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Blood Wake



Vehicle Combat

1 - 4


Blood Wake represents the Xbox's first offering to the vehicular combat genre. Read on to find out if it makes the grade in our detailed review.

A wonderful thing about Microsoft and its (now) vast power in the gaming industry is that they've got unthinkable resources to attain developers and games. One of the things that a lot of people love about Microsoft's game selection for its new system is the abundance of exclusive material which has found its way onto the Xbox. The newest game that will attempt to grace your friendly, neighborhood Xbox comes in the form of Blood Wake.

Stormfront Studios is the developer who first came to Microsoft with the idea for a vehicular combat game that takes place on water. The story goes that Microsoft was looking for a game that shows off the Xbox's ability to render incredibly realistic water effects while still pumping out some very quick frames per second. This idea evolved into what is now known now as Blood Wake.

"... Blood Wake is a truly excellent Xbox game."

It is clear the moment that Blood Wake boots up that a ton of time was spent on making the game look as polished and visually stunning as possible. The water featured in the game is easily the best you will ever seen on a console. You can go ahead and throw out Wave Race: Blue Storm and Splashdown once you've seen Blood Wake. You won't be going back any time soon. The incredible amount of bump mapping that was allotted to the water is truly a sight to behold, and is a true sign of the next generation nature of the game.

Another aspect of Blood Wake's visuals that will absolutely floor you is the boats, both enemy and friendly. You'll notice scratches on the bow and stern, you'll see nuts and bolts, which are holding the boat together, and you'll even bear witness to the very pistons of the engine hard at work propelling you through the gorgeous ocean blue. Other graphical details include ships sinking to the bottom after you've pummeled them with a mixture of lead and rockets.

Despite the graphical prowess of the ocean, the other graphics in the game seem to take a bit of a hit thanks to the water's beauty. Sadly, the land and terrain featured in the game come off as a bit muddy and drab. The textures of the land don't seem to come off as polished as the other visuals in the game. Thankfully, the overall graphical vision of the game remains intact and truly flexes some bonafide Xbox muscle.

"... an amazing looking, and an even better playing, Xbox game."

The weather effects that are packed into the game are also something that are completely new to console gaming, at least in execution. You'll see the storm overhead dictating the motion of the water beneath you and your ship will react accordingly to each forthcoming wave. You'll see crackling lightning along with serene sunsets, both of which will reflect light off of the water very nicely.

The physics Blood Wake are definitely some of the most realistic seen on a console to date. With every explosion comes an expanding ripple effect that will affect the motion of your boat whether you are stationary or racing forward, or backward for that matter. Turning in the waters of Blood Wake certainly takes some practice due to the realistic movements of the bow and stern of your boats. No arcade physics here.

The game's story is broken up into 28 action packed missions. These vary from recon, escort, search and destroy, search and capture, and a plethora of other objectives. Each will help you venture deeper and deeper into the story of Blood Wake. The basis for the story centers on you, Shao Kai, a former soldier for the Northern League until one day you are attacked by your evil, older brother and thrown from your ship [What a jerk. - Ed]. Your nearly dead body is then dragged aboard one of Ped Zeng's patrol boats and this is where the story begins.

From that moment on Ped Zeng undertakes you as his right hand man and teaches you the tricks of the pirate's trade. You are now a member of the Shadow Clan, a group of freedom-loving pirates who live on trading, smuggling, and outright piracy. Their main target comes in the form of the Jade Kingdom, headed up by Lord Sri Brana. Throughout the game you'll have the opportunity to fight against, and alongside the Jade Kingdom. Their ships are relatively slow and under-armed but they for then make up for it with sheer numbers. The last remaining faction in Blood Wake comes in the form of the evil Iron Empire headed by your evil brother, Shao Lung. The Iron Empire was recently an overshadowed faction of the Jade Kingdom has now emerged into power under the sinister leadership of your brother.

Throughout Blood Wake's story you'll see alliances form and break and key characters rise and ultimately fall into a cold watery grave. Your character will slowly work his way up the ranks until ultimately taking command of one of the three factions. Which one? Go get Blood Wake to find out. There are plenty of twists included in the game, which make the story quite engrossing for an action title. Sadly the story is conveyed through poorly constructed illustrations. Some FMV would have really gone a long way in the story aspect of Blood Wake.

The controls of the game are a bit cumbersome at first but after spending a bit of time with the game they'll become second nature. Personally, I found the default controls to be too difficult to maneuver the ship so went with the second default option which allows for the R trigger to act as the propulsion for your boat rather then the preset left thumb stick. Thankfully the game comes complete with a total of six preset controller configurations, although there are really only three as each pair has the option to vibrate or not to vibrate.

Sadly, it doesn't make much of a difference whether you choose whether or not to vibrate, as Stormfront made very poor use of the rumble capabilities of the Xbox controller. Drilling a few enemy ships full of machine gun bullets should obviously cause some serious ruckus inside your beloved controller, but sadly the only rumble that you'll find is when an enemy strikes you or you run aground. With all of the motion that the waters of Blood Wake can throw at you, you'd think that Stormfront could have taken the time to add in some force feedback into the fray.

The audio portion of Blood Wake is a mixed bag. Certain aspects will have you engrossed in gameplay, while other will begin to grate on you. The music in the game certainly gets you ready to slaughter some pirate scum-buckets. Very well put together rock and roll ballads accompanied by some very well placed techno beats add a ton to the gameplay of Blood Wake.

"The physics Blood Wake are definitely some of the most realistic seen on a console to date."

Sadly the voice acting featured in the game does not stay true to form. Your shipmate will start to get on your nerves beginning in the third mission and it just gets worse from there. The weapon effects in the game are a bit puzzling, as the mighty torpedoes don't make the expected whizzing sound as they glide through the water. In fact you've got take struggle to hear any weapons other then the trusty machine gun. Some more water sound effects would have been greatly appreciated, as it stands there aren't very many crashing waves, even during the most powerful of storms. As it stands, the auditory assault that the game should create isn't quite there, although it does a nice job of getting the adrenaline going with some nice tunes.

As the story progresses and your character slowly rises up the chain of command, the boats that you command will slowly begin to rise in their level of prestige (and abilities). You'll begin with a lowly speedboat and will end up utilizing the talents of the prestigious hydroplane. Throughout your journey new classes for each boat will be unlocked which means new weapons.

The weapons system doesn't exactly stay true to the vehicular combat genre, as you aren't able to equip your boat with any new armaments once you enter the water. You can collect ammunition however, which will pump up the number of rounds you have for each weapon. Rather than searching aimlessly for a much needed, more powerful weapon, you'll spend much more time strategizing their next attack. A pleasant surprise that adds to the enjoyment of the game, and keeps the game more grounded in its reality.

Unlike Twisted Metal and other games of the genre, health and ammunition power ups will not be present in the waters of Blood Wake unless you earn it. You'll be forced to kill enemy ships to earn powerups, and it depends on the difficulty of the enemy ship how many ammo or health power ups you attain. Take for instance a battle ship, it will allot you plenty of each type of power up, whereas a sampan (an easy kill) may only you get one or two power ups. I found the system to be a treat to play around with as I'd spend most of my time sinking medium sized boats to get some much needed power ups and then trying to tackle the tougher enemy ships.

The multiplayer of Blood Wake provides the gamer with tons of fun after you've completed the single player portion of the game. You'll be offered a host of options from fighting against bots or with bots in a few well-chosen modes. You'll get to play standard deathmatch, survival mode, team deathmatch, and a few other modes that need to be unlocked to be played. You'll start with a fairly slim selection of boats and arenas and you'll have to complete certain objectives, such as completing a level on a certain difficulty level to attain the desired options. The various game modes in multiplayer as well as the inclusion of enemy boats as playable characters adds a lot of fun to the overall fun of the multiplayer mode. The inclusion of bots and an altogether excellent multiplayer mode adds a lot of depth to Blood Wake.

As a first generation vehicular combat title, Blood Wake certainly scores a big hit for the Xbox however, the absence of cooperative play and link play is a bit disheartening. Maybe Stormfront can add in those much-needed features for the second Blood Wake, but as it stands we are left with an amazing looking, and an even better playing, Xbox game.

Gamer X
Would love to drive a devil boat.

Blood Wake: The Scores













The Final Word:  Stormfront hit one out of the park with their first attempt on the Xbox, which is something that is proving to be quite difficult for first time, Xbox developers (of which there are so many). With an amazingly good-looking package and an incredibly fun game in both the single and multiplayer modes, Blood Wake is a truly excellent Xbox game.

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