Blood – Magazine Reviews

Time to see what the UK press thought of Blood. I’ve dug up three reviews that are largely in line with my own opinions for once. This first review from the August 97 PC Format is a bit too harsh if you ask me:-

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The PC Zone issue of the same month is a lot fairer:-

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And finally a brief review from the October 1997 PC Zone

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Blood – Part 2

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For part 2, I swapped over to Windows which fixed the missing cutscenes but broke the music instead. Looking at them by modern standards the 3D models are hilariously awful but they do move the story along at the end of every episode.

In hindsight, I should have patched my copy to a newer version and I could then have had 3dfx support but it ran smooth enough at 640×480 so it’s not a huge loss.

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Each episode of Blood takes place in a different setting which is an unexpected twist. Part 2 is in the frozen north and often has a haunted house atmosphere to the indoor locations. The enemies are mostly the same as in the shareware release but there are new additions for the registered version with sharkman things that are crazily fast underwater but not quite so nasty on land and a specter which fades in and out of existence only being vulnerable when attacking. There are new weapons in the shape of a tesla gun (which seems slightly out of place) and a hairspray/lighter combination to set enemies on fire.

These additions on their own don’t add too much but I did find I wasn’t scrabbling about for ammo or reloading anywhere near as often in these registered levels. I expect that was largely due to me becoming better at the game. I eventually started to learn techniques to deal with these enemies. For instance, the flying demons can be pushed back and stunned if you use the alternative fire on the shotgun. Four quick blasts like this and they are dealt with easily. The extra handful of powerful weapons also make life a little easier.

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There is a new boss at the end of each section with part 2 having a giant spider that spawns lots of little spiders, and part 3 having a fire-breathing two-headed Cerberus to deal with. Neither of these are massively challenging but you do get to see them as regular enemies in later levels so it’s just as well.

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The third episode has you travelling through Paris, it’s sewers, then through factories and dams.

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The fourth level has a further wide-spread of levels including cult laboratories, lava filled mines, the insides of some creature and ultimately leading into a battle with the dark god himself (once you complete a boss rush of the first 3 episode ending baddies).

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The final battle isn’t massively climactic or original. It’s just another big boss to shoot at and again the first level boss was harder (at least at the time).

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Once victorious, someone approaches citing the Lord’s Prayer after seeing the demon vanquished only for Caleb to nonchalantly gun him down and presumably stroll off into the expansion packs which I don’t own.

So how does Blood hold up 20 years down the line? Surprisingly well actually. Once I got into it, I really enjoyed myself with this game. It’s not particularly long lasting, I got though the last 3 episodes in one lazy Saturday morning but it’s certainly at least on a par with the likes of Final Doom in the brevity stakes. What Blood has over Doom, is way more variety in the levels and weapons, the more capable Build engine coming in handy here. Above all else, I don’t know it inside out already.

I know this is regarded as a cult classic but I’m slightly struggling with that as it seems too derivative to me. By the time Blood came out it was competing with the likes of Jedi Knight and I can’t see that as a contest. Perhaps now, when the technology/graphics are less of a factor it’s a closer thing. There are plenty of inventive levels here and I do like the horror theme. The initial difficulty is a little off-putting but persevere and you should still have a great time with Blood. Don’t expect anything ground breaking but if you enjoy DOS FPS games, it’s definitely up there with the best of them.

PC Zone Issues 31 & 28 – October and July 1995

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You get two more PC Zone’s for the collection this week to make up for the fact that I won’t have chance to do one next week. Loads of classic games are covered including Command & Conquer, Jagged Alliance, Fade To Black and Mechwarrior 2. I’ve seen Fade to Black panned repeatedly in recent years as the unworthy sequel to Flashback but it was actually well received at the time. I’ve also uploaded the cover CD for issue 29 which had been missing before. They are all in the usual place at http://www.pixsoriginadventures.co.uk/PCZone

Blood – Part 1

I decided to pick another random DOS game off the list. I nearly went for Wizardry 6 then decided it looked too complicated and went for Blood instead. This was one of the later games to use the Duke3D build engine coming out in 1997. I just about remember trying the demo version at the time but I don’t think I ever bothered finishing it so it clearly didn’t impress me back then. It’s got something of a following these days though with boxed copies being fairly rare and expensive. I have a theory that this is partly caused by a search for the word Blood on Ebay turning up so many other titles that anyone looking for a copy is prepared to pay more just to get the search off their list and not have to trawl through all that random detritus. This was certainly true in my case.

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It’s got a distinctive box if nothing else although I prefer the American version with a big bloody handprint. Like most PC games of the time, there isn’t a whole lot of content in there with a CD, small manual and a couple of flyers.

One page of that manual gives the backstory for the game, which puts it on about on a par with Doom in terms of perfunctory plots. What little there is, is actually well written and boils down to your character (Jacob) rising to be one of the 4 chosen in a cult of some description, going to meet your chosen dark god along with the love of your life, Ophelia (also one of the chosen), then getting killed off for not being worthy. At the start of the game, you arise as one of the undead from your tomb to go and seek revenge for your comrades.

Back before the term FPS was widely used, all these games were known as Doom clones and looking at Blood it’s not hard to see why as it really does follow the established formula. Even the menus look about the same. It borrows a little off Duke as well with the “hero” having wisecracks throughout. You can look up and down here and jumping adds more than you would expect to the gameplay but it’s very much using the established formula.

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You start out the game battling zombies with a pitchfork. This will be a common theme throughout as while you can knock these zombies down with a shotgun, they will just pop back up again so the best strategy is usually to save the ammo. When you kill a zombie, it’s head pops off and it can then be kicked around like a football for comic effect. The other weapons in the game are a flare gun which sticks in the enemies and sets them on fire after a while. This is very effective from range and will permanently take out zombies. There is a fairly standard shotgun and tommy gun. The most powerful weapon is a napalm launcher which serves as the rocket launcher equivalent and there is also TNT which functions as a grenade. There is also a guns akimbo powerup which gives you double guns for a brief period.

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The flare gun is a nice touch with the other weapons being uninspired but functional. A bit of variety is added with each weapon having an alternative fire mode. The enemies are the aforementioned zombies, two different types of cultist armed with shotguns and tommy guns and a flying demon who appears in later levels. There are also some tiny bats/rats/fish occasionally who are more of a nuisance than a real enemy. You’ll be seeing more cultists and zombies by far than anything else and the variety of enemies really is quite low being about on a par with Wolfenstein 3D.

The cultists aim and shoot the moment you are in their sights making progress quite difficult even at the default level. Expect to save and reload a lot if you play this. Even with foreknowledge of exactly where everyone is, it’s still very easy to die in Blood. It could do with more enemies firing dodgable weapons if you ask me to add a little more fun and spontaneity to proceedings. The biggest problem I’ve got with Blood so far is that these enemies aren’t all that much fun to fight. The zombies are OK for what they are but the cultists deal so much damage I rely on foreknowledge of exactly where they are from saving and reloading, and/or relying on their stupidity. i.e. run into a room fire to attract attention, back out then pick them off one by one as they walk through the door. I was getting better at this as the game went on so maybe I just need to get back into a 90’s FPS mindset.

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The level design is interesting with one of the most memorable in the first chapter being set on a moving train where you have to make your way through the carriages ultimately exploding the engine. Another level takes place in a carnival apparently being run by cultists with various games and stalls and even a high wire you have to traverse. For an old school shooter, I didn’t find myself getting lost too much and the objectives are usually quite clear and the design less obtuse than numerous other games of the era. None of these levels would make any sense in the real world but this isn’t a game to take that seriously. It’s played for humour in the same way as Duke really with little jokey references thrown in throughout. They certainly steal a few more quotes from the Evil Dead movies and even have a disembodied hand threatening to swallow your soul.

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The last level drops the humour in favour of a fight with a giant flying boss demon and does it ever take some killing off. I was wondering if I was doing something wrong but he succumbed just before I ran out of ammo. It appears that my rescue attempt was in vain as Ophelia is already dead.

There would have been a cutscene at this point but apparently these only work when playing in Windows, which is odd for a DOS game. I’ll swap to Windows from here on out anyway which might mean I can get proper screenshots as a bonus. My impressions so far are that this game would already have been dated when it came out with its lack of 3D acceleration and sprite based engine. I can see why I wasn’t impressed then as we had seen a slew of these sorts of games already and I’d just gone out and bought a fancy PC and wanted equally fancy games to go with it.

It’s probably more of a novelty going back to Blood 20 years later really as the gameplay is so far removed from a modern FPS. It’s reasonably good fun for what it is and certainly better than replaying Doom yet again. The next 3 chapters definitely need to add some variety to proceedings and I’m hoping for a slew of new additions for the non-shareware levels.

Ultima Patcher 1.66

I’ve just uploaded the latest Ultima Patcher, version 1.66. The additions are:-

  • Another fix from Natreg Dragon with a minor tweak to Weblock’s conversation tree in Ultima 5.
  • The latest version of the Ultima 2 upgrade (2.1) from Voyager Dragon. This adds new graphics modes, a couple of fixes and a stat mode selector so you don’t have to count your steps.
  • Also from Voyager Dragon, an alternative Ultima 4 music upgrade with more traditional instruments.

As always, my testing was minimal so let me know if something doesn’t work as expected. The patcher can be downloaded here