If you remove all of the heart from Twisted Metal and Left 4 Dead and boil them down to their core ideas, what you have in Blood Drive is a near perfect fusion of the gameplay found in each. Twisted Metal has you steering cars occupied by sadists in a demolition derby and Left 4 Dead has you killing endless waves of zombies. Blood Drive has you participating in demolition derby events while running over loose zombies that have roamed onto the field of vehicular battle. While it sounds like a potential winner, Blood Drive is just too poorly made to be worth your time.
It’s such a shame too, because the idea behind it is worth exploring. The biggest problem is that Blood Drive isn’t any fun to play. I worked hard to come first simply because if you don’t win gold, you don’t unlock the next cup and I didn’t want to spend any more time playing the game than I had to. There are a number of reasons for this, the main being bouncy physics. Even the slightest bump will send your car flying high into the air. This can be especially annoying when you’re aiming for a checkpoint, hit a shopping cart and then suddenly fly 30 feet into the air and land a good distance from your target. The vehicles provide little resistance to the player, giving them a floaty feel and making turns difficult to judge.
The environments that you race through are much bigger than what you might expect, and they do occasionally provide some thrills. There are tons of jumps that send you airborne, often opening up new areas hiding special power-ups that can be had if you take the risk of flying through the air and exposing yourself. It’s just a shame that the controls are so awkward because in order to get to a lot of these areas, you have to navigate through some tight places, which more often than not results in your car bouncing like a pinball through small areas until you sputter out of the chute at the end without enough speed to bridge the gap to the other side. There’s also no environmental destruction, which while not absolutely necessary, would have helped prevent some frustration (careening into a wooden fence isn’t an issue when the result is a smashed fence rather than a complete stop).
Blood Drive also lacks personality, which is a huge part of what made Twisted Metal and Left 4 Dead such huge successes. While I’m sure people remember specifics of the levels and the like, it was Sweet Tooth’s flaming head and Francis’ hatred of everything that really stood out. Blood Drive attempts to add personality into the game, but the characters are boring. A couple of cheesy one-liners isn’t character development. Possibly worst of all, it lacks kill satisfaction. Killing zombies in this game just doesn’t seem worthwhile since most of your kills will come from a distance while you blindly fire off whatever ordinance you’ve picked up. If I had 500 zombie kills on a level, 400 came from firing randomly. If there’s no work involved, there’s no pleasure from the kill, even if you get lots of them.
Blood Drive really doesn’t attempt to do anything different than the games that it ripped off. All of the characters are presented similarly to the characters in Twisted Metal: Black and the zombie types are all found in Left 4 Dead, right down to Tanks and Boomers. There are some variations in the weapon types that you can pick up – saw blades are kind of fun, and the Quake inspired railgun, while slow, completely obliterates your foes. But most of the time, I found it best to outfit myself with guns with huge splash damage (rockets) in order to get the biggest bang for my buck and avoided the more creative tools of destruction.
Perhaps Blood Drive could have been saved by its game modes, but these fall flat since the AI isn’t very strong. There’s a king of the hill style mode in which a driver has to control a gold skull for longer than anyone else playing, but I was able to master this mode simply by driving around in really big circles around the arenas. The AI never caught on to my strategy and I was able to control it without being touched. Actual demolition derby would be fun if you had some control over your vehicle and your weapons. Checkpoint races through the environments could have been enjoyable if the checkpoints were laid out in a logical manner and those pesky control issues were in check. As it stands, the checkpoints are scattered all over the place, breaking the flow of the race.
Blood Drive could be a decent game, either through patching or a sequel. If the wonky controls were worked out, the game would be substantially improved right there. And though taking the framework from a couple of gems is a great way to start building a game, I was disappointed that the game didn’t develop any personality of its own. Everything is in place for an enjoyable game to be had here (even an unplayed multiplayer component – I don’t think anyone bought this game), but the execution was unfortunately terrible. But with some tweaks to the AI and controls, a perfectly serviceable, albeit average, game would emerge. As it stands now though, Blood Drive is a good game in concept but a bad one in execution.