Developer: Mucky Foot
Publisher: Activision
Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox

Blade is one of the lesser-known characters in the Marvel Comics pantheon, but the half-human, half-vampire known as the “Daywalker” (because, unlike full-blooded vampires or videogame journalists, he can survive exposure to direct sunlight) inspired an entertaining 1998 action flick, and a most excellent sequel released earlier this year. Props must be given to Wesley Snipes, the star of both films, and a lovely and talented action hero. His touching performance as the Sweaty Bug-Eyed Running Guy in “U.S. Marshals” tugged at my heartstrings, and I can’t gamble in Las Vegas without parroting his hilarious “Passenger 57” one-liner, “Always bet on black!”–although it tends to leave blackjack dealers confused, and even somewhat frightened.

“Blade II” the game picks up where “Blade II” the movie leaves off, so it’s not really based on “Blade II” at all, but never mind. The game contains 20 levels, along with a brief tutorial in which Whistler’s voice actor (not Kris Kristofferson, but a reasonable facsimile) takes advantage of the game’s M rating to indulge in such profane dialogue as “Get up those goddamn steps and follow that walkway around!”

“Blade II” handles the fist/feet action in a unique-but-flawed way: you press the right analog stick in any direction you wish to attack. Press the stick rapidly to throw weak punches and kicks; pause briefly between each press to chain together a powerful series of moves, such as a bitchin’ straight kick/elbow/hook/sweep kick combo. As Blade beats the blue hell out of his vampiric foes, his Bloodlust meter slowly rises, to the point where he can go into a very special Rage mode. In a Sword Rage, Blade uses his namesake for roughly 30 seconds, sending limbs and heads flying around willy-nilly; in a Shield Rage, Blade is temporarily invulnerable; and in a Strength Rage, Blade briefly becomes extraordinarily strong.

Why Blade doesn’t simply use his sword throughout the game is never explained, leaving players to come up with their own ridiculous reasons, such as “Blade wants to give the vampires a sporting chance” or “It’s really hard to scrub vampire guts off a sword-handle” or “Blade has short-term memory loss and keeps forgetting he has a weapon on his back.”

“Blade II”’s focus is obviously upon trying to make you vomit from the sheer amount of blood and gore on display, but there are demi-puzzles scattered throughout each level, along with secondary objectives that usually involve destroying or killing a certain number of something: destroy five motorcycles, kill five vampires with mullet haircuts, et cetera.

The character animation of Blade and the baddies is stilted, appearing to be hand-coded instead of mo-capped, and the close-ups of Blade’s killing blows just aren’t quite as cool as they should be, considering they’re the focus of the game. The AI of the opponents is also lacking, but maybe that’s just to make up for the wonky control system.

“Blade II” isn’t terrible, isn’t wonderful, and isn’t the best tie-in game that Activision’s done this year (he writes, thinking loving thoughts of the sweet “Spider-Man”)–but it’s a decent rental, and sometimes, that’s enough.

The Rumble continues in part two of HOLLYWOOD RUMBLE: BLADE VS. BUFFY>>>

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