Review: Blood

bloodcoverSpeaking of nineties shooters, how about Blood? Published by 3D Realms and developed by gaming legends Monolith Productions, Blood answers the question that no one asked; ‘What if Duke Nukem 3D was a comically violent horror game’?

Created with the Build Engine not long after Duke Nukem 3D, it’s impossible to not see the strong similarities between the two on the surface. From the weapon and items systems, to the structure of the levels, to the mini-map, it almost feels like a high-end mod. However, where Duke took his cues from sci-fi and action pop culture of the eighties and nineties, Blood instead found its inspiration in the horror movies of the same era.

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Excuse me sir, have you given any thought to donating blood?

Blood‘s story is pretty negligible. You’re Caleb, an evil undead guy who is betrayed by his even more evil undead master, and so you must wreak bloody vengeance upon him. That is literally the entire plot right there. The many levels between you and your master have little to no relation to each other and are mostly made up of a random selection of set-pieces ripped straight from popular horror movies. This is all Blood is, really, just a big crazy quilt of all the developers’ favorite horror movies. You’ll travel to sinister temples, grimy slaughterhouses, Camp Crystal Lake, zombie filled malls, and more, and find Easter eggs ranging from The Shining to A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Along Caleb’s journey you’ll battle quite the menagerie of foes, some of which will surely be quite familiar, such as the robed midgets that look suspiciously like the ones from the Phantasm series or aggressive severed hands that taunt you with ‘I’ll swallow your soul’! Caleb’s dialogue is also entirely and unapologetically made up of direct movie quotes, mostly consisting of lines by Ash Williams of Evil Dead fame.

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Don’t underestimate the power of that flare gun.

Naturally, in the process of this journey you will commit many a violent atrocity upon your fellow undead. Shooting, stabbing, igniting, and exploding your way through them in ways that would make Shang Tsung blush. Assuming you can survive that long, anyway. This is one tough game. Blood‘s baddies are incredibly aggressive, prone to ambushes, and dish out damage like it’s on clearance sale. Luckily the game offers manual saving, because you are going to die, a lot. Any given corner turned without care can easily end in a swift death. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with your enemies’ weaknesses too, as certain weapons are much more effective on some enemies than others.

Fair warning, there are some aspects of Blood‘s design that tarnish the experience a bit. The controls are terribly archaic, forcing you to go back to the ancient ways of putting your right hand on the arrow keys and your left hand on Ctrl, Alt, Space, and etc. There is a mouse look feature that can be enabled, but it’s too jerky and imprecise to be relied on. The lack of identification of locked doors on the mini-map and overabundance of key types (there are SIX of ’em!) can make some of the larger, more labyrinthine levels quite the exercises in patience too.

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Hot dogs, anyone?

That said, while it doesn’t quite live up to my seventeen year old self’s belief that it was the greatest game of all time, twenty years later it still holds up well enough to live up to its legend of being a classic game that can be enjoyed by fans of challenging, over-the-top nineties shooters and of old-timey horror movies.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Review: Blood

  1. parnakumatic

    Interesting swipefest. The developers and publishers never got any heat from the owners of all those IPs that Blood is lifting from? Surely someone threatened to sue Caleb’s undead pants off. The only remotely possible reason I can think of for why they didn’t–IF they didn’t–is that Monolith et al were lucky enough to have released it at a time when none of the entertainment companies cared at all about the video game industry and were just ignorant of it’s existence.

    Good thing, too, or who knows? We might not have ever gotten Shadow of Mordor or have Shadow of War to look forward to today.

    Like

    • I don’t think making brief pop culture references really falls into copyright infringement territory. I mean, we see games making Easter Egg references to other IPs all the time still, and characters in our favorite movies and comics and songs are always dropping famous movie quotes all over the place without any problems.

      Also, no one was really paying attention to what was going on in the dark corners of PC gaming back then. People were all up in arms about Mortal Kombat on Super Nintendo while everyone else was playing Blood and ripping zombie heads off with pitchforks and playing soccer with them, with geysers of blood shooting everywhere. And we had weird games like Postal coming out around the same time, which would never have been able to fly under the radar like it did if it came out today.

      Like

      • parnakumatic

        I agree with your second point about PC gaming, but I have to say your first point about pop culture references has far too much common sense in its foundation for it to track with copyright claims, largely because the requirement that owners must ‘zealously defend’ their copyrights against all others or risk losing the copyright altogether has been interpreted by copyright holders and their (may I say, very rich) lawyers to mean “ruthlessly pursue legal action against anyone making any use of their property without permission,” especially in commercial settings, and even more especially in commercial settings that have features in common with that of the copyrighted property (entertainment & horror, for example).

        Whether they win or not is another matter altogether; oftentimes just the expense of fighting back against such claims is enough to cause financial ruin.

        Anyway, they’re lucky, and by extension so are we.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s disappointing that there hasn’t been any attempt to upgrade the blood experience to make it more playable today (just upgraded controls would help).

    Great to read your thoughts on it, I remember just bring punished by it time and time again, but there were some really fun levels and a couple of subtle innovations (some simple 3D models for some of the items)… Those damn monks with shotguns! 😒

    Liked by 2 people

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