Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain
Who'd Be a vampire? You get the same dinner every night, you can't sunbathe and you can't participate in the pleasures of the flesh without relieving your partner of all their blood. But worst of all, you never know what you actually look like because you have no reflection. It's not surprising then that vampires always seem so pissed off, after all they've got to put up with an eternity of this nonsense.
Kain is a vampire like any other. He has the usual dentistry problems and could probably do with a manicure. However, a bigger problem right now is that he's actually been 'dead' for 200 years and has just awoken to find that he's lost all his memories and previous powers. His other pertinent problem is that Nosgoth, the land he once ruled, is now under the control of a group of militant humans known as the Sarafan. Basically, poor Kain should have woken up about a century earlier.
In Blood Omen 2, the fourth in The Legacy Of Kain series, it's up to you to recover Kain's powers and unite the land of Nosgoth under vampire rule once again. Blood Omen 2 is not a complex game. OK, there may be the odd rudimentary lever puzzle thrown in to stem the relentless flow of blood, but effectively you have 11 levels to savagely mutilate everything you see.
At first you can only kill with your claws. However, as things hot up in the streets and alleys of Nosgoth the usual array of clubs, swords and axes appear to usher proceedings on their bloody way. Controlling Kain in battle couldn't be easier. The lock-on fighting method keeps your closest enemy in front of you at all times and you just wade in with your weapon.
Your victims do offer some resistance; especially the knights and guards who block obvious lunges, but even they still follow a preset attack pattern, which once sussed means you can usually dispatch two or even three enemies at once.
You can also block attacks yourself every time you successfully do this Kain's rage meter increases slightly. When it reaches maximum you can perform special attacks, which do more damage than usual. You can also pick up enemies by the throat and throw them or (and this really does look painful) pin them up against a wall with one hand and then with the other swing your current weapon up between their legs. Ouch.
Our undead hero can also kill other vampires to relearn his forgotten 'Dark Gifts'. These powers allow Kain to do various vampire things such as jump great distances; charm enemies so they do what you want and enable you to turn into mist. Turning into mist is actually a lot better than it sounds. For a start it gives you the ability to sneak up on an unsuspecting foe and then decapitate, garrotte, disembowel or casually push a sword through the back of their neck.
Of course, regardless of the killing method employed the one thing that remains the same is drinking the blood afterwards. Kain has to drink blood to survive, so basically he has to keep killing. As far as gameplay goes you really can't get any simpler. Kill or die of thirst - not much of a choice really.
As the game progresses it becomes apparent that variety is kept to a minimum. Even on some of the later stages where the action should be getting climatic and frenetic exactly the same tactics are required: kill, drink blood, use dark gift, solve simple puzzle, pull lever, go through door. You literally just switch on your autopilot and allow yourself to be swept along by the cut-scene driven storyline.
Blood Omen 2 is certainly not for the feint-hearted - you also need a fairly brave computer to run it. The massive 2Gb install takes a while on a slow CD-ROM (you're looking at anything up to an hour) and the fantastic graphics demand a hefty processor too.
Visually Blood Omen 2 has a great industrial feel to it, similar to the Thief games. The atmosphere is also urban with plenty of people bustling about the city streets who react realistically to your presence. Innocent citizens even scream and run away if they spot you drinking blood from a recently dispatched enemy. Ultimately though, Blood Omen 2 is a console action/adventure - nothing more and nothing less. It's very linear, very simple and very enjoyable and charming while it lasts (in a gruesome kind of way). Nothing wrong with that, but under the blood and carnage you are left with very little depth, and ultimately the game doesn't leave much of a mark.