Mini Review: “The Shining” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/”ZDoom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next book I plan to review (“Heartstone” By C. J. Sansom), I thought that this would be the perfect time to check out another “Doom II” WAD. After all, it’s been about three weeks or so since the last one.

And, after seeing the first minute or so of this video review of a “Blood“-themed WAD from 2014 called “The Shining“, I just had to check it out.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, although I’m guessing that it will probably work in most other modern source ports.

So, let’s take a look at “The Shining”:

I live… again!

“The Shining” is a single-level WAD that is very heavily based on the first 1-2 levels of “Blood” and it features new music, new textures, new weapon/explosion sounds and a new weapon item sprite.

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it both is and isn’t like “Blood”. On the one hand, many of the new textures and sounds are from “Blood” – not to mention that the level design itself has also been heavily influenced by the first 1-2 levels of “Blood” too. However, in terms of monsters, difficulty etc.. it is very different to the source material.

Yes, it looks similar to “Blood”, but it plays very differently.

In essence, this is a little bit more like a WAD such as “Derceto” (which was based on “Alone In The Dark) in that it tries to make sure that this level still looks very much like a “Doom II” level, rather than a total conversion (unlike something like “ZBlood). In other words, expect to see the classic “Doom II” monsters and some of the classic “Doom II” textures here.

For example, whilst this area has some cool flickering/variable lighting effects, it looks more like “Doom II” than “Blood”.

Likewise, some elements of the level design have been altered or simplified slightly in order to take into account the classic limitations of the “Doom” engine. Even so, if you’ve played the beginning of “Blood”, then you’ll be right at home here. Although a few parts of the level are an almost pixel-perfect recreation of “Blood”‘s opening level, the basic structure and geometry of some other parts is still very reminiscent of the original game.

For example, this part of “Blood” is reconstructed perfectly, but I’m pretty sure that the design of the maze is somewhat different though.

However, one thing that the designer of this WAD should have kept is the difficulty level of the original “Blood”.

The very first level of “Blood” is difficult. It is meant to be a punishing challenge that helps you to prepare for the even more difficult levels later in the game. On the other hand, this level is… easy. Most of the time, you’ll be facing low-level monsters, with only the occasional Cacodemon, Hell Knight or Baron thrown in to add a little bit of challenge.

Seriously, one of the more “difficult” areas just includes two Hell Knights and a Baron – in a large arena with lots of things to hide behind and lots of raised vantage points you can use.

Yes, this level does achieve a bit of mild challenge via things like a couple of well-placed monster closets (which might catch you by surprise) and the fact that the super shotgun is hidden (I thought it wasn’t there but, upon watching all of the video review after finishing the level, I noticed that it actually was. I just missed it).

However, experienced “Doom II” players (or anyone who has played the original “Blood”) will find this level to be disconcertingly easy.

The level design itself is reasonably good, with the level itself being a slightly simplified version of the kind of non-linear level that you would expect from a classic 1990s FPS game. The level is divided between a funeral home and a maze-like area, just like in “Blood”, although some liberties have been taken with the layout and design in order to keep things new, interesting and a little bit more streamlined.

The blood spatter effects near this door are pretty cool.

And there’s an extra reference to “The Shining” too.

The new textures, sounds and music are pretty cool too. In addition to a fair number of textures from “Blood”, this game also includes some of the weapon sounds (and possibly explosion sounds) from that game too 🙂 Likewise, the chaingun also gets a cool new item sprite too.

But, looking more closely at it, the handle is pointing in the wrong direction.

And, of course, the level’s background music is the kind of ominous, gothic ambient music that you’d expect in anything based on “Blood” too 🙂

All in all, this is a fun little level. Yes, it’s a bit too easy and it can be completed in 15-20 minutes or so, but it’s always cool to see things that are based on “Blood” 🙂 Still, as “Blood”-inspired levels go, you’re probably better off playing something like “ZBlood” or “Infuscomus“.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get three.

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Why “Less Is More” Applies To Blood In Horror Comics – A Ramble

Well, since I’m busy preparing this year’s (comedy horror) Halloween comic at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk about an important rule to remember when including depictions of blood in horror-themed comics. I am, of course, talking about the rule that “less is more”.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Less is more. There are quite a few reasons for this.

The first is simply that including ridiculous amounts of red paint or red ink in your comic just makes it look like you’re making an immature attempt to be “edgy” or “shocking”. Seriously, it may not seem like it, but drenching every page of your comic in red paint actually makes your comic less horrific.

This is because of the second reason, namely that the horror in your comic shouldn’t come from blood or gore alone. The thing to remember here is that your audience are probably fans of the horror genre. So, they’ve seen it all before and are unlikely to be shocked by lots of red paint. So, using blood as a substitute for actual horror (that comes from the characters, the story etc..) probably won’t work.

The third reason is that including blood in horror comics follows the same dramatic “rules” as including profanity in your comic’s dialogue does. Namely, the more often you do it – the less dramatic it becomes. In other words, it works best when it is unexpected. And if there’s lots of blood in your horror comic, then your audience will expect to see lots more. So, it won’t surprise them.

The fourth reason is that including less blood in your horror comic means that you actually have to have a good reason for including blood. Grisly scenes in horror comics are considerably more dramatic when there’s actually a valid story-based reason for the scene in question to be gruesome. So, avoiding depicting blood except for when it is absolutely necessary means that your comic’s gruesome scenes will have more dramatic weight.

The fifth reason is that, unlike in film, comics don’t follow time in a linear fashion. One of your readers may spend ten seconds looking at a single panel, another reader might only spend two. In films, a second takes exactly a second. In comics, it can take longer.

And, if you’ve ever seen a horror movie, then you’ll know that the grisly moments are usually relatively quick. After all, if the audience spends too long staring at a gruesome scene in a film, they’ll start to notice that “it’s a special effect“. This is why, for example, the gorier “Unrated” version of “Saw III” is actually less shocking than the theatrical version (which leaves a lot more to the imagination).

The same is true for gruesome artwork in horror comics. Literally, the only way to make gory artwork scary is to include a ridiculous amount of almost photo-realistic detail (see Raven Gregory’s “Return To Wonderland” for some stomach-churning examples of this artistic technique). So, unless you’re an absolute expert at ultra-detailed, ultra-realistic artwork – then including too much in the way of blood etc… in your comic will just highlight any flaws in your art.

The sixth reason is that colour theory still applies to depictions of blood. If you haven’t heard of colour theory before, then read the Wikipedia articles about complementary colours and “warm” and “cool” colours. Basically, if a panel of your comic includes lots of red, then you’re going to have to alter your palette for that panel in order to accommodate it (eg: you need to include lots of green, blue, black and/or white). This also has the side-effect of making the red blood stand out more, so you don’t need to use as much of it.

The seventh reason is because it looks more “realistic”. Simply put, including gallons of red paint in your comic will make it look cartoonishly excessive. In other words, it will look unrealistic. It will look stylised and over-the-top, rather than “serious” or “dramatic”.

So, yes, go easy on the red paint in your horror comic, and it will be a better comic.

————-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Mini Review: “Death Wish” (Mod For “Blood”/ “One Unit Whole Blood”)

2016 Artwork Death Wish Blood Review sketch

It’s nearly Christmas so, in keeping with tradition, I’ve decided to play a large mod for a Build Engine game called “Blood“. I don’t know why, but the Build Engine always makes me think of Christmas 🙂

The mod is called “Death Wish” and I first heard about it in this video review on Youtube.

At the time of writing, I’m slightly over two-thirds of the way through this mod (I’m on E3M1, if anyone is curious ). So, this “mini review” article will only reflect my opinions so far.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that since the source code to “Blood” was never released (bad Monolith!), “Death Wish” is an absolute pain to get running. It’s totally worth it, but expect to put in a lot of effort just to get it to run.

The best way to get “Death Wish” to run was something I eventually found in comment #10 on this page of the Steam forums (ironic for a GOG fan like myself), where someone suggested re-naming your normal “BLOOD” configuration file to something other than “BLOOD” and then naming the equivalent Death Wish file “BLOOD” instead. Even then, this took a bit of trial and error to get right.

Plus, it goes without saying (considering that the game is called “Blood”), but this review may contain some GRUESOME IMAGES.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Death Wish”:

 Yes, like many classic FPS games, it has an episodic structure :) The second episode is also called "Scar Trek" too. Yay! Geekiness!

Yes, like many classic FPS games, it has an episodic structure 🙂 The second episode is also called “Scar Trek” too. Yay! Geekiness!

“Death Wish” is a full-game sized mod for “Blood” which was released in 2011. It contains about thirty new levels, in addition to some new sound effects, voice acting and cutscenes.

Yes, this mod actually includes cutscenes (both at the beginning and end of each episode, along with some small animated in-game cutscenes too). Even though the video-based cutscenes only have limited animation, they feature a really cool art style and voice-overs.

Dammit! For the last time! WHAT does "Crudox Cruo" mean??

Dammit! For the last time! WHAT does “Crudox Cruo” mean??

The story of “Death Wish” is fairly simple. Sometime between the events of both “Blood” games, Tchernobog makes another attempt to rise from the grave and seek dominion over Earth. Once again, it is up to Caleb to stop him…. with extreme force!

Although the general tone of this game is thankfully a lot closer to the original “Blood”, there’s at least one “Blood II: The Chosen” reference in here:

CabalCo? Well, at least THIS time round, they have PROPER evil minons rather than those generic soldiers...

CabalCo? Well, at least THIS time round, they have PROPER evil minons rather than those generic soldiers…

The game’s story is also told through “tomes” that you can pick up, which will display some story text at the top of the screen. In addition to this, the ghost of Tchernobog will appear sometimes to taunt you (in a suitably creepy/dramatic voice), attack you with fireballs and/or give you an occasional jump scare.

Hmmm... he looks friendly. I should say hello.

Hmmm… he looks friendly. I should say hello.

One of the best ways to describe the style of this mod is that it is what “Blood” would look like if it was made today.

As well as having all of the qualities of an old-school FPS game, some of the movie/game references that made the original game such a classic have been updated slightly:

Oh my god! This level is based on the first "Saw" movie! Duh DUH DUH!!! Duh Duh DUM!! *Keeps humming the "Saw" music*

Oh my god! This level is based on the first “Saw” movie! Duh DUH DUH!!! Duh Duh DUM!! *Keeps humming the “Saw” music*

And Silent Hill! SILENT HILL!!!!!!!!

And Silent Hill! SILENT HILL!!!!!!!!

As well as lots of cool movie and game references, the level design is absolutely superb! Not only is there a good variety of locations on offer here, but all of the levels are the kind of challenging, imaginative and non-linear 1990s-style levels that FPS games regularly included when the genre was at it’s peak.

This mod was released in 2011 and the level design is probably ten times better than most “AAA” FPS games that were released in that year!

In fact, the creator of this mod does all sorts of cool things with the limited technology of the Build Engine. As well as lots of cool-looking locations (using nothing more than the basic “Blood” textures!), the mod also includes things like short in-game cutscenes, a ghost ship, an invisible path (that is illuminated by a moving light) and all sorts of other cool stuff:

Not only does this blue light look like something from "Blade Runner", but it also moves around too!

Not only does this blue light look like something from “Blade Runner”, but it also moves around too!

A ghost ship! An actual ghost ship, with ghosts floating above it! Best of all, you actually get to explore it too!

A ghost ship! An actual ghost ship, with ghosts floating above it! Best of all, you actually get to explore it too!

If you want to relax, you can always enjoy some ice skating with the locals too.

If you want to relax, you can always enjoy some ice skating with the locals too.

In fact, the only faults I found with the level design was the fact that I couldn’t find one of the keys in the very first level (and reluctantly had to resort to using the “give keys” cheat) and the fact that several of the game’s buttons and switches were nearly impossible to press unless I hammered both the “crouch” and “use” keys at the same time.

But, I’m not exaggerating when I say that “Death Wish” is challenging. Even on medium difficulty, this game is significantly more challenging than all of the “official” Build Engine games were (eg: “Duke Nukem 3D”, “Shadow Warrior”, “Blood” etc..).

If you’re a fan of classic 1990s FPS games, then you will probably find the ridiculous difficulty both hilarious and enjoyable. You’ll also feel like an absolute badass when you beat each level too 🙂

However, if you’ve grown up on easy, simplified modern FPS games, then expect to start shouting loudly about how the game is “unfair”, before throwing your keyboard across the room. “Death Wish” is thankfully about as far from “Call Of Duty” as you can get!

Yes, this is level two. Yes, THAT is a hellhound. Yes, they have lots of health, run very quickly and can incinerate you in about three seconds. No, you DON'T have regenerating health. Have fun :)

Yes, this is level two. Yes, THAT is a hellhound. Yes, they have lots of health, run very quickly and can incinerate you in about three seconds. No, you DON’T have regenerating health. Have fun 🙂

This is a game that demands persistence, that requires you to use your brain and which will punish you mercilessly for any mistakes. God, I miss the days when FPS games were like this!

But, unlike the original “Blood”, the difficulty here is cranked up even further by the fact that health and ammo can sometimes be very scarce. Likewise, expect to run into more than a few modern-style hordes of zombies. Yes, literal hordes:

Yay! I always found it odd how you'd often only see maybe one or two zombies at a time in the original game. Zombies are herd animals!

Yay! I always found it odd how you’d often only see maybe one or two zombies at a time in the original game. Zombies are herd animals!

Don't let this screenshot fool you, 99% of the levels I've played AREN'T this generous with weapons!

Don’t let this screenshot fool you, 99% of the levels I’ve played AREN’T this generous with weapons!

“Death Wish” also includes it’s fair share of puzzles, switches and hidden keys too. Although most of these can be found with careful searching (except for one key in E1M1), the game also includes a walkthrough if you get stuck.

Normally, I’d consider looking at the walkthrough to be cheating (it’s a FPS game, not a point-and-click adventure!) but, given how sneakily some things are hidden (eg: certain monsters you’d normally avoid have to be killed before doors open etc..), expect to look at it at least a few times.

However, be wary of the walkthrough! It claims that the third level of episode one is the easiest level of the episode. It isn’t….

On the plus side, this hilariously unfair part of the level showed me that, yes, "Blood" DOES include monster infighting! However, it is significantly harder to get it to happen than it is in "Doom" or "Quake"!

On the plus side, this hilariously unfair part of the level showed me that, yes, “Blood” DOES include monster infighting! However, it is significantly harder to get it to happen than it is in “Doom” or “Quake”!

In terms of length, this is a full game. This is a full 1990s-length game (back when FPS games actually included more than just a few measly hours of gameplay). Although I am only two-thirds of the way through the game, this is the result of playing this game a lot for several days.

All in all, “Death Wish” is easily as good as (if not better than) the original “Blood” was. Not only does it include (mostly) excellently-designed levels and cool movie references, but it also includes the kind of amazingly fun and enjoyably challenging/ hilariously unfair gameplay that you only see in 1990s FPS games. This is a mod both by and for classic FPS gamers. And it is awesome!

If I had to give what I’d played so far a rating out of five, it would just about get a five.

Review: “ZBlood” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZ Doom”)

2015 Artwork ZBlood review sketch

Out of the many classic games made using 3D Realms’ “Build” engine, one of my favourites is a game called “Blood“. Surprisingly, I’d never actually played this game in full until earlier this year.

Although I played the “Blood” shareware last year, the thing that finally persuaded me to buy a copy of the full version of “Blood” on GoG was a “Doom” WAD called “ZBlood“.

It’s a fan-made attempt at making a partial version of “Blood” that will run on the “Doom” engine (my favourite FPS game engine of all time).

I should probably point out that I played this WAD using the “GZ Doom” source port. Although, from the title, it’s pretty clear that it will probably work with “ZDoom” too. Also, at the time of writing this review, I’m about halfway through this WAD – so it will only reflect my impressions of the game so far.

That said, let’s take a quick look at “ZBlood”.

Screenshot_Doom_20150206_062312

So, is “ZBlood” a good adaptation of “Blood”?

My answer would probably have to be “sort of”. This WAD contains a mixture of random levels from the original “Blood” and most of these levels are re-created fairly accurately. Seriously, I cannot fault the levels in this WAD.

But, although it gets this right – there are several things that it doesn’t quite get right. Some of these things might be due to the limitations of the “Doom” engine, but they are worth mentioning nonetheless.

One of the first things is that, some of the times when I played this WAD, some of the “Blood” enemies were tiny. This may just be an error with the source port, but the cultists and the zombies were often about half the height that they should be.

Ha! It's like that scene from "Army Of Darkness"!

Ha! It’s like that scene from “Army Of Darkness”!

Apart from this, a couple of the enemies seem relatively accurate to their original versions. And, yes, there is nothing more amusing than battling hordes of robed cultists who are shouting high-pitched phrases at you in their arcane language.

Crudox Cruo!

Crudox Cruo!

But, because “ZBlood” is based on the “Doom” engine, there have had to be some changes. In other words, many of the enemies behave differently to how you would expect – for example, the cerberus bosses now act like the mancubi from “Doom II” and the bosses from the “Plasma Pak” now act like the arch viles from “Doom II”.

If you’ve been playing a lot of “Blood” recently, these changes can be quite disconcerting. But, even so, you’ll probably get used to them fairly quickly.

Another dramatic change in “ZBlood” is with the weapons. Although the game features some of the “Blood” weapons (the napalm launcher, voodoo doll and tesla cannon are missing though), they behave in subtly different ways than you would expect.

Although the flare gun is still the gun that we all know and love, it’s extremely powerful secondary fire only takes up two units of ammunition per shot (eg: about a quarter of what it takes in the original game) – but, given the extreme difficulty of “Build engine” games, I like to think of this highly unbalanced weapon as a way of levelling the playing field slightly.

Feuer Frei!

Feuer Frei!

However, there were a few problems that I noticed with the weapons in “ZBlood”. For starters, the tommygun doesn’t have it’s “spray and pray” secondary fire and both the shotgun and aerosol can can’t always be selected properly.

Literally, the only way that I was sometimes able to get the game to let me use the aerosol can was to use up all of the tommygun’s ammunition – causing the game to automatically cycle to the aerosol can.

It should be obvious, but don't try this at home!

It should be obvious, but don’t try this at home!

Trying to select the shotgun was almost impossible though – literally, I had it when I first picked it up and it also appeared at random a couple of times. But, if you hit the “3” button, then nothing really happens. So, yes, you can’t really use one of the main weapons in the game – although this could be due to the source port that I’m using or something like that.

Likewise, the dynamite also lacks both it’s secondary fire and the ability to decide how far you want to throw it. If you’ve played the original “Blood”, then you’ll know how important these two things are – so, it was kind of a shame to see that this was missing from “ZBlood”.

On the plus side, “Zblood” introduces a new weapon – Caleb can now wield a revolver. This behaves pretty much like the basic pistol from “Doom”, but it sounds and looks a lot cooler:

Yes, Caleb actually has a new gun in "Zblood". WHY wasn't this in the original "Blood"?

Yes, Caleb actually has a new gun in “Zblood”. WHY wasn’t this in the original “Blood”?

The only other thing that “ZBlood” seems to be lacking is most of Caleb’s dialogue. Yes, he says the occasional one-liner, but there aren’t quite as many as there are in “Blood”. Still, the fact that they managed to include any of them in a “Doom”-engine game is quite impressive.

On the plus side, because “ZBlood” can be played using modern source ports for “Doom”, it means that you can use far more responsive modern controls that you can in the original “Blood”. Because it uses modern source ports, “ZBlood” also has slightly better graphics (eg: ambient lighting etc…) than the original “Blood” does. Seriously why hasn’t Monolith released the source code for “Blood”?

All in all, this is a rather fun attempt at re-creating “Blood” using an older game engine. Yes, it’s an imperfect adaptation in many ways, but it’s something that both “Doom” fans and “Blood” fans will probably enjoy nonetheless. It certainly isn’t as good as the real thing, but it’s still fun nonetheless.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get three and a half.

Mini Review: “Blood – Cryptic Passage” (Expansion Pack For “Blood”)

2015 Artwork Blood Cryptic Passage Review

As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been playing a classic 1990s FPS game called “Blood” quite a bit recently. So, for today, I thought that I’d look at one of the expansion packs for it (anyone remember those? They’re like modern “DLC”, but much better) called “Cryptic Passage”.

I got “Cryptic Passage” when I bought the “One Unit Whole Blood” collection on a website called “GoG” a while back. You can also get this package on Steam and it contains the original “Blood”, along with both of the official expansion packs and some other bonus content too (at least on GoG, I’m not sure if the Steam version comes with bonus content).

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Cryptic Passage”:

Hi there!

Hi there!

One of the first things I will say about “Cryptic Passage” is that, unlike the other expansion pack, it contains no new weapons or new enemies. All it contains are nine new levels and one secret level (which I actually found this time). This is also why this is a mini review rather than a full review, since there isn’t too much to say that I haven’t already said about the original game.

But, saying this, the levels in “Cryptic Passage” are surprisingly well-designed and, most importantly of all, there’s a really good variety of settings on offer here. In fact, this may well be my favourite “Blood” episode for the simple reason that most of the levels are completely different from each other.

Duke Nukem might get to visit a cinema, but Caleb has far more sophisticated tastes....

Duke Nukem might get to visit a cinema, but Caleb has far more sophisticated tastes….

The scariest thing about this level is that the steamboat doesn't have enough lifeboats for everyone! Will someone PLEASE think of the zombies!?

The scariest thing about this level is that the steamboat doesn’t have enough lifeboats for everyone! Will someone PLEASE think of the zombies!?

Seriously, you get to visit a whole range of different places here, including an old steamboat, an opera house, some treacherous mountains, a creepy monastery and- at the very end of the game – a giant floating castle:

Yes, back in the 1990s, videogame villains lived in style!

Yes, back in the 1990s, videogame villains lived in style!

Not only that, one cool thing about “Cryptic Passage” is that most of the levels follow on directly from the previous level. In other words, you’ll start most of the levels near to where your finished the previous level.

In fact, you’ll sometimes even be able to see part of the previous level from the beginning of the next level and vice versa:

And, if you find the secret level, you'll be greeted by none other than the grim reaper himself.

And, if you find the secret level, you’ll be greeted by none other than the grim reaper himself.

As for the level design itself, it’s as challenging and as enjoyably difficult as you would expect from a “Blood” game. All of the levels require a lot of exploration and many of them are fiendishly difficult – so, don’t even think about playing “Cryptic Passage” until you’ve had some practice on the original game.

Even so, the first couple of levels are fairly easy – although this might just be to lull you into a false sense of security.

Don't get too used to it, the game will quickly get a lot more difficult...

Don’t get too used to it, the game will quickly get a lot more difficult…

Another interesting thing about this expansion is that it actually contains an ending cutscene when you defeat the final bosses. Yes, it’s just a couple of pictures and some text, but it’s still pretty good to see considering that the other expansion pack didn’t bother with cutscenes.

This expansion pack also has a story too. It's something to do with an old scroll, I think.

This expansion pack also has a story too. It’s something to do with an old scroll, I think.

One thing that I will warn you about is that, if you get this game on GoG, the “Cryptic Passage” expansion launches from a separate shortcut to the rest of the game. But, surprisingly, the save files from the game also carry over from each version.

What this means is if, as I once accidentally did, you start up the original game by mistake and load a save file, it will take you to the corresponding level from the first episode of the original game. In fact, I accidentally skipped two levels of “Cryptic Passage” this way (before getting an odd sense of deja vu and thinking “this isn’t right”) and I had to go back and use the “level skip” cheat in order to play them properly. So, be careful about this.

All in all, “Cryptic Passage” is a fairly solid add-on for “Blood”. Yes, it doesn’t contain anything in the way of new weapons or monsters, but the levels in this expansion are absolutely brilliant. They’re varied, well-designed and often enjoyably challenging. If you liked the original “Blood”, then you’ll probably love “Cryptic Passage” too.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it would get four.

Review: “Blood – Plasma Pak” ( Game Expansion for “Blood”)

Yes, none of that modern "DLC" rubbish! Back in the 90s, games actually had PROPER expansions!

Yes, none of that modern “DLC” rubbish! Back in the 90s, games actually had PROPER expansions!

Well, since I was quite tired when I wrote today’s article, I thought that I’d review a game that I’ve been playing quite a bit recently.

I am, of course, talking about the “Plasma Pak” expansion to an old 1990s FPS game called “Blood“. Does anyone remember expansion packs? I miss them – seriously, modern “DLC” doesn’t even compare

Anyway, the “Plasma Pak” was one of two expansions for “Blood” that come packaged with the original game if you buy the “One Whole Unit Blood” collection on either GoG or Steam. So, if you’re playing it these days, then you’ve probably already got a copy of “Blood”.

But, if for some reason you don’t, then don’t get this expansion until you do. Not only does the “Plasma Pak” require a copy of the original “Blood”, but you will need the practice before you tackle this expansion.

Yeah, this is near the beginning of one of the new levels. You won't even stand a chance against these two guys if you haven't played the original game....

Yeah, this is near the beginning of one of the new levels. You won’t even stand a chance against these two guys if you haven’t played the original game….

So, what extra stuff does the “Plasma Pak” give you? For starters, a few of the weapons now have new alternate fire modes.

The tesla cannon can now fire a concentrated burst of electricity that does a lot of damage, the napalm launcher now has a secondary fire that can pretty much wipe out everything on the screen and the life leech can now be used as an automated turret (although you can’t pick it up again afterwards).

The Life Leech also doubles up as a cool-looking garden sculpture too.

The Life Leech also doubles up as a cool-looking garden sculpture too.

Since these upgrades had already been applied to the main game when I played it, I didn’t really notice them too much – although each of these three alternate fires certainly came in handy. In fact, although the life leech’s alternate fire may seem kind of pointless, it was what I used to defeat the final boss in the original “Blood”.

But, the main thing that the “Plasma Pak” gives you is a whole new eight-level episode called “Post Mortem” (well, technically, it’s nine levels long but I didn’t find the secret level), which is also populated by a few new monsters too. But, I’ll talk about them a bit later.

As for the levels in “Post Mortem”, they’re surprisingly good. Although some of them are generic “old building”/”crypt”-based levels, there’s still a surprising amount of variety here and you will fight your way through interesting locations like a supermarket, a creepy old aqueduct system and some docks (with a pirate ship!) .

Arrr! WHY doesn't this game come with a piracy warning?

Arrr! WHY doesn’t this game come with a piracy warning?

These levels are as well-designed and as challenging as you would expect. In other words, they’re enjoyably challenging and they require both a lot of exploration and a lot of strategic thinking. Each level will probably take you about an hour or two to complete. So, this expansion pack is almost like a small game in and of itself.

But, one of the things that annoyed me slightly was that there were quite a few underwater-based sections in some of the levels. Since you have to use old-school keyboard aiming (since there’s no modern source port for “Blood”), underwater combat can be almost frustratingly difficult at times.

I'm about to be eaten by a gill beast. Again!

I’m about to be eaten by a gill beast. Again!

Still, as I mentioned earlier, one of the things that keeps this expansion pack fresh is the fact that it contains a few new monsters to fight.

Two of these enemies are new versions of the cultists – one of them wears green robes and throws dynamite at you (and is surprisingly easy to defeat) and the other one wears blue robes and fires a tesla cannon at you. He’s surprisingly powerful and he’s also immune to tesla cannon fire too.

He may look scary, but his attacks are easily dodged and he has no close-range attack

He may look scary, but his attacks are easily dodged and he has no close-range attack

In addition to this, there are also two types of killer plants that appear occasionally. The green one spits slime at you and the orange one spits fireballs at you.

Even though both of these enemies are static, they’re still surprisingly challenging to defeat due to both the strength of their ranged attacks and the fact that they’re often surrounded by other enemies too:

*sigh* Why didn't "Ground Force" ever feature cool gardens like THIS ?

*sigh* Why didn’t “Ground Force” ever feature cool gardens like THIS ?

But, the coolest new monsters are probably the little Calebs. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Army Of Darkness“, then you can probably guess what these guys look like. Hell, I only saw it once on VHS over a decade ago and I still got the reference. However, they only appear if you are foolish enough to break a mirror – so, if you see any mirrors, then be sure to aim away from them:

 Now, WHERE did I put that jug of boiling coffee?

Now, WHERE did I put that jug of boiling coffee?

As well as these new monsters, the “Plasma Pak” also contains an all-new final boss too. Well, actually it contains three of them. When you start the final level, you are given a lot of ammo. Which, if you’ve ever played old FPS games, you will know is never a good sign!

Hey! That cultist on the balcony is wearing orange robes. I wonder what that means?

Hey! That cultist on the balcony is wearing orange robes. I wonder what that means?

But, as you explore the level further, you’ll find that it’s only populated by three cultists in orange robes. Sounds pretty easy, right? Wrong!

As soon as you kill each one of these cultists, they transform into almost-invincible troll-like creatures that will mercilessly chase you around the level. Seriously, I’m still stuck on this level at the time of writing this review.

Yes, you aren't seeing things! This game is trolling you. Literally.

Yes, you aren’t seeing things! This game is trolling you. Literally.

So far, I’ve only got two of the trolls left to defeat – and the only reason I was able to defeat the other one was because a glitch in the game left it standing on top of a ledge with no way to fight back.

All in all, the “Plasma Pak” expansion for “Blood” is everything that an expansion pack should be. There’s a fair amount of new stuff, but the game is pretty much the same game that we all know and love. If you liked “Blood”, then you’ll also like the “Plasma Pak”. Well, except for the hilariously unfair final bosses, that is.

If I had to give this expansion pack a rating out of five, it would get a four.

Review: “Blood” (Retro Computer Game)

2015 Artwork Blood review sketch

Blood? Blood! Blooood! As horror game titles go, you can’t get more dramatic than this! And I’ll be reviewing an absolute horror classic today.

A classic which, up until recently, I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never really played properly. Sure, I’d found a copy of the shareware version last year and really enjoyed it, but I still somehow didn’t have a copy of the full version.

Luckily, thanks to a website called “GoG” (which sells legal downloads of vintage games ), I was able to get a DRM-free copy of the full version of “Blood” – along with the two official expansion packs that had been released for it (“Plasma Pak” and “Cryptic Passage”) – all for about four quid.

You can also get this game for the same price on Steam too, although I don’t know whether the Steam version is any different (since the GoG version uses “DOSBox” in order to allow the game to run on modern computers).

I’ll probably stick to just reviewing what I’ve played of the main game here and I’ll possibly review “Cryptic Passage” and the extra episode that the “Plasma Pak” adds (called “Post Mortem”) at a later date.

I should also probably point out that, at the time of writing this review, I’m near the end of episode two (and I played the first episode last year) – so this review will only reflect my experiences so far. But, damn, did this game make an impression on me!

Likewise, I should probably warn you that this review will contain some (fairly cartoonish and unrealistic) gory images. Then again, what else would you expect from a game called “Blood”?

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Blood”:

blood title screen

Blood” is a horror-themed FPS game by Monolith Productions that was released in the late 1990s and it is also one of the last games to use Ken Silverman’s “Build” engine (of “Duke Nukem 3D” and “Shadow Warrior” fame).

Unfortunately, because other games with much flashier graphics were released at the same time as “Blood” was, this game ended up being somewhat overlooked and forgotten by gamers.

In “Blood”, you play as an old west gunslinger called Caleb, who has risen from the dead in order to wreak bloody vengeance on the mysterious cult that was responsible for his death.

Yes, there’s more backstory than this, but backstory was never really that important in 1990s FPS games. No, back in the good old days, the emphasis was firmly on level design and gameplay.

 Technically speaking, both you AND the guy behind you are zombies!

Technically speaking, both you AND the guy behind you are zombies!

One of the first things that I will say about “Blood” is that it is one of the most atmospheric FPS games that I have ever played. Even with the vintage graphics, this game oozes creepiness. Yes, this game may not scare you senseless, but it’ll certainly send chills down your spine every now and then.

Not only that, as the title suggests, “Blood” was also one of the most gruesome games to come out of the 1990s. It’s fairly tame by modern standards – but, compared to other games from the time, it was ludicrously gory:

This is about as gruesome as the game gets. Which, in 1997, was a lot more shocking than it probably is today.

This is about as gruesome as the game gets. Which, in 1997, was a lot more shocking than it probably is today.

But, like all “Build” engine games – “Blood” also has something of a sense of humour too. Yes, it’s a very dark and twisted sense of humour, but it’s still there:

Hmmm... The inhabitants of this creepy old mansion only seem to have ONE skeleton in the closet

Hmmm… The inhabitants of this creepy old mansion only seem to have ONE skeleton in the closet

Seriously, one of the many things that makes classic FPS games so brilliant is the fact that they never really took themselves entirely seriously – and “Blood” is no exception to this rule.

Not only will Caleb make the occasional sarcastic remark (in a wonderfully creepy voice) during gameplay, but the game is absolutely crammed with classic horror movie references too:

THERE'S Johnny!

THERE’S Johnny!

But what about the gameplay? Well, it’s as brilliantly fun as you would expect from an old “Build” engine game.

In other words, even on “medium” difficulty, this game is still fiendishly difficult. If you try to play “Blood” like a modern FPS game, then you will die within about five seconds. Repeatedly.

No, in order to survive each level, you will need to actually use your brain. It’s a novel concept but, back in the 1990s, FPS games required the player to actually think strategically rather than to just mindlessly charge through each level with all guns blazing.

Yes, he's laughing at you because you mistook "Blood" for a 'Call Of Duty' game...

Yes, he’s laughing at you because you mistook “Blood” for a ‘Call Of Duty’ game…

To give you an example of what I mean, one of the enemies you encounter during this game are the cultists. These are robed men with tommyguns who scream something that sounds like Latin at you and will riddle you with bullets within a second or two of spotting you.

Crudox Cruo!!!!!!

Crudox Cruo!!!!!!

Not only that, the cultists also tend to hang out in groups too. What this means is that if you want to stand a reasonable chance of defeating them, then it’s usually best to hide behind a nearby wall and throw dynamite at them rather than to just charge at them with your shotgun.

Other enemies in the game also require you to use strategy too. For example, one of the monsters is a really cool-looking ghost who bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain well-known man in a black robe that everyone eventually meets.

Hi there!

Hi there!

Anyway, when you first encounter these ghosts, they are translucent and cannot be harmed by any of your weapons. However, in order to attack you, they must briefly take physical form.

So, as you may have guessed, you can only actually fight them when they’re attacking you. What this means is that you have to get close enough for them to start swinging their scythes at you and then back away as fast as possible whilst shooting whatever weapon you are holding at the time.

It’s little things like this that make old FPS games from the 1990s so much better than modern ones. So, if you want a game that actually challenges you and makes you think, then you can’t go wrong with “Blood”

Another great thing about “Blood” is the creatively interesting array of weapons on offer to you throughout the game.

Unlike in modern shooters, where the weapons have to be drearily “realistic”, in “Blood” – you can shoot zombies with flare guns, strafe hordes of monsters with a tommygun, curse a cultist with a voodoo doll or incinerate the undead with nothing more than a spray can and a zippo lighter:

Don't try this at home!

Don’t try this at home!

Not only that, each weapon has an alternate fire mode too. For something made in the 1990s, this was extremely innovative. Many of these alternate fire modes are fairly inventive too and they can be extremely useful (since it means that you essentially have twice as many weapons as you are carrying).

However, I would warn against using the alternate fire for the tommygun. Since this gun chews through ammunition at a fairly quick rate, every shot has to count. So, I fail to see the point of an alternate fire mode where Caleb just swings the gun around randomly whilst firing. It looks cool, I guess?

As for the level design, it’s as brilliant as you would expect from a classic 1990s FPS game. In other words, the levels are large and they will require you to actually explore them in order to progress to the next level.

 Remember when levels used to look like this?  Remember when FPS games actually had level maps? I miss those days...

Remember when levels used to look like this? Remember when FPS games actually had level maps? I miss those days…

Even though this means that you will occasionally end up getting stuck until you find the right key, it also means that this game has a longer lifespan and more replay value than most modern games do.

In other words, each 7-9 level episode of the game is pretty much an entire game in it’s own right. Seriously, each episode contains at least 8-10 hours of gameplay. So, this game is absolutely excellent value for money too.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve only played the first episode and most of the second episode at the time of writing this review. Personally, I prefer the first episode for the simple reason that it contains a much wider variety of different settings (a funeral home, a train, an evil carnival etc..) than the second episode does.

Would YOU buy a carnival ticket from this guy?

Would YOU buy a carnival ticket from this guy?

The second episode is really good, but most of the settings in it are either desolate icy wastelands, creepy gardens, old mansions or underground caverns.

Because Monolith never released the source code for “Blood”, there are no modern source ports for this game. Although it runs really well in DOSbox, what this means is that there are no additional features that you would expect from a modern source port. In other words, you can’t really use modern FPS controls with this game.

So, you’ll probably be playing this game using nothing more than the keyboard (eg: you will have to use the num pad to look up and down etc..). Yes, you can activate mouse aiming, but it isn’t that great and it’s little more accurate than keyboard aiming. So, you’re probably better off with the keyboard controls.

If you played “Duke Nukem 3D” back in the day, then this will be a fun trip down memory lane – but, if you’ve only played modern FPS games then this will take a bit of getting used to.

All in all, “Blood” is one of the best 1990s FPS games that I’ve ever played. It’s challenging, it’s innovative, it’s hilarious, it’s creepy and it’s absolutely huge. My only regret is that I never discovered this game when I was a kid, because I’d have probably thought that it was ten times cooler if I’d played it back then.

So, if you like horror and if you’re one of the few people who believes that playing FPS games shouldn’t require you to leave your brain at the door, then get thee to GoG or Steam and pick up a copy of “Blood”!

If I had to give “Blood” a rating out of five, it would get five and a half.