Far away from the teenage romance novels and goofy Dracula renditions that have come to be associated with vampires, Bloodrayne explores a darker take on the age old monsters, its titular femme fatale being something of a female counterpart to Van Helsing out to rid the world of the demons that threaten to destroy it. Betrayal from WayForward acts as a departure from prior games in the series and stands as a rather polarizing title from every angle; as instantly dismissible as it is alluring.
I won’t get into any story details because it’s entirely forgettable and even the little emphasis placed on it is more than it deserves, but in essence you are Rayne called in to deal with a demon infestation that’s been terrorizing the local towns people. That’s about all the story I needed and could have done without the melodramatic text bubbles, but as it stands it allows for a lot of people to die by your hand, which is ultimately the entire point of the game.
Betrayal is structured like a typical side scrolling brawler. You move from screen to screen clearing out hoards of monsters, taking part in occasional platforming segments or a larger than life boss fight. You have a modest but well rounded collection of moves, with nice touches like sucking blood from enemies to restore health or Rayne’s trademark pistol add a nice amount of personality to the otherwise routine fights.
On paper, Betrayal has everything in place for an excellent brawler, but when you actually get your hands on it it’s immediately clear that a lot has gone wrong in the translation to an actual game. Most unforgivable, WayForward commits a cardinal sin by constantly locking your character into animations. What this means in practice is combat feels slow and unresponsive, causing you to continually fail because it’s impossible to dodge mid-attack, and getting knocked down leaves you open for more attacks as you’re entirely helpless for a handful of seconds before you pick yourself back up (which as you can imagine creates a circle of falling down and getting kicked to death with no retaliation possible).
Even when you aren’t trapped in a string of animations, controlling Rayne is excessively clunky and unintuitive. Moves require precise inputs to execute, but these are commonly misread or ignored making anything beyond a basic attack unpredictable and more dangerous to attempt with a constant swarm of enemies around you than it’s worth.
What I’m getting at with all of this is Betrayal is a frustrating game; a VERY frustrating game, and one that shouldn’t be anywhere near as difficult as it should be. It’s a contrived challenge, the combined result of poor controls, animation lockouts, and checkpoints that are placed almost intentionally to cause you to quit from having to replay huge chunks of a level each time you die (which will be often). It starts off hard and by the end raises the bar to an outrageous degree, to where I was gritting my teeth and praying I’d get through it so the game would finally end.
I wanted to love Betrayal, and for all its flaws I don’t regret playing it and even enjoyed portions of it a great deal, but any recommendation I could give it comes with so many connotations that I find it hard to say with any sincerity that it’s something you should spend your time with. Aside from its slick, hard drawn art style that looks absolutely stunning (especially in the dark, when all you can see are silhouettes against the background), it stumbles all the way from the start and had me questioning if it was really worth continuing with. In the end, I’m still not sure of my answer.