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Blood Wake

Review By:  Dean Tester

Developer:   Stormfront Studios
Publisher:   Microsoft
# of Players:   1-4
Genre:   Action
ESRB:   Teen
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:  

1-09-02

When I first considered which game to buy last week, I had to put a lot of thought into it. There were so many games that I knew were good, and there were a couple I was unsure of. One of those "unsure" games was Blood Wake. I was extremely worried that it would be too much like other games of this odd genre, such as Vigilante 8. However, I took a risk and I was pleasantly surprised. This game exceeded my expectations in all ways, and it turned out to be one of my best purchases yet. This game has everything youíd ever want, from pirates to explosions, and even a weird magical shield. Oh, and not to mention an all out navy warfare combat zone, packed with 15 of your own boats, and plenty of enemy boats, some you can even use during the game. Add that to a combination of 2 different primary weapons and 8 different secondary weapons, and youíve got yourself one hell of a combat game.

Now aside from the obvious all out warfare characteristics, this game has several things that not only add to, but also greatly improve the gameplay experience. One of those things is the rich plot. You are Shao Kai, a former lieutenant from the Northern League. Unfortunately, your ship was attacked, and you were left helpless at sea. Luckily for you, Ped Zeng came along, the leader of the Shadow Clan. He rescues you, and orders you to join him in the fight against the Jade Kingdom and Iron Empire. Sounds like a pretty standard pirate plot, no? Well, youíd be surprised to hear that there are a few plot twists that are uncharacteristic of any pirate story youíve ever heard. 

Aside from the plot, you have weapons. Every weapon is useful in its own right, and each requires careful precision and skill to use accurately. The primary weapons you get are the chain gun and auto-cannon. The chain gun is a rapid-fire, auto aiming, and powerful gun, which is probably the more powerful of the two. You get four on every ship that it is installed on, which combines for a powerful way to finish off enemies or take out smaller enemies once you have used all your secondary weapons or donít want to waste them. The other primary weapon, the auto-cannon, may be not quite as effective, but is still useful. It does more damage than the chain gun, but fires a lot slower. Also, on most boats you only get two auto-cannons, instead of the four chain guns. However, there is one boat that lets you have four auto-cannons, which make it slightly more effective than the chain gun. 

Aside from your primary weapons, you have the secondary weapons, which you will probably be using more. These are your big hitters, and for great reason. First of all, you have the rocket launcher. It fires three rockets at a time, at a fairly long range. Unfortunately, unless you get  the homing rockets, it will be fairly difficult to hit your targets. They are the second most powerful weapon, and are great for taking out slow-moving or stationary targets. The homing rockets, however, are a completely different story. They can almost always get at least some splash damage on fast moving targets. They are also the best choice for taking out the stationary cannons that you see later in the game. You too, have your own cannons, which are personally my favorite weapon. They are very fast moving, and easy to target, with fairly good damage. Their only problem is that often when you are moving in stormy seas, a sudden wave will cause your cannon to fire high or low, and inaccuracy is a major issue. The next, and probably most vital weapon, not to mention most powerful, is the torpedoes. They have a very long range, but like the rockets they are hard to aim. Also like the rockets, there are homing torpedoes, but unfortunately, they are still hard to aim. However, when they hit, itís almost always an instant kill. They are EXTREMELY powerful. The next three weapons are more of utility weapons, for specialty use only. However, each can still be effective in battle. The most powerful of these is the Stinger, an electrostatic shock weapon that nearly kills anything at close range. However, you need to be VERY close, or else it won't affect the target. Its difficult to maneuver with, but if you can get close it's very effective. The other two weapons have very little effect on the game, but are important nonetheless. The mine, which Iím sure you know all about already, is just a little mechanism that floats on the top of the water. If you run over, you explode. Pretty simple. The other weapon, is more of a handy tool than a weapon. The wave gun sends a sonic disruption wave through the water, and is primarily used for blowing up mines and incoming torpedoes. However, it can be useful in battle, because it hurls the enemy fairly high into the air if you time it right with the waves. It gives you time to rocket them or shoot them down with your primary weapons.

Although you have a good selection of weapons, it is really the boat that plays the most important role in gameplay. Certain boats have different combinations of weapons, but also different durability, speed, turning, and anything else you can think of. Hell, some of them are even heavier so they are better for ramming your opponents. There are 5 different classes of boats, the speedboat, catamaran, gunboat, devil boat, and hydroplane, each with their own different variations. The speedboat, for example, has 5 different variations, with different weapon capabilities, and different speed/turning characteristics. Aside from your boats, your two enemies also have different boats, some more powerful than the other, with different characteristics. The Iron Empire even has giant warships that could wipe out 20 of you, which youíll have to avoid in some missions.

So aside from your different boats and weapons, how does the game play actually fare? Quite well, as far as Iím concerned. Instead of having levels like in Vigilante 8 where you just have to blow up 5 cars and you win or something stupid like that, there are a various amount of tasks that you have to accomplish over the game. Although sometimes you will have to clear out a certain area, or sink a certain ship, itís not quite as repetitive or tedious. Some of the different missions include escorting your ships, protecting a harbor, assaulting a port, or even one level has a race. There are also some levels where you donít have time to blow things up, you just have to race in, grab what you need (i.e. a treasure chest) and get out of there ASAP. The fighting itself goes smoothly, I havenít seen any problems, in fact I canít even think of something that could be changed. 

The only problem with actually playing is some of the boats are very hard to control, and it can often lead to an untimely demise. The wave physics, as expected, are absolutely amazing. Iíve never experienced any problems with the waves; they seem 100% realistic. There isnít much to say, except that every thing is as it should be. The only odd thing is the power-ups that you can get, such as the repair kit, and the weapons crate. They donít seem like things that you would use for fixing a ship at all. However, this game is extremely difficult as it is, and without some kind of repair/rearm items it would be impossible. Which brings me to another point, the extreme difficulty of this game. Most of the missions should take 10-15 minutes at most, and with 28 missions, that leaves merely 5 hours of gameplay at most. However, since it is so hard, most of the missions youíll need to repeat over and over again. I know I found myself repeating the last level about 20 times before I finally beat it.

Aside from the difficult campaign, it has a fairly good multiplayer game. There are four different battle mode game types, Survivor, Free-for-all, Team Death Match, and Domination. There are also various single-player battle mode games, where you face computer-controlled boats in several different scenarios. There are up to 4 players, and there can even be handicapped matches. However, probably the best mode is Domination. You have to capture the fort and hold it for a certain time limit, and itís the only mode that really offers any variety other than blowing everything up. However, with the addition of some extra multiplayer items (Firepower, Speed, Shield, and Accuracy), it still has a formidable multiplayer game.

Blood Wake doesnít hold up all that well technically. The graphics ARE good, but it does have its flaws. The backgrounds are poorly done, and the sky looks pretty bad as well. Also, the lighting effects are fairly poor. However, I must admit the wave and boat detail is spectacular, better than Iíve seen in any other Xbox game so far. The area I thought faltered the most however, was the sound. It had decent music at best, and unfortunately, you can barely hear the sound effects over top of the music. However, the sound effects were decently doneÖ although they couldíve been better.

Highs:

  • A wide variety of weapons and ships
  • The highest level of realism achieved in a video game to date
  • Nice detail on some of the closer objects
  • A nice selection of items
  • Simplistic gameplay, yet extremely difficult, can keep you hooked for hour on end
  • An excellent plot
  • A better than average multiplayer mode
  • Well presented

Lows:

  • Poorly done backgrounds, sky, and lighting graphics
  • Poorly done music, and barely adequate sound effects
  • Not much replay value
  • Controls can be frustrating at times
  • An odd glitch occurs if you crash on land and die, you actually sink into the land

Final Verdict: 

This game was much better than I expected, and a lot different than I had thought it would be. Well above the standard, a well done game, especially for people who like blowing things up, watching things explode, or just are in for a challenge. Definitely worth buying if you own a Xbox.

Overall Score: 8.3

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