How much of the red stuff will it take to satisfy your gaming bloodlust? Pints? Rivers of it? If there was ever an apt enough title to bestow on a property that throws buckets of blood with such gleeful abandon to the delight of its audience, Blood would have to be it.
Like most shooters before Half-Life, Blood has a vaguely-defined story that takes a backseat to the bloodshed. Referenced in the manual and the occasional bit of video, Blood tells the story of Caleb: merciless gunfighter/dangerous sociopath who has ascended the ranks of an Illuminati-esque cult called The Cabal that worship an ancient god. Betrayed, Caleb refuses to stay dead and seeks revenge.
Spanning four episodes that can be played in any order, Blood can be summed up as essentially Duke Nukem 3D for horror fans. This doesn’t make it derivative or any less entertaining, just that it follows the formula based on what was the benchmark for shooters at the time. It’s working from Duke’s Build engine, which gives everything a “2.5D” perspective.
The cadre of enemies consist of every horror movie staple one can think of: zombies, gargoyles, phantasms, and gill monsters just to name a handful. They’re complemented by the equally horror-influenced settings, each episode packed with variety. Caleb makes the earth run red in things like temples, graveyards and even Crystal Lake. There’s a tiny bit of consistency between the levels—sometimes you’ll begin a level where the last one left off—but it really serves as an excuse to throw the player in as many horror movie tropes as possible.
For a game about spilling as much hemoglobin as possible, it only makes sense Caleb is armed with painful and deadly weaponry. Some of the standards are here, such as the always-useful shotgun, and a tommygun serving as the default automatic weapon. Things get more interesting when Caleb gets his hands on weapons like the voodoo doll—wonderful for taking out enemies at a distance—and bundles of dynamite, perfect for eviscerating multiple enemies.
Every hit is acknowledged with a generous arterial spray of blood, and explosives result in a spectacle of blood, limbs, and organs flying in every direction. Flare gun shots also have a nasty habit of getting lodged in sternums and end up with the enemy a running blaze only to collapse in a screaming puddle of blood. If those last few sentences got your attention, then Blood is your game.
The game’s flaws have less to do with the title itself, but the shortcomings of all shooters in the late nineties. Gameplay is gloriously uncomplicated. Enemies need to be killed by the boatload all while scavenging for keys and the doors that need them. Levels aren’t necessarily designed with the intent of constantly propelling the player forward, so this can lead to some backtracking and confusion on where to head next.
If you don’t mind getting a few odd looks from neighbors as you cackle along with Caleb at the sight of dozens of monsters and madmen getting blown apart into chunky bits, and have played Duke Nukem 3D to absolute death, give this Build-era game a shot. Duke may have gotten all the glory, but if it’s blood you want and by the gallon then Caleb is your man.