Bloodforge review

The second game in the Arcade Next lineup on XBLA wants you to forget about stunt riding on dirt bikes, and instead wants you to fill your heart with rage and seek revenge on the gods for the murder of your beloved wife. If this premise sounds like you're getting a God of War on the 360, you wouldn't be that far off. However, if you thought you'd be getting the same level of polish and great gameplay, you'd be dead wrong.

Bloodforge puts you in the shoes of Crom, a battle-hardened warrior who now seeks to spend the rest of his days with his loving wife, hunting wild game, and being as far from bloodshed as possible. Crom's world gets turned upside down when his home gets invaded, and through an illusion or two, ends up killing his own wife. Filled with hatred and wanting to seek revenge, Crom sets out on a quest, along with a crow/God companion to take down the Gods responsible.

The narrative is extremely familiar and despite a few twists and turns along the way, you can't shake that feeling which makes you think you've played this somewhere before. Outside of that though, the game is your typical hack and slash affair, mixed in with some powers that make you feel like a complete badass. While the combat isn't necessarily revolutionary in any way, it's not too shabby. Besides your standard light and heavy attacks, you also have some pretty awesome decapitating, limb-chopping, gut slashing combos which look great each time they're executed. Add to that the fact that each weapon Crom comes across has different combos, you can rest assured that there are plenty of ways to mutilate your enemies. Crom also has some sweet looking powers, one of which lets him unleash demon snakes from under his enemies and then rip them to shreds. Awesome.

Crom's gauntlet, which he finds early on, grants him access to many of the powers and skills he can unlock as he spills the blood of his enemies. The game also tries to give incentive for players to experiment with Crom's combos, instead of just mashing the same button over and over, by awarding a higher amount of blood for each kill, therefore making leveling up skills a speedier affair.

What's more, the game actually looks really good. A quick glance might have you thinking this was a retail game. It has an almost film noir look, but not to the point where everything is black and white. The colors are mostly unsaturated, which strips the world of any contrast, except for the copious amounts of blood, which is stark red.

Despite the hundreds of enemies that want to kill Crom, his biggest enemies are the game's camera and Crom's terrible dodge ability. The camera wouldn't be as terrible if it didn't constantly get stuck behind scenery. Navigating Crom to his next destination is seemingly without problem, although his jumping is extremely choppy. Once you get surrounded by enemies, however, the camera never seems to be able to keep up. Sure you have direct control over it, but it never wants to comply and let you rotate it to get a clear view of the arena. If only it was the camera rotation that was the biggest problem, but the shakiness of it is sometimes downright unbearable.

The same goes for dodging. Something so absolutely crucial in this game couldn't be more broken. Other games that have you rely on a dodge move to escape danger let you do this no matter what attack animation you're in, meaning halfway through an attack, you can still dodge your way to safety. Not only can you not do this in Bloodforge, you also don't actually dodge into any safe distance. Your dodge roll goes such a short distance, that even when you actually manage to pull one off, you still manage to get hit by the enemies' wide attack.

The second game in the Arcade Next promotion didn't quite live up to the standards these games usually put forth. While Bloodforge can be fun as you chop off head after head and bring down towering bosses, the bad camera and terrible dodge will undoubtedly bring your overall experience down quite a bit.