Movies can be quite gory, but with a title like Nightdive Studios‘ Blood: Fresh Supply, a remaster of Monolith Productions’ classic 90ies FPS Blood, games can be pretty violent and fun, too.
In the early 20th century, Texan gunfighter Caleb is betrayed by the cult The Cabal he served, but comes back to life to take revenge on the dark god Tchernobog.
Easy on the plot
The plot hints at an elaborate and suspenseful story with a strong main character, but despite offering more background story than the original Doom or its imitators, it’s not told very well. Except for a few cutscenes, one has a hard time to follow it. This is a shame, because Cabal is more memorable than the nameless marine in the aforementioned FPS. As in Duke Nukem 3D, the hero’s constant wisecracking lifts the mood for what is a killing spree with bloodshed and exploding guts.
Not so easy on the gore
The violence on display is often ridiculed by Cabal, e.g. when he shoots a mime and says that he hates these people. But lik Ash in The Evil Dead movies, his comments can’t be taken seriously, as one soon fights dismembered hands that utter the iconic “Swallow your soul!” or prepares for a boss fight against a hellhound the hero teasingly calls “Cujo”, as in Stephen King’s novel. The audio and visual department has so many movie references, e.g. seeing Jason Vorhees’ mask in a cabin and hearing the minimalist music playing in the background, as in the Friday the 13th I-X and remake movies.
Light on the sick laughter
A wicked sense of humor permeates the levels and Caleb’s attitude, be it comments like “I’m the one with the shotgun!” or “Hey She-Bitch, let’s go!” when confronting a boss, but kicking a severed zombie’s head at a carnival’s mini game through an opening and closing mouth or simply anywhere else in levels is just as weird. Interacting with the environment without any particular reason adds to the sick fun, too, e.g. turning on a jukebox in a bar that plays people’s screams of pain, or seeing a train station where cult members round up humans for sacrifices.
Levels of doom
The level design is varied, as one is on a train, then explores a funfair, castles, catacombs, woods, and any other clichéd horror environment one can think of. The goal of each level remains the same: finding the exit and picking up keys along the way to unlock doors. Unfortunately, this becomes rather frustrating, especially with switches and even exits that can be easily overlooked. The map isn’t particularly helpful, as it doesn’t show any locked/unlocked doors, the player’s position on specific floor levels and what switches activate.
Levels of boom
Level progression becomes more interesting with destructible environments. In some cases, one looks for cracks in walls that can be destroyed with a rocket launcher or by shooting explosive barrels. In other cases, scripted events change the level layout, although not always how one expects. For example, in one stage, the ground literally falls away under Caleb, and one has to be quick to escape, making for some rather unfair trial-and-error passages.
Weapons of choice
The variety of weapons adds to the on-screen splatter fun and is complemented by special items, like boots that make high jumps possible or a boost that allows Caleb to fire two weapons of the same type simultaneously. Some of these are standard fare, e.g. machine or shotguns, but others are more exotic. Using a voodoo doll, laser gun or even a lighter on enemies results in various forms of their demises: peeling skin from their bodies as they burst into flames or turning them into skeletons which fall into dust on the ground.
Jumping and dying
It’s not all about shooting and finding keys or switches for doors, as a bit of platforming is required as well. As is to be expected, this doesn’t work quite so good, especially in some levels when reaching certain platforms without falling to one’s death is essential. In general, the difficulty is rather high, even on the lowest settings, mainly because of the unfair spawning of enemies, so that a quicksave/quickload option becomes one’s best friend.
Stupidity and horror
Despite having various, often imaginative enemies to fight that range from cultists to gargoyles, piranhas and water monsters, the AI leaves much to be desired, which is especially true for the anticlimatic boss fights. These are sometimes stuck in one place, rotate around themselves, and one only has to fill them with lead or any other weapon’s ammo, so there’s never any strategy involved except for running, hiding, and gunning.
Secrets to discover
In each level one can find various secrets which are sometimes well hidden or one accidentally stumbles on them. In addition to weapons and ammo, armor and other goodies, e.g. goggles that make seeing in the dark possible, can make Caleb’s life much easier to survive the overwhelming enemy forces.
Horror looks and sounds
The levels might not look very impressive, but the enemy designs and small details, like posters, add to the atmosphere. Explosions are still quite nice to look at, though. Of course it’s the gore on display that is impressive, with heads severed and rolling around and enemies leaving behind a trail of blood.
The music is surprisingly varied and fits the appropriate setting, although it can become quite irritating at times, e.g. whispering voices, children choirs or a funfair laugh cacophony. Caleb’s voice acting is campy and appropriate, while the few cutscenes only feature one or two other characters that don’t sound too bad, either.
Fresh Supply brings with it all four episodes of the original campaign as well as an additional episode that doesn’t add much to the story or gameplay, except more devious levels and enemies. User-created levels can be played as well with this version. Technical improvements can be seen with higher resolution widescreen and controller support, more graphical effects, achievements, etc. It still looks and plays like the original, only as a technically improved experience, except for those pixelated cutscenes.
Classic FPS horror fun
Blood: Fresh Supply is a lot of guilty pleasure splatter fun, especially if one knows all the horror movie references. The story might not make a lot of sense and Caleb as a character isn’t the most memorable, but if one wants to experience a classic FPS that still looks and sounds quite good today, with an outlandish selection of strange weapons and even stranger humor, this comes highly recommended.
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