What’s the worst night out you’ve ever had? Everyone remembers one big – often boozy – night that has gone sideways with friends hurling in the toilet, accidental fights and someone’s phone being left on a train. Heading for Liverpool.
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In battle royale title Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt, each player character has you beat: every match is a re-enactment of the worst evening of their life. Each vampire has to fight to be the last one standing, as heavily armoured vampire hunters patrol the streets and their vampire-controlling gas rolls in. That’s all while trying to protect the Masquerade, which keeps the secret world hidden from the mortals.
Sure, mechanically it’s a battle royale game, but narratively? Everything has gone to shit.
Technically, Bloodhunt is a phenomenal debut for developers Sharkmob. The cosmetics are high quality, models are tight and the animations are incredible smooth. These are the game’s strongpoints: if you want to live out your vampire fantasy, dominating an urban environment while looking sexy / monstrous as hell, Bloodhunt absolutely has you covered.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of design choices that seem to have had the unintended effect of making the game agonising to play in a lot of circumstances.
The primary issue is that because every vampire will eventually recover from a downed state by themselves and there are respawn points (for trios) and extra lives (for solo play) scattered around the city, the value of actually winning a fight is very low. You might get a handful of loot, but you probably won’t get a chance to sift through the wares a dead enemy has ejected on the floor before another team shows up, drawn in by the sounds of gunfire and their own bloodlust.
This often means that whether you’re playing in the game’s solo or trios mode, you’re constantly being hit by additional enemies when you’re at your weakest. New vampires pour into firefights in both modes, hyper-agile foes that are hard to keep track of when you’re also listening for the sounds of flapping clothing, which is often all the warning you get before an enemy armed with a katana tries to bisect you.
The end result is that Bloodhunt is a high tempo game that just doesn’t let up – a combination of the fast movement and crowded map means that it’s not uncommon to find yourself in an endless rolling fight without a chance to rearm or catch a breather. This makes Bloodhunt feel much more frenetic than a usual battle royale game, and the pace is exhausting. Several times the trio I was playing with picked our moment to engage, did a ton of damage and killed an enemy or two before several other teams of enemies tore us apart. It makes fights dissatisfying.
Weaponry in the game features the classic mainstays of snipers, burst-fire and standard assault rifles but it also features a few more esoteric choices: dual crossbows that fire explosive bolts at short range, a bigger crossbow that creates a huge cloud of poison at the point of impact, and then a minigun, which was clearly misnamed at the concept stage.
In addition to this loot, you can also use your vampire senses to find humans with resonant blood, which can bestow a variety of different abilities to you. You loot this blood with your fangs, which will refill your health, but if you’re seen you’re highlighted for everyone on the map. This is unlikely to end well for you.
Weapons appear in a variety of rarities, with a higher rarity being objectively better. This starts with the green “common” weapons all the way up to the purple – rare – and orange – legendary – weapons at the top end of the bracket.
Shooting is about as solid as you’re going to get in a third-person game, and while short-range guns suffer at longer range – to be expected – the shooting and weapon handling is tight across the board. Time to kill is rapid in the right circumstances, and you can drop a vamp at 200 metres with a sniper rifle in a single shot, if you get it right. Of course, they’ll always get back up given enough time.
The melee combat plays to the title’s strengths: movement is kinetic and responsive, and when you attack an enemy with a melee weapon you regenerate a small amount of health with each swipe. This feels fun, but requires real coordination. The purple weapons will let you either deflect bullets or charge forwards with a savage attack, and both feel stupendously powerful in the right circumstances. Unfortunately, in a world where a range of shotguns are available, several melee assaults led to me getting dropped outright.
Bloodhunt then. In terms of Vampire: The Masquerade lore, the vibe of “being a vampire” and the movement is 10/10. Sadly, this is a decent game with some serious issues that stop it being all that it can be. Some players will vibe with the frenetic pace, but – let’s be real here – most players that want to play a high-speed battle royale are already deep into Apex Legends or Fortnite and I don’t see a world where Bloodhunt is able to make enough of an impact to pull players away from this. As every free-to-play battle royale isn’t competing for your wallet but for getting a bit of space in your brain, why would you choose this over one of the more established competitors?
There are a lot of interesting ideas here but the final package is flawed. However, I’m eager to see what Sharkmob delivers next because Bloodhunt has a big chunk of the magic formula and it is fun, but it’s often hard to see that fun when you’re being relentlessly hunted by several well-coordinated teams of vampires that would love nothing more than to fuck up your day.
Bloodhunt is pretty good, but not good enough. With the popularity of battle royale games waning as a whole, Bloodhunt is unlikely to find its audience. For those that dig it, though, this is a bloody good time. It’s just hard not to be frustrated by the game’s several minor issues.
- Movement is fluid
- Prague is a joy to explore
- Savage fights
- Weird tempo
- An oddly stressful experience