Retro Review: BLOOD (PC)

Lately I've been reliving my childhood through a bit of a DOS game binge, playing the classic games I grew up with as a kid. Surprisingly while both graphically and in terms of gameplay most of them have aged not so gracefully, in terms of sheer entertainment and enjoyment a lot of them still stand up pretty well to this day. As far as FPS games go I love DOOM, DUKE NUKEM 3D & SHADOW WARRIOR but I've always had a soft spot for BLOOD.

As far as plot goes there's not really a whole lot going one here. Basically the protagonist Caleb has been somehow resurrected in order to seek revenge and answers from sinister cult 'The Cabal' for whom he was once supreme commander. But this isn't the type of game where you really need to think about plot, all you need to know is that each level is filled with various undead creatures which want you dead. Your job is to kill them all and try to stay alive (or as alive as a resurrected corpse can be) for as long as possible.

To complete these two main tasks you will come across a wide array of interesting weapons, possibly one of the coolest and most unique collections in any FPS. Starting off with a pitchfork you quickly progress to a flare gun (more shooters need to utilize this awesome weapon), dynamite, the classic shot gun and eventually more bizarre weapons like the voodoo doll, aerosol flamethrower and the powerful shock rifle. My favorite was always the shotgun because walking around blowing apart the undead with a shotgun gives the game a heavy ARMY OF DARKNESS vibe which is awesome. Surprisingly for the time this game was released, some of the weapons have alternate fire modes and there is also a pickup which lets you wield dual weapons for a time.

Using a slightly modified version of the Build engine, BLOOD's gameplay resembles that of 3D Realms' classic DOOM. Apart from shooting, stabbing and blowing apart your enemies you will also need to scour the levels for keys in order to advance. Some of the levels have up to 6 separate keys which can be a little too many in my opinion, especially when every corner seems to hide a bloodthirsty monster and at some points you can have a fairly large group converging on you at once. It goes without saying that you will probably find yourself dying a lot in BLOOD.

Another reason I love BLOOD so much is because of its use of pop culture references and especially film references. ARMY OF DARKNESS, JAWS, THE SHINING, FRANKENSTEIN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, DAWN OF THE DEAD and the list goes on. The levels are also filled with hidden rooms and compartments which provide hours of extra gameplay if you want to find them all. As far as level design goes, I always thought BLOOD was a lot better than other similar FPS games although some of them can be a little complicated and involve a bit of backtracking when you inevitably get lost. The levels are quite varied and you will find yourself in graveyards, mortuaries, hospitals, carnivals, temples and an array of other locations.

As you may have guessed by its title BLOOD is quite a graphic game, maybe not nowadays but definitely at the time it was released. Blood is everywhere, spraying walls and the floor and out of the necks of decapitated demons. Each weapon dispatches your foes in its own bloody way, my favorite being the flare gun which lights them on fire before they explode in a mass of flesh and bone. Yes it is quite tame to look at now but believe me in 1997 this was pretty damn gory for a PC game. There is also a lot of dark humor in the game as Caleb spits out one-liners which mainly reference films like JAWS and ARMY OF DARKNESS and the combination of dark imagery, humor, undead creatures and blood give the game a horror movie type feel which in my book is always a good thing.

Aside from the single player campaign BLOOD also had multiplayer options although I don't remember ever trying them. Bloodbath is the game's version of deathmatch which is played on specially designed multiplayer levels and also the campaign levels. I had so much fun playing the campaign that I never even considered the multiplayer not that it matters because even the single player has a ton of gameplay especially when you add the expansion packs The Plasma Pak & Cryptic Passage which give the game more single player levels, multiplayer levels, new enemies and bosses but unfortunately no additions to Caleb's arsenal.
While it's probably difficult to find a physical copy of BLOOD and its expansion packs, all of them are available on gog.com for a very reasonable price. Fans of DOOM, QUAKE and similar style FPS games will get a kick out of BLOOD but even if you're a fan of retro games I'd say this is well worth checking out. Personally it's one of the best First Person Shooters I've ever played.

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