The very ambitious BloodNet attempts to combine the essential elements of the cyberpunk and gothic worlds. How well it succeeds emotionally depends on your interest in the two topics. How it succeeds technically is easier to quantify.
The cyberspace world is treated almost as an afterthought by the designers, evolving as a vast wasteland, something diametrically opposed to what the modern day (circa 1998) 'Net rider has come to expect and experience. Disappointing in it's stark and sterile treatment, cyberspace as depicted in BloodNet, seems shallow, no doubt a product of abstract and boring graphics. The gothic side of the coin deals with its subject matter, from environment to vampirism, extremely well. The graphics, mostly static background locations rendered in a dark and sinister tone, support the grimy, decaying idea of a neglected Manhattan a hundred years in the future, when people are more interested in their inner world than the outer shell.
BloodNet centers it's appeal around the core of the story. However, if you're not sympathetic to your own designed rendition of the main protagonist, Ransom Stark, the game will leave you as cold as a vampire's kiss. Should you be able to set aside the horror of subsisting on human blood (not your own) to stay alive, there is a decidedly poignant aspect to Stark's existence. In the guise of two vicious bites, he's dealt the worst of both worlds. The proficiency he enjoyed as a corporate cyberspace agent (read hacker) has turned and bitten him, causing a debilitating condition of skewed reality. While trying to reestablish order, he suffers the soul-damning bite of a vampire lord, Abraham van Helsing, leaving him to embrace the realities of both worlds in a desperate attempt to retain his humanity.
The plot twists and circumstances leading up to Stark's predicament are handled well. With gameplay as basic role-playing fare; most action revolves around talking to characters who impart snippets of information allowing Stark to track down the source of his problems, follow up on clues, pick the right people to join your party (up to five), pick your way through the various obstacles and leads, and stay alive by avoiding both vampire hunters and slow death. The clock ticks down throughout the game as Stark's humanity drains slowly with each bloodsucking incident. The interface in BloodNet is standard point and click with some icon-based commands available from a drop down menu. Combat is real-time or turn-based, player's choice, and is fairly simplistic. Although technically an RPG, BloodNet incorporates some features of an adventure game format, leaving the game execution-weak but story-strong.
Graphics: With the notable exception of the cyber world portion, time and location sensitive graphics work fairly well, although unpolished and muddy at times.
Sound: Nothing special or exciting here. For such a dark game, music should have been a driving force.
Enjoyment: The game was a mix of things I either hated or loved. The difference in enjoyment between the cyberspace and gothic aspects is like night and day. Weak/simple combat sequences and cyberspace activity offsets a compelling and richly scripted story.
Replay Value: When it's over, it's over.
You play as Ransom Stark, a computer hacker, scrounger or mercenary (depending on how the player answers the opening questions when they start a new game) who finds himself caught up in a sinister affair involving an evil global megacorporation, TransTechnicals, Manhattan, a fight for Cyberspace and vampires!
Ransom Stark became stricken with Hopkins-Brie Ontology Syndrome whilst working at TransTechnicals, due to his forced extended exposure to Cyberspace while he worked there. As soon as he was diagnosed he was dismissed from TransTech and found himself homeless and hopeless. Thankfully an ingenious woman, with a personal vendetta against TransTech, named Deirdre Tackett saved his life by inserting a prototype brain implant of her own design and this restoring his grip on reality.
Over the following year Ransom became known as a reliable freelance until one day he got a job worth much more than he bargained for! His employers turned out to be vampires and as part of his 'payment', Ransom was turned into a follower of the evil head-vampire, Abraham Van Helsing -- except his brain implant kicked in allowing him to keep temporary control of his humanity.
Now Ransom must put a stop to Van Helsing's plans to take over Manhattan and control Cyberspace and hopefully save himself from being a vampire before its too late!
BloodNet is an adventure game with RPG elements.
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