“Hey sugar, looking for a date?” The woman
stands in the dim light of a streetlamp, displaying as much of her wares as the
law will allow. A price is fixed – $40 for a quick little thrill away from the
prying eyes of the public.
The couple moves into the dingy shadows of an
“Show me what you’ve got,” the prostitute
Hands slowly caress the whiteness of the
shoulders, move up to neck, then one hand works through the hair to the back of
the head. With a quick, deft move the woman is bent backwards, fangs sinking
into the soft flesh on the side of her neck. The draining begins.
Careful not to take it too far, the vampire
releases the woman before killing her. Must keep up the masquerade and not lose
any humanity. That is the thin line which must be walked. For the prostitute, she
is left dazed, unaware of what just happened or even of her surroundings. The
vampire moves off into the night, there is much to do; this was merely the
beings version of a cup of coffee, a quick pick-me-up as it were. The prostitute
has $40 in her purse and a hickey that will take some explaining on the side of
her neck – reminders of memories lost in the miasma of confusion woven by the
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, a PC
release from Troika and Activision, is not for the phobic, for the squeamish, or
for those who disdain a few chills and some ruthlessness with their gaming
experience. It is an immersive game, not without a few graphic glitches, that
follows a somewhat linear thread through the seamy underbelly of Los Angeles
County, and weaves in a story of a power struggle.
There is violence galore, a swimming pool full
of blood-related content, rough language and, of course, some sexual
The game begins with a casual sexual encounter
that turns very wrong. Two people, wrestling in bed, when one says he (or she)
wants to show the other something. That is known as the embrace, the conversion
from human to vampire. Naturally, the prince of the L.A. area vampires is less
than pleased. He has the offending vampire, who turned you without his
permission, beheaded. As for you, it seems that your fate would be the same save
for a rather angry vampire who challenges the prince verbally. So the prince
seemingly changes his plans for you and rather than release you from the
vampiric curse, he puts you to work.
First stop is Santa Monica, to pick up some
explosives from a ghoul named Mercurio. Unfortunately, Mercurio doesn’t have the
Astrolyte. He was mugged by a chemist (read that drug dealer) and his thugs, and
the dealer has the material in a beach house. Your task is to recover the
explosive. How you do that speaks to the heart of the game’s character fabric.
There are seven distinct clans in the game –
Nosferatu, Malkavian, Brujah, Tremere,
Gangrel, Toreador, and Ventrue. Each clan has certain attributes that set them
apart from the others. The Brujah and Gangrel are more prone toward physical
solutions, whereas a clan like the Tremere is a little more seductive. The
Nosferatu are devolved somewhat and a little more reckless.
while you are confronted with different paths, the linear nature of the game
brings everything back to the same point. For example, during the first mission
area, Santa Monica, you are tasked with trying to end a feud between Therese and
another kindred. Therese is the owner of a vampire bar called The Asylum –
although no one in the neighborhood seems to know what kind of bar it truly is.
Therese is gruff and dismissive. She tasks you to do the same thing, regardless
of the clan you are part of, and regardless of the conversation thread you take.
It always comes back to the same thing, go to an abandoned hotel on the ocean –
which was the scene of a gruesome murder – and retrieve an item that belonged to
the ghost that haunts it.
whole hotel scenario truly shows off the mood and tone of this game. Not only do
you have a ghost occasionally whispering to you (“he’s coming” is a chilling
line), but you have a poltergeist involved as well. And the newspaper articles
that you find continue to paint a terrifying portrait of the secret the hotel
game is quite large, with 5 major areas, including Santa Monica, Downtown L.A.,
Hollywood and Chinatown – as well as the end game area. Within each setting is
the main storyline quest and side quests. For example, in Santa Monica, the main
quest has eight portions, but there are more than a dozen side quests you can do
as well. Each has rewards that will further your character.
Some of these quests begin with NPCs, others
with e-mails you receive. A quest to retrieve werewolf blood from the local
clinic starts with an e-mail and will reward you with $1,000 and experience
The money can be used to buy items you may
need, like weapons and lockpicks, while the experience allows you to level your
character. There are three main areas of skills that can be leveled –
attributes, abilities and disciplines. There are 9 areas in attributes, 12 in
abilities and three main disciplines (different for each clan). There is an
experience cost for each level of a skill which you level up.
A Tremere class character, for example, has no
points invested in the Abilities/Skills subset under melee. The cost to
initially invest is three experience points. The second point will cost three
points and the third (each skill has a maximum five points you can invest to max
them out), and the third will cost 6 experience points. Now under your
Attributes/Social/Charisma, the third point would cost eight experience points.
As you experience the game, you can build your character to suit your game
style. If you don’t want to spend the time allocating points, the game has an
Another aspect of this game is the feeding. It
is essential that each player maintain the masquerade. If you don’t, local law
enforcement may hunt you as well as vampire hunters. Maintaining the masquerade
means not chewing on people’s necks in public, and not draining victims of all
their blood. If you completely drain your victims, you begin to lose your
humanity and devolve. Lose enough and you will have uncontrollable fits.
The control system of this game has a short
learning curve. You can be in the game relatively quickly. The targeting can be
a little tricking, especially in multiple target settings, but players should be
able to get involved relatively quickly.
While the graphic elements have a few
glitches, this game is – overall – a real treat for the eyes. The spookiness of
the hotel is just a glimpse of what is to come for players in this game. And the
sound is directional and only improves the mood.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a
modern-day tale of bloodletting and power. It combines some relatively small
role-play elements with a solid action game and some minor puzzles. Enjoyable?
Yes, and immersive. The only danger is in becoming too immersed in this grim
tale during a night of gaming and still be at the keyboard when the sun comes
The game is fraught with load times which can
interrupt the flow, and while the whole game is rather large, some of the zones
can seem rather small.
The game has a few graphical glitches, but
generally sports some of the best environments seen in one of these games. The
animation is also very good.
The sound effects propel this game very nicely. The voice acting is very good
and the music is excellent.
The puzzles are relatively minor and with the
ability to save at virtually any spot, you will be able to save before key
moments of difficulty and then replay without having to start from further back
in the level.
The world is described as Gothic-punk, but it
seethes with essentially the underbelly of everything vile one could imagine. It
seems only natural that in such a setting, a vampire would emerge the hero. The
developers did a great job of allowing players to tailor their experience
through clan selection and character advancement. The interface is also easy to
From downright creepy to challenging, Vampire:
The Masquerade – Bloodlines has an immersive story and maintains a foreboding
tone throughout. There may be a few graphical glitches, and the story is linear,
regardless of the approach afforded by the different clans, but this is a solid
addition to the Vampire series. The game looks good, and the sound really does a
superlative job of underscoring the graphical tone of the game.