Easily one of the best and yet underrated game of its engine, if not of the whole old-school FPS genre. Don’t underestimate this game for its graphics because there’s plenty of fish to fry in this masterpiece developed by Monolith… and zombie meat to blow up.
Mmh, fresh victims for the ever-growing army of the undead.
On this review…
- What is Blood? How does it compare to other classics (like Duke Nukem, DOOM, et similia)?
- How can I play this game today?
- Why should I prefer a source-port instead of the remaster (Fresh Supply)?
- And of course… The Autism-O-Meter!
An unrepeatable hidden masterpiece, Blood is one of those games that garnered a cult following for very good reasons; originally released in 1997, it had the misfortune of being published a bit after Quake, hence its neglected status. Those lucky enough who have played it back in the day however, swear by the fact that others were missing out.
Personally, I dare to say that it’s even better than Shadow Warrior, and on par of Duke Nukem himself (these are icons coming from the same game engine, that is Build. I’ll probably talk about more that matter in the upcoming articles); accessible even to newcomers, this irreverent title is fully imbued with fun and destruction…
But let’s examine it in further detail.
Let’s dive into… Ok you guessed it.
🟢 Engaging gameplay
It’s a hard game, but once you manage to get the gist of it, it surely repays damn well: you have an arsenal capable of annihilating even the toughest foe (or the weakest of the innocents) — we’ll talk about this matter in short — gameplay-wise, you’re in for some ridiculously good moments and overall consistently fun experience.
🟢 Everything is satisfying
From solving a simple puzzle you got stuck into, to finding a secret, secret level or even a super secret; trying new weapons and items, but most importantly: killing enemies. God, this game nailed it with that one. Cultists with their very own language that are only there to be spotted and massacred, zombies with soothing death sounds, flying demons, fat fucks that will vehemently spit on you, fish-like monsters and more; all this meat ready to be cooked in the most horrible ways, trust me.
🟢 Beautiful scenarios
Very inspiring indeed. From the blazoned Dark Carnival to lugubrious churches, towns, mills, factories, caves and much, much more… This of course without renouncing to a faithful setting that doesn’t stray too much off with other unrelated themes. All of this comes with a plethora of secrets like every self-respecting old-school FPS: sometimes even more than 10-15 per level, it’s truly overwhelming indeed.
However, it’s also very rewarding finding these since many of them are easter eggs inspired to movies and other videogames that could possibly live on the same universe of Blood for their well-fitting tones. An example of the former and one of the latter is respectively: Shining (with Jack Nicholson), and Duke Nukem (the most famous BUILD engine game). But there’s a ton of them, often coming from sources like vintage horror films, which are the main inspiration of Blood.
Uhh, shake it baby…
🟢 Balanced arsenal and powerful enemies
Although this matter can be subject to discussion, the truth is… The game isn’t as difficult as many users depict it. It’s a fair challenge, the most important thing is that you don’t play it like your average FPS (more on that later). Normally, you have the upper hand.
I mean, you start with a pitchfork but the first weapon you pick is not even a pistol, it’s a powerful flare gun that puts on fire even the toughest enemies (with very few exceptions) and as such it’s useful for the entirety of the game. You have alternate fire for almost every weapon too, so regarding said flare gun you’ll have a powerful shot that explodes (which is useful as fuck but it does use a lot more ammo. Ammo management is a very important thing to take into consideration in this game).
Now imagine this for the first weapon, so what about the others? Simple, even more lethal stuff! Sawed-off shotgun, dynamite, remote dynamite, proximity dynamite, Thompson machinegun, spray can and lighter, Napalm launcher, a scepter called “Life Leech”, Voodoo dolls, Tesla Cannons… So yeah, you have everything you need for some serious carnage. If you read the effects of this stuff on a wiki or something you’ll see what i mean. The voodoo doll for example is phenomenal, you either destroy it in order to deal a critical hit, or use it normally by stabbing it and pointing it on an enemy. If the latter is on your field of view, you’ll damage him and viceversa, if the enemy is not there the doll will hurt you instead. Simple yet genious ideas, and this little title is filled with them.
And let’s not talk about the pickups… The most notorious one grants you even more firepower and it’s called “Guns Akimbo” (the fact that this was one of the very first FPS featuring akimbo is also noteworthy).
🟢 Caleb, the main character, is an awesome anti-hero.
This undead gunslinger quotes the most badass phrases from movies, he’s charismatic but cynical, funny but not in a buffoon way, sadistic and sharp. Sometimes a man of very few words, but always sagacious or hilarious ones. He’s simply amazing, that’s all.
🟢 Doom clone? Sure… Play this like Doom.
Go ahead. Make my day.
Seriously now, Caleb can be fucking awesome and everything but like I just said, he’s a fragile, undead cowboy. You can’t tank in this game or else you’ll die quickly, you can’t shoot stuff like a madman and think you can play that way forever, especially if you’re in a wide open area. The trick is to crouch, run, jump, crouch, take cover, use the right weapons with the right enemies, use alt-fire, crouch and manage your resources the best way possible. Did I already say that you need to crouch? Yes? Good. This will make enemies shoot above you, not always, but it’s nonetheless a method you should adopt anyway. That being said, cultists can crouch too, so…
This doesn’t mean you’ll always be curled up on a corner, ducking and shooting whenever possible, because that way you’ll die too, since most cultists have dynamites just like you… Just be smarter than your enemy and your own play-style will come naturally sooner or later.
🟢 It comes with two expansions, and if that’s not enough for you, there’s also lots of user-made maps
Starting from the well known “Death Wish”. Seriously man, do yourself a favor and play Death Wish after you finish with the main game! It’s probably the best addon for any game I’ve ever played, evolving from its source material all while remaining faithful to the feel of the original itself. Other user-maps I know are the followings:
The Cult, Caleb will have his revenge in Toronto: Scum of Dallas, Bloody Pulp Fiction, Bloodlines TC, Dark Times, Legend of Ravenloft, Inherit the Earth, Legends of the Iconoclast (LoI Remake) Scourge of Humanity, Legends of the Iconoclast (LoI2 Remake) Unfinished Business, French Meat, Somewhere Under the Sea, The Lost Episode.
You can find more on this website:
From Death Wish, a Silent Hill inspired map: welcome to Whisper Peak!
🟢 A sourceport is finally available!
It’s called BuildGDX: simply download it and copy/paste the files into the folder of the game, doesn’t matter if you bought it via Steam or GOG (or you’ve pirated it). With this fanport you are guaranteed to get better compatibility with modern systems, support greater resolutions, play custom made maps very easily, have tons of options such as customizable difficulty setting and so on and so forth.
There’s also a recent edition made by Nightdive which uses KEX engine instead of BUILD. It’s called Fresh Supply and it’s… Debatable.
It’s a somewhat broken recreation of the game that doesn’t use the final source code of the game as a base — this translates into low gameplay accuracy, censored blood and gibs, missing sound effects, screwed up AI behavior, nasty bugs/glitches, etc.
Overall it is a nice homage which uses empirical data, however, it’s nowhere as perfect as BuildGDX (an actual reverse engineer of the original).
You can download BuildGDX from here: https://m210.duke4.net/
Another viable option is NBlood, another fan-port that uses EDuke32 as a base. Just please do yourself the favor to not experience this game via Blood: Fresh Supply. You’ll find tons of documents and videos showing how different the two are. And don’t come to me with that “They patched it! Now it works!” crap. It’s still a subpar experience. I wouldn’t have complained if this was 10 years ago when we desperately needed a good port, but now? Now you have not one but two good ones, GDX and NB. Why should you settle for anything worse than that?
🔴 It’s one of the most bugged version out there
(if you don’t use a sourceport)
I’m not talking gameplay-wise, but compatibility instead. I had quite a few hardships with these kind of games and that’s probably because they run through dosbox emulation. Initially, I’ve only used a guide to get it to run better and a few other quality-of-life tweaks. I mean, this game sometimes lags, lol.
Not only that, you can’t even go over 800×600 or else the game starts flickering and even crashes if you select a resolution that is too high, at least that’s what happened with me. When collecting pickups, sometimes the black bars or even the game’s HUD will turn into the color of the animation of said pickup (that is red, yellowish or sometimes blue). Reloading the game should fix this, though.
Returning on Windows and then back to the game is a no go, since the game screws up the textures and it’s unplayable. All this stuff happens for many users, maybe not every issue at once but still… You can probably fix them someway or another but for fuck’s sake it’s 2020 and publishers are still stubborn about releasing retro games without the proper patches…
Thank god there’s GoG which steals the modders’ hard work, therefore these titles have the right nerdy shit that makes it work… Am I right?
Teasing aside, if you’re still convinced that a fan-port isn’t for you (even after I proved you wrong), then I’ll give you a last gift… If you press ‘U’ in-game, you’ll enable a clunky mouselook without the need of any mod whatsoever. Imagine my expression when I played through the first episode of the game without knowing that you could use the mouse with the dosbox version (I know, I’m dumb).
So, in conclusion, you don’t play Blood: One Unit Whole Blood right off the bat… But you can manage to. Sort of. And if you don’t want to waste your precious time, just play it with BuildGDX or NBlood and call it a day.
🔴 You’ll get stuck, a lot.
Boy if Blood is punishing with its beautiful but nonetheless unforgiving level design. But that’s understandable considering we’re playing a certain genre of game of a certain videoludic era… I found a lot worse, so don’t be discouraged.
🔴 Bosses are damage sponges
Boss fights were never the strength of these games, but for fuck’s sake Blood turned the boss-sponginess-factor quite a few notches. Luckily, with BuildGDX you can customize the difficulty settings and make it a little bit easier.
I’m joking, turn it all the way up GODDAMNIT
🌴 AUTISM-O-METER 🌴
Engaging, Satisfying Gameplay | +5🟢POINTS
Beautiful Setting | +3🟢POINTS
Balanced Arsenal | +4🟢POINTS
Great Enemy and Character Design | +3🟢POINTS
Not a Doom Clone | +1🟢POINTS
Expansions, Custom Maps, Sourceports | +2🟢POINTS
Dosbox Version is pretty shit (still better than Fresh Supply tho) | +2🔴POINTS
Level Design gets slightly convoluted later on… But you can git gud scrub | +1🔴POINT
Bosses are Damage Sponges | +1🔴POINT
🟢 = 18 POINTS
🔴 = 4 POINTS