The resurrection of the BloodRayne franchise with Betrayal was a little controversial at the time; not only did they change it into a 2D hack & Slash game, but they also went for a cartoonish look – with Rayne herself having a huge redesign. Fans were, as you’d expect, livid.
As for me: I enjoyed the game a lot more than I expected. The previous titles were more guilty pleasures than anything, with their pulpiness and jank making up for what it lacked elsewhere. Betrayal, however, was a genuinely enjoyable and well crafted experience. Ten years have passed now, so can the game resurrect itself on modern consoles with this remaster, or does it just plain suck?
ONLY HAPPY WHEN IT RAYNES
The game kicks off with Rayne, our friendly Dhampir, landing in her cock-rocket on her way to stop the Vampire Lord Kagan – who just so happens to be her father – with a group of vampire hunters known as the Brimstone Society at her side. Kagan wants to resurrect his castle as part of his plan to take over the world, and the Brimstone chaps aren’t exactly thrilled with the idea. Being half human and half vampire, can Rayne trust anyone apart from herself? Considering the title, you can probably guess the answer. Whilst the plot may be predictable vampire pulp, it’s still an enjoyable romp – especially as this remaster now includes some fantastic voice acting – courtesy of gaming’s hardest working VAs: Laura Bailey and Troy Baker.
Much like its predecessors, Bloodrayne Betrayal is predominantly a hack & slash affair, complete with a side course of blood sucking. Unlike those titles, however, this one has been condensed into a 2D plane. What it loses out in in dimensions, it makes up for in available moves. Rayne has a huge array of attacks at her disposal: not only does she have a wide plethora of melee attacks, but she can also backflip, dash, and shoot too. Gunplay is toned down a little in this game as she only has the one powerful pistol at her disposal, but it’s so strong that you won’t want anything else. Her blood sucking ability is mainly used to restore health, as in the previous games, but she is also able to infect enemies with a poison that can make them explode at her command – something that is both effective and satisfying. There’s so much to Rayne’s skillset that combat becomes is a blast, even if it’s let down by its clunkiness. You see, attack animations need to play out before Rayne is able to do anything else, meaning that you can’t dash away from incoming attacks if you’re in the middle of an animation. Considering the dash already has a pretty tiny hitbox, you’ll find yourself taking way too many unnecessarily unfair hits. This was the one thing I had hoped that the remaster would fix, but it has been completely untouched – much to my disappointment.
SUCK IT DOWN
Not all of the game boils down to hacking away at enemies, as there’s also a fair degree of platforming thrown in too. Those aforementioned control issues may have you worried that platforming will be a pain, but thankfully most of it is designed with Rayne’s moves in mind and is thus relatively forgiving. Aside from standard platforming, the other gimmicks tend to focus on her dash, backflip, or heel-bounce abilities – the latter of which works like the bounce in Ducktales or Shovel Knight. Obstacles and platforms are designed in a way where they’re just in reach if you do the correct move, making it rarely a pain. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case: the eighth stage in particular contains some pretty obnoxious platforming that sees you jumping between tiny moving platforms whilst getting accosted by rockets. There are frequent checkpoints in each level which helps alleviate these moments, but they can still be an annoyance. These sections are certainly the exception to the rule, however, with the trickiest platforming sections restricted to some of the collectibles.
The collectibles in this game come in the form of Red Skulls, which offer you a health or ammo upgrade for every five collected. Some are straightforward and require you to simply find them; others require some slightly tougher platforming in order to obtain. They feel very much like a reward for those seeking an extra challenge and many aren’t too hard to find. Skulls are saved upon collection, meaning that you can quit out of a stage if you want to re-enter and find any you missed the first time around. It’s a nice touch and helps extend the game’s short running time, as well as offering a nice buff to Rayne to help make things easier. The game is pretty challenging to begin with, so you’ll be thankful for an extra bullet or a slither of extra health.
Whilst it may have only taken me around 3 hours to beat the game with all the collectibles, this is not my first rodeo with Rayne’s third adventure. For a newcomer, I would estimate a first playthrough lasting closer to five hours. It’s still a short game, but it also feels like it runs the length it needs to. Whilst most of that time will be spent either in underground caverns or exploring the Vampire Lord’s castle, the game mixes things up enough with each level to ensure that things don’t get stale. Unfortunately, given the length, there’s nothing much else left to do once you’ve made it through to the credits: collecting remaining skulls is effectively pointless post-game as you’ll have little need for the extra power, and getting the S ranks are so difficult that many won’t even bother trying. In fact, you’ll probably be seeing the F rank a whole lot – but considering there’s no reward for obtaining all S ranks, you probably won’t really care.
That being said, the game is an exhilaratingly fun experience and the beautiful cel-shaded visuals and music are still fantastic ten years later. The art style results in gorgeous environments, and also some really unique looking enemies. Rayne will encounter vampiric monsters that will slide along the floor trying to trip her up, as well as ghostly mummies that appear from gigantic statues, amongst other creatures of the night. The standout monsters though are the huge and intimidating bosses you will encounter. WayForward always create spectacular boss set pieces, and BloodRayne Betrayal is no exception. They’re fun to fight and tough to take down, but they feel relatively fair too – aside from the occasional niggle caused by the controls, of course.
It’s disappointing then that so little was done with this remaster. Aside from the voice acting, there’s very little extra on offer here. Sure, they’ve included an additional difficulty mode that supposedly rebalances the game – but it seems to only tweak some damage and health values rather that changing anything substantial. Likewise, don’t expect to find any additional modes, costumes, or even varied collectible locations. Everything here is pretty much the same as it was ten years ago, except with the voice acting added in. The Switch version runs well, but as it lacks the achievements of the other versions, there’s even less here to encourage replayability. Heck, it also seems like they removed the 8-bit easter egg from the original game, for some bizarre reason (although perhaps they’ve just changed the unlock code). The base game is still excellent, but the lack of anything extra is quite disappointing – more so when you consider that they haven’t even bothered fixing the control issues that plagued the original. For people who played the original version, there’s not much here that will encourage you to double dip – aside from the portability of the Switch version.
BloodRayne Betrayal is every bit as enjoyable as ever, but it also contains all the same faults too. With barely noticeable tweaks to the gameplay, voice acting is the only real selling point for those who have already experienced Rayne’s third outing. But what an outing it is! If you can forgive the clunky controls, this is one beautiful hack & slash title that you should add to your collection.