Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines Review (PC)
Before you start the game, youíll get a chance to configure your character. Youíll pick your sex, your vampire clan, and your stats. Unfortunately, you do not get to determine your appearance; itís predetermined based on which clan you pick. The story in the game starts you off as a recently embraced kindred. However, your sire did not seek permission before transforming you into a vampire, and thus he suffered the consequences. More or less an ďillegalĒ vampire, you are given a second chance by Prince LaCroix. After explaining some basic rules, you are thrust into the rich world of VTMB. You start off in Santa Monica, and the first thing you will notice is that this game is extremely immersive. If you turn on the radio, you will hear an entertaining radio show featuring a sexy-voiced talk show host. If you turn on the TV, you will be treated to a news broadcast that will convey to you some of the finer points of the story.
The graphics in the game, despite being rendered by the Source engine, are unfortunately not that impressive. The textures that decorate the wide variety of environments you traverse are not outstanding. Theyíre not bad or anything, but Half-Life 2 used the same engine and the textures there were beyond description. The upside is that there is a very large amount of them, so you wonít necessarily be seeing the same textures over and over. Characters are well modeled, especially their faces. When you talk to a character, and it zooms in on their face, you will see a very big strength of the Source engine. The charactersí faces look and display facial expressions extremely realistically, albeit not quite as good as Half-Life 2ís.
All of the sounds in the game are very well done. The voice acting is superb with only a few exceptions. What really makes the sound design stand out though, are the ambient sounds. At one point in the game, you will be in a haunted mansion. I must say, thanks to the sound design, that part of the game was far creepier than anything in Doom 3. You will hear soft whispering warning you of impending doom, and gloomy music that will raise the tension. I donít want to spoil anything, but the spooky factor is on par with Silent Hill and Resident Evil. The rest of the game is accompanied with appropriate music and sound effects. If you go into a club, youíll hear some appropriate dance music blaring in the background. When youíre battling enemies, your weapons will clash against each other and produce hard-hitting sound effects. Overall, this is one of the more polished parts of the game.
As you traverse the cities and pick up a large variety of quests from the superb cache of characters, you will find yourself doing battle fairly often. However, the combat element of the game isnít that exciting. You have a choice between melee and ranged weapons, but the ranged weapons are severely underpowered. Using guns against enemies isnít effective at all because they don't do as much damage as melee weapons, and theyíre fairly hard to aim. Furthermore, you canít attack multiple enemies or knock them down. This is not a great thing to realize halfway through the game, but it's worthwhile to play through more than once anyway. There are several endings that you can get depending on the choices you make in the game.
To navigate these locations, you will likely have to make use of several skills of your character. Namely, lockpicking. Yes, no matter what character you create, they will have the ability to open any lock as long as they have a lockpick and sufficient skill to overcome the lock. However, lockpicking will not always be enough. For example, you may come across electronic locks and you would have to use a computer to unlock them. Just booting up the computer wonít be enough, of course. Youíll have to hack it. This is another important skill in VTMB. All characters naturally have this skill, just like lockpicking. Once you hack a computer, youíll have a variety of options. These often let you get trivial information like a doctorís notes about patients or emails. These things immerse you into the experience flawlessly.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is far from flawless. In the retail version, there are a handful of quests that are completely broken, and will prevent you from progressing further. Although a large part of these were fixed by patches released shortly afterwards, they should have really done more bug-testing before shipping this game out. If you get this game and you donít have an internet connection, you will be out of luck. Finally, there is unfortunately no online cooperative mode, which admittedly wouldnít have worked that well in such a story driven game.