260 of 282 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
There's something uniquely satisfying about being evil. Evil gets to play with the best toys, listen to the best music, wear the best clothes and generally be sinister, introspective and cool. In game terms, being evil also means that you get to do all the things that make the good guys wince, like bursting people with blood-magic or biting them in the face. Vampire - The Masquerade: Bloodlines is the latest excuse to be deliciously evil. From developer Troika the game takes advantage of both the rich heritage of White Wolf's role-playing game, and Valve's spanking new Source engine, which powers Half-Life 2; an undeniably exciting concept.
In practice the game is a thrilling merger of RPG sensibilities and frenetic, brutal action...with just a dash of stealth and lateral thinking thrown in for good measure. The player takes command of a fledgling vampire in the dangerous employ of Prince Le Croix - the vampire overlord of Los Angeles. Like any good RPG, Vampire allows you to choose an avatar for your character from a number of different models, both male and female. The species of vampire you choose will, to some extent, dictate what sort of player you'll be in the game. Action fans will probably be at home with the more physically powerful vampires such as the Brujhar, whose natural instincts for combat will confer increased power and accuracy. More conservative or cerebral players may prefer to outsmart or out-magic their opponents - there's even a chance to play as the sanity-challenged Malkavians, which leads to some unique conversations and scenarios.
You can choose to play from either the first-person, like a traditional shooter, or to view your character in the third-person, which is useful for melee combat or to judge jumps. There's no great emphasis on any one aspect of play - combat or puzzle solving - and the fact that experience points are rewarded for completing missions rather than killing enemies means that players are invited to explore as they see fit, and solve problems in a manner of their choosing. Skillful players are able to sneak past sentries, or talk their way past an opponent. Or they could just choose to pull his head off. There is a huge variety of weapons, both ranged and melee to experiment with, as well as a great implementation of `Thermaturgy' - vampire blood magic.
Like other games such as Morrowind, or semi-RPG action games like Grand Theft Auto, there are central plot missions that need to be completed in order to really progress through the game. However, the giant sandbox world that Troika has crafted means that there's seldom a dull moment in between times, and sub-missions are often just as fun and rewarding to undertake.
Visually, the game is a treat, with the Source technology really shining through. There is a realistic physics engine that allows in-game objects to react to the players' (and other characters') actions - gun fire may dislodge boxes, doors and walls can be smashed apart...in a more gruesome touch blood and viscera has a tendency to splatter and stain the environment. Aurally, the effects are crisp and detailed. There is a huge amount of spoken dialogue, with multiple variations depending on who you `are' and what you say - coupled with multiple endings this game has oodles of replay value.
System-wise, you'll need a decent rig to play this game. I've recently upgraded my system to cope with Half-Life 2, and this game runs smoothly on what I would consider mid to high settings - 32bit color depth, 1280x960 resolution, mid-range sound etc. My system is a P4 2.6 with a gig of ram and a 9600 pro graphics card. If Doom 3 proved completely unplayable on your system then you'll find this over your head as well, but the game seems a little more scaleable than Doom, with more allowance for the average machine. One thing you will need is plenty of free hard drive space - a gig+ if you like to have as much as possible on the drive.
In the spirit of great games like Deus Ex, this game is going to appeal to both straight up action and RPG gamers, as well as any fans of the 'Vampire' series, who'll flip for the great attention to detail and the immersive visuals. It's difficult to suppress a smile when you're slinking through alleys, vaulting over high walls and slitting the throats of your vampire and supernatural foes, or going in gun's blazing with your Uzi and katana combo! This is certainly not a game for either kids, or the faint hearted; but for anyone who thinks having a taste for claret and no pulse sounds cool, this is the game for you.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
There's a lot to like in Vampire: Bloodlines, and a few things to love. That there are also moments that had me gritting my teeth, and so many "buts", is what makes this review a tough one.
The graphics, for example, are by and large quite lovely, very atmospheric... But. Half-Life 2, the game engine's parent, made better use of them, from both a hardware and a software perspective. Half-Life 2 ran well on my system with 512 MB of RAM; Vampire stuttered somewhat(when I upgraded to 2 GB, it smoothed out nicely.) Half-Life 2 also just _looks_ better, and doesn't distract with clipping, strands of wavy hair passing through the sides of people's faces, and moments of rough texturing.
The game combines RPG and action elements, which is frequently fun and interesting, but... It expects you to react too quickly for an RPG, and the way numbers are crunched will annoy action gamers. Even with your "natural" stats maxed out in a particular set of combat-based stats, you can easily find yourself gunned down by a larger group, or by some of the more powerful bosses. Some of the "supernatural" abilities may offset this; I can't say for certain, having only played through the game once. What I do know is that my character was pretty combat-centric, and still only won certain battles because of bugs or defects in the AI- enemies unable to hit you from certain positions, or getting stuck on pieces of the scenery.
The game allows a fair amount of flexibility in how you approach problems... But some of the options are either so convoluted or so difficult as to be unworkable, while others are excessively easy. Stealth in particular seems broken; I "stealth killed" any number of people who walked right into me, then turned around a few seconds later.
On the whole, the game feels poorly tested. Some abilities are far, far more useful than others, and unless I'm missing something, a character without at least one area of solid combat focus is simply going to die. You can't carry more than one of a type of gun, though selling all the duplicates one runs across on dead foes would have made it easier to raise money (which is ludicrously available at some times and completely sparse at others.)
Then there's the end game, where... Well, without spoilers, let me just call it kind of unsatisfying. Other endings may be available, but what I saw suggests they're merely variations on a theme, and that theme focuses more on some of the other characters you meet than on your own. After some of the ridiculously hard battles I fought, I'd like to know how _my_ character ultimately fared, maybe a spot of congratulations. Doesn't seem so much to ask, y'know?
Oh, one more word about those battles. The final boss or bosses are so ridiculously over-powered that I felt no shame at all in using any exploit available. One of them can repeatedly teleport and hit you from behind before you can react. The only way to avoid this is very precise timing and repeating a pattern over and over again. Said foe requires more than ten times as many hits to defeat as he does to defeat you. This kind of fight really makes you go: "Guys? What were you _thinking_?" When _succeeding_ isn't even any fun...!
Despite bugs and combat, I must give some significant praise: The dialogue is terrific, both in the writing and in the performance. I especially appreciated some of the humorous moments, much needed in the grim setting. The atmosphere is great, from the haunted hotel you encounter early in the game to the lairs of twisted, unholy creatures. The game generally feels _adult_, not in the sense in which the term is often used (where it could as easily be termed 'juvenile') but in a willingness to recognize shades of gray and handle uncomfortable topics without flinching.
Though I would hardly call the game an unqualified success, I enjoyed it, and I mourn for Troika, the now-deceased company that created it. Hardly anyone makes role-playing games combining character depth, plot depth and flexiblility to different player approaches the way they did. If only they had done a little more testing... If only they had settled the combat system more firmly in the RPG or action arena... If only...
P.S. Looking over this review, it occured to me that some might take my comment about "using any exploit available" to mean using a third-party hacking program or cheat codes; I used neither to complete the game. But if, say, a boss character got "hung up" on a corner, unable to move... I took no particular shame in whaling the tar out of them while they were unable to reciprocate. I occasionally used the game's own flaws against it, in other words.