Blood Wake

a game by Microsoft
Platform: XBox
Editor Rating: 6.5/10, based on 2 reviews
User Rating: 6.0/10 - 1 vote
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Overview

Betrayed. One minute you're calmly patrolling the Gulf of the Moon, thinking pleasant thoughts. The next you are floating along the tide, clinging to life, clinging to some debris. The attack came fast and furious, and because you thought that the boats were friendly, your crew never stood a chance. It's ironic'one moment you captain a vessel warding off pirates, the next you have joined those same pirates in an effort to exact your revenge.

You will find those who killed your men.

You will find out why you were betrayed.

You will find your brother....... in your crosshairs.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Blood Wake takes place in a strange parallel-type world similar to the movie "Waterworld," only land isn't scarce. Based on boat combat between different factions of military types, smugglers, pirates and villagers, the game boasts three varying views in which to destroy your enemies. There is an in-the-boat view, 3rd-person perspective and an even further back 3rd-person perspective.

The control scheme is an easy to use setup. The trigger buttons fire the different weapons while the thumb buttons (X and A) are used to activate the turbo and toggle through the various "powered" weapons. Now when I was at my local video game store, I was discussing with the clerk how I felt that the controls were smooth and friendly while he thought that the use of the left thumb stick was all wrong. For those of you scoring at home, the left thumb stick is used as both the accelerator and the steering. Pushing forward makes the boat accelerate. You must then keep pushing forward and move the stick right or left in order to steer. Just like a real boat, you can only turn if you are moving forward. The use of real boat physics was clearly well done.

Some people have likened this game to Twisted Metal on the water. I really can't because unlike the many characters in Twisted Metal, Blood Wake (BW) follows the story of a single gunboat captain named Shao Kai who, after being betrayed is rescued by the nefarious Ped Zang and his bold Shadow Clan pirates. As the newest member of the Shadow Clan, you will be required to complete a series of challenging missions against the various forces that operate in the Dragon Seas. The Jade Kingdom represents the Aristocracy that is trying to maintain its shipping lane supremacy while an even larger force from the North (The Iron Empire) flexes it's military muscle in an attempt to destroy everyone. The missions are varied and refreshing. Some involve escorting and protecting large ships, while others are stealth based hit-and-run type missions. There are 27 missions in all and plenty of gunboat action to be had.

As the game progresses, you will unlock more boats (see Multiplayer section). Essentially you start the game off with an armorless Bayliner with basic chain guns. Completing more missions gets you more effective boats with better armor and weapons. Eventually you could be driving a combat hydroplane with torpedoes and rockets capable of sinking the Titanic...oh wait, that already happened. Well, you get my point. I thought the various weapons were a logical progression for the game but what I didn't expect was how well they operated. For instance, if you have the deck mounted cannons and hit a wave while firing, the cannon could very well launch into the atmosphere or the water right in front of you. That's right'the pitch of the water affects how your weapons work. The game's weapons are forgiving, but only to a point. Don't expect to shoot in a general direction and hit your target. Some weapons, like torpedoes, require that you lead the target.Of course, you'll eventually get weapons that are of the heat-seeking variety, but you really have to earn your stripes to get those.

Enemy boats provide for an impressive array of victims. Boats like the Sanpans are quick but go down easy, while others boats like the Basillicus, are a one-of-a-kind, mean piece of warship with an evil-looking flare on it's front that's used for ramming. If you get hit by this unfriendly beast one to many times, consider yourself crab bait. Gunboats and speedy mine throwers also dot the water making your life miserable. If it isn't one kind of enemy trying to shoot you, it's another trying to blow you up. The enemy ships are varied in both their appearance and weapon load out. You can blink while playing this game, but don't do it often.

The action and the bad guys come at a breakneck pace, and unfortunately, this is one of the games faults. If you happen to get hung up on the shore or worse yet, overturned, you can practically throw in the towel as the bad guys never seem to let up. Gun turrets are amazingly accurate even on the games easier setting (ensign) and some of the later missions are downright impossible. I was also disappointed in the non-existent option of picking which boat you could use for each mission. Instead, the game defaults to a predetermined boat.

Multiplayer

I hate the fact that this game isn't link capable. The whole point of selling a link cable is to play games that require it. This one does not, therefore it means the dreaded split-screen. Up to four players can duke it out in one of the many locations that must be unlocked. It is here that you can finally select your boat of choice from all those boats you unlocked while playing the story mode. In multiplayer mode, there are several games to select. Death match, team death match (for 4 players), three-on-one death match, and of course a free-for-all type battle, comprise your multiplayer options. The unmentioned power-ups are present (health, ammo) along with multiplayer-specific items like "Firepower," which increases the damage you inflict, and "Shield," which allows you to be invulnerable for a short amount of time.

Graphics

Microsoft must have hired some surfers to come in and critique the waves that appear in the game. Swells and whitecaps look incredibly accurate and the way they affect your boat is genuine. I was, for the most part, happy with how the game looked with its atmosphere, but I couldn't help but think that some levels were put together with less enthusiasm. Of course the frame rate is top notch when turboing through the missions, but I believe I caught some disappearing/reappearing object on the horizon. With a machine as powerful as the XBox, I certainly don't want to see that sort of nonsense.

Fellow reviewer Rob Madison played the multiplayer aspect with me the first night I got the game and we both agreed that the boats looked really good (you can actually see the pistons pumping in the exposed engine) and that the water effects were done very well. Pay attention to how the water looks in the different missions since they take place at various parts of the day.

Audio

Character narration is well done and the voice of your main character is appropriately tinged with malice. I looked in the game's manual to see who did the voice, but I couldn't distinguish it from the five people listed as "voice talent." Either way, Shao Kai, Ped Zang, and Shao Lung all had quality voice acting.

The deep hum of the boats' engines roared out of my Dolby Digital receiver. Chain guns firing, boats exploding, and the high pitch-whine of a vessel with an exposed prop, were delivered perfectly. Pretty cool stuff.

Originality/Cool Features

We've had space combat (Star Wars Starfighter), air combat (IL-2 Sturmovik), vehicular combat (Twisted Metal Black) and hand to hand combat (Dead or Alive 3). It was only a matter of time before we had water combat. Now I'm sure there has been a boat-type combat game before, but since it's 1:00am and my mind isn't firing on all cylinders, I can't think of one. Regardless, it couldn't be as much fun as Blood Wake is.

Bottom Line

I enjoyed this title immensely. Since I have so many games AND a life, I don't typically get to play a game through to its conclusion, however, this one I will. I can forgive its graphical shortcomings and the difficulty factor if only to see what kind of wacky-ass mission is going to come next. Our ratings system states that any game in the 80's should be fun right out of the box despite its shortcomings. This one is exactly that'easy to pick up, but hard to beat.

Download Blood Wake

XBox

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

Samurais had it easy. They didn't have to worry about dodging missiles, napalm showers, or hails of gunfire when they were protecting the Emperor's butt. Their only concern was avoiding a sword to the groin or some other less vital body part. If only life were so simple as a Chinese sailor.

Blood Wake rewrites the history books by making ancient Chinese naval warfare, well, not so ancient. The only clue that your vessels (or "junks") are cut of a cloth woven in the past are their wooden hulls. The rest of their chassis consist of hardened steel and advanced weaponry (and occasionally a big, green decorative snake) that could easily sink a modern-day aircraft carrier. Or at least the one built in the early '80s that travels back in time in The Final Countdown.

When the waves start crashing, you'll be thankful for the resilience of your hip, hybrid rig (its uniqueness is more useful than for just reeling in the chicks, you know). No matter how many times you get flipped over, dunked or submerged, the only thing that'll ultimately sink you is another boat. And plenty of those are lurking around, of course.

Like your ship, each class of enemy vessel has its own set of armaments, whether it be a speedy scout with pop-gun weapons, or a hulking transport that repeatedly blows its wad with obnoxious flurries of guided missiles and cannon fire. As you beat missions and progress through the war (as told through cheesy pen and parchment drawings that wouldn't make it on a PBS kids' show), your own fleet of selectable battleships increases as well. These boats can be used in multiplayer battles fought in unlockable arenas. Before you know it, your armory will become so advanced that you'll be sinking your buddy in a rig that looks like it belongs in a Thunder in Paradise calendar. How could you ask for anything more?

People say:

8

At first glance, it's easy to misjudge this as the latest Twisted Metal rip-off. But that would be like saying that Richard Simmons is just another personal trainer. Unlike other vehicular combat games, Blood Wake has an eye-popping hook: gigantic, Perfect Sform-worthy waves that flip and roll vessels realistically during combat. The foamy wakes rippling behind boats create wonderful chop--throw a well-timed torpedo or two into the mix, you can make boats do flips that would make dolphins envious (if it's possible for a game to make you seasick, this would do it). You won't need a barf bag right away, though. Blood Wake eases you into the captain's chair with calm seas and moonlit nights that make you want to break out the Chardonnay in between torpedo launches. But be patient, and the action will drop anchor on your ass with tough escort, protect, gather and stealth objectives that add a welcome twist to the standard "kill everything" fare. Don't worry, you can get your mindless blasting fix with multiplayer combat. But you'll have to work for it: To play with the cooler firepower and versus modes you have to finish most of the single-player game. And even with everything unlocked, the bland arenas make it more fun to beat the missions instead of your friend. That's a little unusual for a game in this genre, but then again, nothing is very ordinary about this surprisingly deep and original game.

6

Avast ye mateys, Asian invasion starboard! Fire tor-pedos! Charge electric bolts! Scrub the poop deck! OK, so that last one's pushing it, but all (and more) preceding it lies at your wet fingertips in Blood Wake. Heavily arcadey, BW's fishy guts lie in its impressive water physics and wave-sloshing fire fights. But to get to the heartier ships and cooler weapons, you'll need to get at least halfway through the single-player mode, and repetitive mission-based gameplay risks players preemptively abandoning ship. Stay on board though, and both single-and multiplay offers a good amount of light shooter fun. Just be sure to ignore its cheesy sea war tale.

4

I love action games long time, but rarely do I wake up and think to myself, "It would be nice to play an 'Oriental' boat combat game today." Despite my apathy, Microsoft must see a niche for Blood Wake's Asian-charged Hydro Thunder-meets-Twisted Metal gameplay. Now, I could stomach this mundane premise if the controls didn't work my nerves. With enemy boats constantly zipping past you, targeting them requires responsive controls. But since the left analog stick bears the burden of controlling acceleration and direction (including reverse), it's an endless struggle to face the desired direction while your foes tear you a new one. Not fun.