by 3D Realms, both of which run in the more advanced Build Engine, had an over-the-top attitude towards action, and a penchant for dark, crude, or pop culture-referencing humour. These two were part of the so-called Build Engine (un)Holy Trinity, with the third one being a title that started its life as a 3D Realms/Q Studios project, only to end up on the hands of Monolith Productions. Its - very appropriate - name was Blood, and it was probably the best amongst the three, despite never really leaving the realm of cult classics, as it never really became a household name. Squeamish gamers beware, this is a look at an ultra-gory tribute to horror, 25 years after it rose from its cold coffin.

Those who have played Duke Nukem 3D (or a modern "version" of it like Ion Fury), will feel right at home with how this plays and - and then they won't, as despite this being part of the Build Engine "family," it's a pretty unique specimen. Oh, sure, it's still all about going from A to B and blasting a variety of enemies with a variety of weapons, but something feels different, and that something is said weaponry. The arsenal here is far from conventional, as, aside from a double-barrelled shotgun, a Tommy Gun, and this game's version of Doom's plasma gun, the rest of the arsenal is quite… unique, requiring spending a bit of time before getting used to how they act on the battlefield.

Moments into this, and the protagonist is given a flare pistol. This doesn't shoot bullets, but flares which stick to a foe, and after some time light him or it (usually it) on fire. Next in line is the dynamite. Made the mistake of pushing the fire button? Then you have just lost lots of health, as you are supposed to hold fire, and then release the explosive bundle of sticks. A can of aerosol and a lighter create a flamethrower, a Napalm launcher throws balls of fire, and if in need of something more exotic, there's a magic-spewing wand with a creepy skull on its top, as well as an even creepier Voodoo doll, that you pinch in order to harm the one(s) standing in front of you.

Screenshot for Blood on PC

Fancy or not, the important thing is that using all this is fun. The action is fast, and loud, and using the weapons feels really good, especially the surprisingly swift shotgun. Now a standard mechanic, but back then a brand-new thing, this also includes a secondary shooting mode for all weapons, adding further variety to the ways one can fill the scene with… well, blood. This is basically a first-person Mortal Kombat. You decapitate zombies and then play football with their heads, while blood is spurting all around; chubbier zombies have their flesh melt; cult members cry in agony while they are burned alive. This is a violent piece of software, that makes Doom look like an episode of Dora the Explorer by comparison. Having said that, the exaggerated gore here is more hilarious than unsettling. This is more The Evil Dead than The Thing.

It would be fair to say that Blood and The Evil Dead share a lot of elements - mostly the comedic ones. As is customary in Build Engine games, the protagonist, in this case an undead named Caleb, is quite talkative, and makes frequent comments, that more often than not are actually thinly veiled references to all things horror, from Jaws to The Shining. Some, critic included, won't really like that, though, as the constant jokes and Easter Eggs kind of ruin the otherwise very strong atmosphere at hand. In fact, the main source of entertainment here besides the action, is how this engrosses you into its occult-themed Weird West world, with the moody soundtrack further enhancing its creepy aura.

Screenshot for Blood on PC

As entertaining as this is, there are a couple of big 'Buts' here that keep this from being the classic that it could be, rather than a cult classic mostly adored by its fanbase (something that can be said about the rest of the Build Engine "trinity"). The first 'but?' The action can be fun, but it can also be quite annoying. Apart from minor annoyances like a mouse aiming that is far from smooth, to nuisance enemies like tiny rats that are exactly that (a nuisance), and so on, the part that will discourage most people from playing this is its level of challenge. As always, the issue here isn't the difficulty on offer, but the reason why it is difficult. In one word: hitscanners.

The vast majority of enemies here shoot on sight, and are dead accurate, with cover being half a tactic here due the AI's speed. This mars the enjoyment one can have. You'll want to keep on running, blowing monsters and humans, and fill the screen with their pixely carcasses like you would in Doom or Quake… but you can't. It's a bit like Sonic the Hedgehog. You want to run like crazy, but the game won't let you, forcing you to actually move slowly before doing anything. To give you an idea of how hard Blood is, the easiest setting is actually something closer, if not identical to Hard. "Normal" is punishingly hard. As for the highest setting… it is impossible. You enter a room and die within two seconds. Fun, fun, fun.

Screenshot for Blood on PC

The second thing that may be a deal breaker for some, is the level design. Blood, like all Build Engine titles, doesn't have the restraints of Doom's engine, and as such features maps with more intricate design; a design that leans towards the realistic side for the most part, with the whole architecture "making sense." Well, as Doom has shown, realism doesn't mean jack if the whole thing isn't fun, and the levels of Blood, while entertaining to a certain degree, can't hold a candle to id Software's masterpiece. A bit too linear, a bit too long (with some levels requiring up to six keys), and with parts like combination lock doors or platforming that feel out of place in such a title, this just doesn't have the balanced, and more focused feel of the genre's greats. It lacks finesse.

The - occasionally - heavy scripting can also be a bit aggravating from time to time. The game is sometimes not very good at "telling" you what needs to be done, forcing you to roam around in circles, trying to trigger the right event. All this essentially make the already way-too-lengthy campaign feel even longer. There's simply no reason for this to last so long. Three episodes, eight maps each, would be more than enough for an old-school FPS such as Blood. Having said that, and despite the flaws mentioned so far, this is probably the best amongst the three members of the Build Engine trinity. If someone like yours truly, who isn't exactly a fun of Duke Nukem 3D found some enjoyment in it, maybe other will be a lot more entertained by it - if they can stomach the crushing challenge.

Screenshot for Blood on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

In the words of AC/DC, if you want blood, you got it! Blood delivers on the promise of its name, offering one of the goriest first-person shooters of its generation (and not only). A couple of issues, like it's rough-around-the-edges mouse aim, occasionally irritating and/or boring levels, as well as a difficulty level that's a couple of kilometres too high, keep this from being the classic that it could be, but it's strong horror atmosphere, coupled with its fast-paced action (at least in 'Easy'), and comedic mind-set, makes it a solid cult classic, and a strong recommendation to old-school aficionados.

Developer

Monolith Productions

Publisher

GT Interactive

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

8

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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