One of the hidden highlights and sure-to-be-sleeper-hits at E3 was Majesco’s revival of the BloodRayne franchise with BloodRayne: Betrayal. Developed by WayForward, Betrayal is a pretty big departure from its origins: it’s now an ultra-violent 2D platform brawler with a strikingly hand-drawn graphical style. And with absolutely solid developers like WayForward behind the wheel, that is most definitely a good thing.
The first thing I noticed about Betrayal was how strikingly smooth the animations of Rayne were. Lead level designer Michael Herbster described to me that Rayne herself had something like three times the frames of animation of the titular characters of Wii adorable-fest A Boy and His Blob combined, creating a brawling experience that’s as smooth and pretty to look at as it is fun.
Additionally, WayForward’s also upped the style to eleven with Betrayal, as they’ve created an atmosphere that’s just, simply put, badass. Rayne is the ultimate classy vampire with a slightly metal attitude; when you die and are respawned at a checkpoint, Rayne is clearly seen sipping on a cup of tea while she waits for you to take control. On the opposite end of the spectrum, she also enters and exits stages in a rocket-powered coffin, and while I wasn’t able to experience it myself, Herbster mentioned that at the beginning of levels, if you press the jump button at precisely the right time, she’ll not only exit her coffin but kick it in the enemies’ direction, killing all of them.
Combat isn’t too complex, but it’s deep enough to keep the party bumping for a while. There’s no unlocking of combos or powers as you play along; you have all the weapons at your disposal from the very beginning, which is refreshing in this day and age of carrot-dangling. You have a standard attack, a gun with limited bullets, a bite attack, and a taunt. The bite is the interesting one, as when an enemy’s weakened, you can suck their blood, gain health, and also turn the enemy into a ticking time bomb. It instills a strategic element to the combat in order to grab the highest bonus scores.
And therein lies the meat of the gameplay. BloodRayne: Betrayal employs the Bulletstorm method of scoring, where different variations and combinations of attacks will yield the best bonus scores. It’s satisfying and keeps one figuring out how to maintain maximum demon-killing efficiency.
Overall, what I saw of Betrayal was superb. It may not win Best of Show, or even come close to approaching Game of the Year, but WayForward is most certainly keeping on their tradition of being one of the most consistently great developers of these past few generations with BloodRayne: Betrayal. Make sure to pick this one up when it comes out on XBLA and PSN this summer for 1200 points/$15.