It Lives Again: Blood Rises On Steam

If I wrote a post every time an old game popped up on Steam, I wouldn’t have time to gather my thoughts about new games, or to drink this delicious cuppa. I’d also be wasting a lot of words on Putt-Putt And Fatty Bear’s Flatulent Festival, along with various other fetid blasts from the past. Blood is different though. It isn’t a difficult game to find but when I spotted that it had emerged on Steam, I felt the butterflies that live in my stomach fluttering into action (assistance required – send a lepidopterist with a scalpel). It’s a brilliant FPS, with credible environments and intelligent enemy placement, particularly throughout the first episode, which I’ve probably played more than any other collection of levels.

Do not buy the sequel though. It’s a rotten mess.

What makes Blood so important*?

Weapons

The dynamite is my favourite weapon in any FPS game. It has multiple uses, all of which end in a satisfyingly chunky explosion, and the animation as the fuse burns down is exquisite. Holding a bundle until it explodes and seeing Caleb’s arms reduced to bone and ash used to make me feel a bit queasy, but bobbing and weaving toward a deathmatch opponent with a stick of death in-hand was so much fun. Esconced in the world of b-movie horror, I didn’t spare a thought for the real world connotations of my suicidal sprint.

Light it and wait a moment to lob it for timed tactical gibbing. Chuck it straight in the maw of a slavering horde for instant eyeball soup. Lay it on the ground and lure cultists to their doom.

Or just shoot them in the gob with a flare gun.

Maps

The opening morgue level is a masterpiece. It resembles a real place and most of the secret passages and stashes are believable. Squint and you can see the intentional routes and bottlenecks of the design, but as Duke 3D did with its opening cinema area, Blood begins with a statement of intent. We’re not in the world of abstract corridors and caverns anymore. Until later in the game when that’s exactly where Caleb ends up spilling everyone’s guts. It’s marvellous while it lasts though, the illusion of reality.

Deathmatch

Top notch. Many maps have a fairly high skill/learning curve and the weapons are invariably entertaining. It should be noted that I mostly played two-player, one person as a killer who could use any weapon and the other as the ‘victim’, who could only use the pitchfork as a form of self defense. It was like ultra-violent hide and seek, and I highly recommend it.

Theme

Caleb is Duke Nukem if all the testosterone and ego were replaced with sadism and formaldehyde. He’s back from the dead and extremely cross with Tchernobog, the god who cast him down into the dirt. Like Duke, the game is packed with pop culture references, with a focus on horror. There is a level called The Overlooked Hotel, which is reason enough to buy the game right now.

Does anyone want to attempt a defense of the sci-fi horrors of Blood II?

*doctors have been known to disagree with some of my reasoning

52 Comments

  1. Gap Gen says:

    “Blood Rises On Steam” Sure, but this is an edge case in fluid dynamics.

    • Shadowcat says:

      Your logic makes my blood boil

      • Gap Gen says:

        Blood pressures that induce a phase transition are probably a little outside the recommended safe ranges, but I’d double check with your doctor.

        • Premium User Badge

          Rhygadon says:

          Gap Gen, these two made my day. “Best one-sentence joke incorporating the term ‘phase transition'” may be a narrow category, but you have won it resoundingly.

          Now alt-tab back to matlab before somebody notices.

          • Gap Gen says:

            I’ve spent most of today trying to hack the geometry of a fluid solver, so I’m doing the same.

        • Geebs says:

          Bear in mind that blood is mostly plasma already…

          • Gap Gen says:

            That explains why blood has been seeping out of my plasma TV ever since I bought that weird Japanese film on DVD.

  2. Anthile says:

    I’d be more excited for a remake by Flying Wild Hog (and Shogo after that) or at least a re-release of NOLF. Blood has been available on GOG for ages.

  3. unit 3000-21 says:

    “Does anyone want to attempt a defense of the sci-fi horrors of Blood II?”
    I liked the ludicrous gibs, the commandos and levels set in offices but I suppose that it isn’t enough to make me want to defend that crappy game.
    “The Overlooked Hotel”
    Imho not only the best level in Blood but also one of the best levels period.

    • Wedge says:

      It was… a good test run for Monolith’s tech at the time for better games? Though I guess technically the much better Shogo came out just before it with the same tech.

      • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

        I worked on the Blood 2 site PlanetBlood back in the day, and heard stories from Devs about the cutting room floor. There was lots of it. We started attempting to mod it to bring stuff back – even basic fixes to weapons issues that were in the code half-done. Basic things like M16 undergrenade launcher physics, being able to keep the bug spray toggled between regular and zippo lighter mode, etc.

        Blood 2 could have been much better. And the addon pack? Ugh. Final boss was CRAP.

      • Premium User Badge

        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        The came out a month apart. It seems they spread their resources too thin.

  4. lunegov says:

    Back in school days, I used to go to my classmate, who had Intel-insidy PC. And we played to Blood for hours. It was pirated copy with funny translation to russian, like if game was set in 1917 during the Russian Revolution. That’s the story. The grass was greener, the light was brighter.

    Wonder if anybody understand my terrible english btw.

    • australopithecus says:

      Understand and agree. :)

    • Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

      Are you talking about “Lenin: First Blood”?
      A classic, for sure, but I also recommend checking out the beauty and atmosphere of the original, unhacked game if you haven’t already.

  5. libdab says:

    Ah, Blood … fond memories of using a voodoo doll to kill hooded machine-gun wielding midgets! :-)

  6. WhatKateDoes says:

    Multiplayer of this back in the day (the setup of which on a LAN alone was a challenge) SO MUCH FUN – but one of those memorable things about this game for me has always been the sound design. The music was ok in a terribly-bad-FM-synth-way or passably-ok-in-a-fancypants-AWE32/64-way – but the SFX was comical and memorable.

    “IT BURNS IT BURNSSS”
    “I’LL SWALLOW YOUR SOUL!”
    “MORROMATZ AND SPEERBOOKS” (No idea what the cultists were *actually* saying)
    “MORE BRAAAAAAAINS”
    “Mmmm.. fresh victims for my ever growing army of the undead…”
    “You’re going to need a bigger boat…” – delivered by Caleb in venomous tone as he paddles towards a… galleon full of baddies.

    So much win.

    Oh – and the Voodoo doll as a multiplayer weapon!

    • unit 3000-21 says:

      I think the cries of dying cultists were the best – terrifying and wimpy at the same time.

    • G_Man_007 says:

      Always thought it was “AARDVARKS AND VEREVOLVES!”…

      • Jackablade says:

        So this is a thing, apparently.
        link to blood-wiki.org
        Looks like the writer/audio recorder had a little too much time on their hands. And whoever took the time to work all of this out had even more.

    • Tiltowait says:

      “Open for business” upon entering the mortuary. Kicking the zombie heads like soccer balls after you blow them off.

    • ctkag says:

      I had Caleb’s rise from the crypt SFX “I live…again” as my Windows startup sound at one point. Also had some SFX from Redneck Rampage for others.

  7. Wedge says:

    I’m just always sad they’ve literally lost the source code to Blood, and it’s too modified from the original Build engine to have a functioning source port. Still easily the best Build engine game imo.

    • faelnor says:

      They haven’t lost the source code, at least one person (Jace Hall) has it. Atari simply didn’t agree to an updated engine / remake / rebuild (probably too expensive) and apparently no-one who has any power wants to release the code publicly.

      • kalirion says:

        Funny thing is, Jace Hall has publicly stated that he has the source and he has the legal right to do with it whatever he wants to. And then nothing happened because Atari somehow stopped him?

        Edit: link to the-postmortem.com

        “If I indeed decide to move forward with my ideas for Blood, I certainly will be able to and will get all the support I need from all/any parties that may have legal interest in the game. You guys don’t have to worry about that. There is no problem there. Handled.

        One thing to also know is that if I go ahead and attempt to bring Blood back, I will be the one actually paying the bill. It is certainly going to cost money to do this, and I will not likely be getting my money back. It will be all for the fun of it. Just something to know.”

  8. int says:

    It’s one of my favorite games ever. But it always concerns me when old games are re-released, because I need to know who gets my money if I buy it. On Steam it accurately states Monolith is the developer, but I see no publisher.

    Blood 2 defense: Dual pistols firing at the same time, always loved that.

    • Frank says:

      I see

      Publisher: Atari

      Certainly, you are paying 70% to them, 30% to Steam or some such

  9. XhomeB says:

    This… is hardly news worthy, I think? It’s been out on GOG for like… forever?
    Anyway, I like the part about the first level feeling like a “real” place. That kind of perfectly summarizes what the map design in FPS of old was like. If you explore the levels in Blood, Duke 3D, gradually unlocking doors and opening up new sections, the end result will be a surprisingly functional layout that indeed felt a lot like a lived in place.
    These days, it’s about one looooong corridor attempting to imitate a place. Level designers got lazy?

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      Level designers gradually went down a route of rails-set piece-rails. Partially I think due to consoles, because of the memory limitations compared to the PC and partially due to a desire to expand the genre beyond get-key-open-door and into scripted events. Started with Half-Life, really.

      • soldant says:

        Nothing to do with consoles, even ports of Doom or Wolf3D to the SNES had the “non-linear” layout – which actually is linear due to its keycard mechanics, backtracking does not equate to true non-linearity. The reason things went more linear, and incidentally why it became so popular with Half Life, is because a story started to become more important for FPS games, and the easiest way to tell that with scripted sequences is to make sure the player is going on a particular path.

        Half Life popularised that though other FPS games (like CoD) have taken it to extremes. If you want to see the genesis of the ‘linear’ shooter, Half Life is probably where it started. Half Life 2 just cemented it.

        • Mman says:

          “backtracking does not equate to true non-linearity”

          Not in itself, but when combined with multiple optional areas and (occasionally substantial) secrets and frequent choice of what order to tackle things in – that has repercussions on how you handle or approach future encounters a lot of the time – it certainly does.

        • Premium User Badge

          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          One thing that the Half-Life games have been good at is never taking the controls away from the player. You can pretty much play them start to finish and you are seeing nothing more or less than what Gordon experiences. This is my favourite way to tell a story in video-games.

          Too many games now are constantly taking control from you. I am so tired of scenes where somebody stabs you and it ends up amounting to nothing. Even the stupid takedown animations do this. I want to just smack some ragdolls around.

          I really hope Half-Life Rising: Revengeance doesn’t include any of this malarky.

  10. JD Ogre says:

    Awesome game. Still have my retail copy of One Unit Whole Blood I bought in like 2001 – and still listen to the excellent soundtrack (included as audio tracks on the disc, long since ripped, of course, to MP3) by Daniel Bernstein regularly.

  11. Metr13 says:

    Ohmygodohmygodohmygod! This is so awesome! Albeit I do hope it is the whole package like on GOG.

  12. DrMcCoy says:

    It uses DOSBox, so why don’t they just quickly add Linux and Mac OS X versions too?!? Grml…

  13. alsoran says:

    Yep. already on GoG. Pointless article announcing/ advertising for Steam. Detracts from anything useful that might have been said. You could have discussed the game and its merits and demerits then announced where it could be got, like GoG and Steam + anywhere else if there are some.

    • Hasslmaster says:

      I totally agree. What’s the matter with Steam shilling like this?

    • fatgleeson says:

      >You could have discussed the game and its merits

      But he did

      • Hasslmaster says:

        No, he did not, because the sentence goes on: ” then announced where it could be got”

  14. Distec says:

    As somebody who missed the whole Blood thing, but have read up on the games a little bit, can somebody tell me what exactly was so terrible about Blood II?

    • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

      Chunks of plot lost in rush to shelves, chunks of gameplay teased as being there lost in rush to shelves, timeline in a somewhat silly grimdark cyberfuture, repetitive offices and subway train rides. Super-annoying tiny facehugger-type enemies that are next to impossible to shake off due to a programming bug (spiders, alien leeches, disembodied possess choking hands), taking them from simple annoyances to nearly fatal encounters. Weapon imbalance causing some that should be BFGs to become peashooters. Useless alt-fire modes. Cheap bosses. The awful jumping mechanics endemic to all Lithtech 1 games (Blood 2, SHOGO, NOLF) tied with jumping puzzles.

  15. GallonOfAlan says:

    It was just, by their own admission, very very rushed. It has very samey levels and none of the mad invention and humour of the first.

  16. dethtoll says:

    I was hoping a Steam release would mean some sort of source port engine, but I guess not. Sticking with my GoG copy, thanks.

  17. Scumbag says:

    Wish the source code could get released. An updated engine for this would be great.
    And yes I know why that is not possible.

  18. Mr_Blastman says:

    Madnerachs and Fearbooks!

  19. Sunjammer says:

    I enjoyed the Blood 2 *demo* quite a bit. The full game felt like amateur hackishness though. The complete underuse of the multiple protagonists, for one, was pretty tragic.

    I did enjoy early Lith games though, I have to say. They had a certain something to them that made them feel out of the ordinary.

  20. bill says:

    I never really got that into Blood. People seem to rate it really high, but I think I played the first couple of levels several times over the years and never really continued. It never grabbed me like Duke 3D or Doom.

    I think it was the horror theme.. grey brown levels with grey brown enemies, which (at the start) seemed rather boring.