In some ways, BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites is a step forward for the gaming industry. Preservation of older titles is something that goes underappreciated in this medium. While fans can enjoy easy access to the acclaimed, future developers can learn from the ambitious but flawed entries as well as the bad or misguided. Fresh Bites falls squarely in the latter category. It is a relic of the early Xbox Live Arcade days that was barely serviceable back in 2011 that is an embarrassing chore to play in 2021.
Rayne on Their Parade
BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites can charitably be called a remaster of the original game. It is a 2D hack-and-slash action platformer. You control the dhampir warrior Rayne as she tries to stop an evil plot to take over the world by an evil organization hiding out in a gothic castle surrounded by zombies and monsters. A betrayal happens at some point (it's in the title), and things escalate into increasingly difficult levels and boss battles. There are 15 chapters in all, each one a straightforward affair of fighting waves of enemies and getting to the coffin at the end.
On paper, there isn't anything wrong with the gameplay. The cel-shaded comic book art style juxtaposed with the dark expressionist architecture should make enemies and Rayne herself stand out. Rayne's main attacks of powerful slashes, juggles, and the ability to bite, infect, and blow up enemies like living bombs have the potential for satisfying combos. Rayne even has a gun with a limited number of bullets she can use to interrupt enemy attacks and take out long-distance threats. In fact, the closest relative the original 2011 release had at the time was Klei Interactive's Shank, which also boasted a stylized look and solid action chops.
Unfortunately, all of that potential is completely lost in practice. Simply put, combat encounters are atrocious. Despite having multiple attacks including dash attacks, launches, and aerial juggles, Rayne doesn't have any counterattack potential. It turns every single fight into a monotonous slog of doing the exact same attack chains over and over. Worse still, the animation seems to prioritize realistic movement with multiple frames going from attack to attack, but in practice it makes all of Rayne's movements feel sluggish, stiff, and unresponsive.
The only defensive action she has is a dash that only goes left and right, and even that has really inconsistent iframes. I somehow was hit both during the start of the dash and in the middle from the same enemy attack on two different occasions. In small arenas with mostly melee enemies, this can be excused. But the game almost immediately abandons the illusion of fair play with major boss battles that include extensive bullet hell sections and large screen-covering super attacks with no wind-up or telegraphing. This is not retro difficulty; this is just sloppy design.
Not helping the inconsistent enemy hitboxes and asinine boss battles are the needlessly obtuse combos they can do. You can be hit on the other side of the screen by a guy firing a gun then get smacked around by another enemy as Rayne is hitting the ground from the first attack. On top of all of that, there are extended sections where you are fighting enemies in the dark: silhouettes against a blood-red moon in the distance. This is BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites' attempt at being stylish, but it only leads to frustration and pain. Given that certain endgame enemies are giant circular blobs, this turns the entire screen into incomprehensible garbage.
All of these problems are only further compounded during BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites' platforming sections. Rayne's stilted movements are something you can tolerate with enough time. Highly punishing spike traps are a staple of the genre, as well as insta-kill bottomless pits. But when you instantly die multiple times because certain walls cannot arbitrarily be climbed or wall kicked from, things have gone too far.
As if all of this wasn't enough to raise your blood pressure, BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites has a terrible scoring and grading system. Unless you completely speedrun each level, kill every single enemy without being hit, or not die once to any of the platforming sections that change their own rules at the drop of a hat, you are graded poorly. I got through all 15 chapters of this game, swearing through clenched teeth at all of these slapdash design decisions, banged my head against all of this artificial difficulty, only to have the game itself say I should just “git gud” and stop complaining. I've cleared Devil May Cry games on their hardest difficulties. I've cleared the dreaded Turbo Tunnel on the original Battletoads. This game has none of those titles' polish, personality, or consistency to even compare, and it will not be taking anymore of my precious free time to reach its own unrealistic standards.
Not So Sanguine
As the new subtitle implies, BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites is framed as a remaster of the original game. Reportedly, the controls have been improved and the difficulty of the original title was toned back to make it a more accessible experience. You can even switch to “Classic” difficulty in the options menu. While I can't fully comment on how the original game felt to play, I can say that the remastered difficulty is indistinguishable from the original.
After clearing the game on the original difficulty, I switched to Classic and replayed the first three chapters. The only major change was that enemies dealt a bit more damage. Same enemy wave configurations. Same fundamentally convoluted tutorial and level progression. Same frustrating trial and error platforming sections.
BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites | Final Thoughts
If it weren't for this barebones remaster, BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites would be a footnote for all involved. Developers Wayforward have gone on to make genuinely excellent games. There are much better, challenging, rewarding action platformers that have come out in the decade since the original release. Even if you are looking for a gothic action platformer with badass ladies being awesome, there are plenty of other options out there. Otherwise, I can't really recommend this game except only as a time capsule of 2010s indie trends and as an academic teaching tool for what not to do.
TechRaptor reviewed BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites on PlayStation 5 with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also avaialble on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
- Decent Comic Book Artstyle
- Stiff, Unresponsive Controls
- Terrible Platforming and Boss Battles
- Unrewarding Scoring System
- Arbitrary, Underdeveloped Remastered Features