The late 90s were a boom time for the F.P.S. genre. Cynically subversive humour, gratuitous excesses of guns and guts made for an intoxicatingly alluring mixture. A notable example was Blood, it managed to take the iconic Build Engine, inject it with Lovecraftian horror, and references to iconic horror franchises and became a beloved entity of the era. In 1998, a year after its inception, Blood made a transition, spurred on by publishers who wanted to capitalise on a sequel. The result was an ambitious attempt that brought Caleb et al. into the new century in Blood II: The Chosen.
After defeating the dark god Tchernobog, Caleb, the undead cowboy, has spent the last 100 years resurrecting his friends. Meanwhile, the followers of said dark god have embraced capitalism and reorganised themselves into an omnipotent megacorporation, CabalCo. Fronted by the charismatic Gideon, with global domination dangerously with their grasp, and a desire to resurrect Tchernobog motivating their every move. It is now up to Caleb to fight this empire and bring back the souls of his friends, who met their end over 100 years ago.
The changes to the graphics between the first game and this instalment is staggering. The isometric 2.D. has its charm, and a lot of that is retained in the transition to polygonal 3.D. too. The levels are littered in in-jokes, and the quips of Caleb retain their charm a century on, you can even press Y to taunt, this adds nothing gameplaywise, but it is great to hear on-demand. That is another benefit of moving the action to the near future, with the dystopic setting of 2028 being a creative muse that allows the writing and humour to shine.
As the name connotes, Blood 2 takes great pride in allowing you to reduce your enemies to red goo, as such is the primary focus here. You get a plethora of weapons. To reflect the setting, the guns available are modern munitions, so gone are the Tommy guns and pitchforks, replaced by dual-wield Uzis and scientific death rays. Some unique mainstay weapons like the voodoo doll get a visual upgrade, and the classic incendiary action of the flare gun, balancing new and old. The enemies have also had the benefit of enhancements. With the 21st-century Cultists looking now like agents of the X-files, and new polygonal monstrosities to test the aforementioned tech on, each oozing with cool designs. Aside from guns, The titular Chosen boasts three new additions to the story. They are interesting characters, and it is fantastic to see their backstories develop somewhat, given more development time, it would have been fascinating to see how the campaign reacts to them, but the story we do get with Caleb is still enjoyable. Particularly when up against the pompous antagonist Gideon is an intriguing human face to the otherworldly horror that CabalCo is concocting.
For all its competition and its setbacks, Blood II brings a surplus of action and dark humour to the forefront with over 30 levels of carnage. New technology becomes a haven for a brand that knows how to combine wit, horror, and gameplay, revamping old with some new amenities. Offering a modernised arsenal, a multitude of levels brimming with enemies to pulverise. Despite falling short of its lofty ambitions, Blood 2 brings new life to this undead gunslinger.
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