Blood II: The Chosen - All in all, I'd rather be killing stuff

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informative
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#1

Stay awhile and listen, hear my tale, the tale of some jerk who’s been LPing almost as long as LPing has been a thing despite having started as, essentially, a typical Youtube idiot. The tale of a game I played, I failed, I abandoned. A game I found again, I finished again, I will LP again.

Yes, that’s only going to make sense to like two people at most. Just roll with it.

Blood II: The Chosen is the 1998 sequel to the 1997 cult-classic Blood, a first-person shooter on Duke Nukem 3D’s Build engine. What Duke 3D was to general pop culture and action movies, Blood was to horror, particularly the Evil Dead trilogy. As typical for a Doom clone, its plot was simple - Caleb, one of the four “Chosen” among a cult known as the Cabal, was betrayed and cast out by the very dark god the Cabal worshipped, Tchernobog, only to reawaken sometime around 1928, at which point he cut a bloody swathe through every single person in the cult in a quest for revenge, ultimately reaching and then murdering the dark god himself.

Blood II was a step forward in the technology front, running on Monolith Production’s new in-house 3D game engine LithTech, the second game to release on the engine after Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, which came out about two months prior on September 30th; its demo released on October 31st, 1998, with the full release following on November 20th - just one day after the massive hit that was Half-Life. Its story is a bit more integrated into the gameplay, but is still rather simple: it’s now 2028, a century since the death of Tchernobog, and Caleb is now the possessor of his powers as the One That Binds. Unfortunately, Caleb either hasn’t realized this, or has but doesn’t give two shits, leading to reality as we know it slowly beginning to unbind itself and merge with another reality, imaginatively referred to in some sources as “Reality Beta”. Meanwhile, the Cabal has regrouped since the sound thrashing Caleb gave it, restructuring itself as a business that has its hands in everything from television and food production to weapons research and development, CabalCo. With almost unlimited funds to do what it wishes and power over everything it sets its sights on, the current CEO, Gideon, has but a single goal - kill Caleb and reclaim the power of the One That Binds.

I originally attempted this game back in early 2009, way back when the “old guard” were people that had only been doing it for about a year and a half and there were actual, viable video host options that were not Youtube; it wasn’t the first game I tried, but it was the one that more or less set in stone the way I would be doing LPs for a few years afterwards - subtitled commentary that was barely coherent with its constant arbitrary switches between being an in-character monologue and out-of-universe observations, with occasional random interludes by shit from Adult Swim, peppered with sadism and an inability to get more than halfway through a game before losing interest because it was too hard or hardware issues forced a hiatus as I called it to try to convince myself I would eventually come back and finish it, honest. I’ve long since moved on from that sort of thing (well, mostly… wait, 90% of what I’ve done since then has been Postal 2-related… I at least actually finished one or two LPs?), but for this LP I’m going to be at least glancing in the general direction of the old basics. I’m not going back to subtitled commentary, but I am going to try to be a little quieter than usual during actual gameplay because Caleb is the sort of mid-90s protagonist that was as fun to listen to as he was to play as. I’ve also got access to quite a bit of material regarding the development and cut content for the game thanks to the Blood Wiki, so I’m going to be digging into as much of that as I can bear - seems an appropriate way to handle a game celebrating its 20th anniversary. As such, guests are highly unlikely, except maybe for a bonus video showing off the other Chosen, since you can play as all four in singleplayer as well as the long-defunct multiplayer, and they all have aspects that let them play a little differently to make up for the lack of cutscenes when you’re not playing as Caleb. As well, one difference from my first attempt at this game is that videos are going to consist of just one level, regardless of the level’s length, so expect to see some videos going up two or three at a time because a decent amount of them won’t last five minutes even with everything I’m adding to pad them out. Depending on how fast I’m able to put videos together I’m going to shoot for two updates a week, Tuesdays primarily (since that’s when the game’s 20th anniversary falls) and trying to get more out on Fridays (since that’s when November 20th fell in 1998, and it lines up with my usual tendency to update on Friday afternoons anyway).

With all that, let us allow the festival of blood to begin…












#2

“You just can’t sit and enjoy your new issue of Guns N’ Gibs while suffering the subway in peace these days. First that ticket guy dared to confiscate yer flask of Ol’ Red '99, and then that spineless conductor had to stop the train for an hour just because some snot-nose brat in a baby carriage rolled onto the tracks! You were about to go up there and give him a piece of his own mind but then you recognized his voice… and realized that your day was about to get… interesting.”

Our first level is short and simple in getting us into the gist of the game. A subway train with a lot of low-level enemies and a lot of innocents. We’re also greeted with proof that either someone who worked on expanding dual-wielding thought most of the new secondary fire modes were worthless or the entire dev team was seriously unable to work out how to get secondary fire to work with two guns on the new engine. Either-or, really.

The Characters


Caleb

Our quote-unquote “hero”, and at least according to me and other members of the Blood fan-cult-thing, the most interesting Doom clone protagonist of his day. Born in 1847 in western Texas, an era and place known for their brutality, which he nevertheless managed to thrive in by being even more brutal; by the time the end of the Civil War was approaching in his late teens, he had already acquired the reputation of a merciless gunfighter. Around 1871, during his travels, he discovered a burned-down homestead and, upon investigating, discovered a lone survivor, Ophelia. Little of what she said was comprehensible, but what was revealed what had happened: she and her husband had been members of the Cabal, worshippers of the dark god Tchernobog, until her husband tried to leave the cult. The Cabal set fire to their homestead in retaliation, killing Ophelia’s husband and their young son, for which she blamed her husband rather than the cult. Taking her under his protection, she in turn lead him into the cult when she returned to them, the two falling in love with one another as they became members of the “Chosen”, Tchernobog’s elite servants. Ultimately, however, Tchernobog made his grand move, betraying the Chosen, with his other lieutenants kidnapping and murdering Caleb’s friends while he himself was cast into some manner of bottomless pit, left to “consider [Tchernobog’s] power, in a hollow grave”.

Caleb reawakened circa 1928, having spent the intervening half-century or so as a corpse which refused to rot, immediately setting out for revenge. Carving his way through the Cabal, killing off the three lieutenants who had killed his friends in Tchernobog’s betrayal before ultimately meeting the dark god himself and learning of the reason for the betrayal - Tchernobog wanted Caleb to carve his way through the Cabal, gaining more and more power with each person he killed, until he would eventually be powerful enough for Tchernobog - who reincarnates by possessing a new host after they kill his current form - to, as he put it, “throw open the door between dimensions and inherit the Earth”. The two fight, and regardless of Tchernobog’s plans, when he is defeated he dies for real, Caleb only inheriting his powers presumably because revolving your world-domination plan around a guy powering himself up by murdering absolutely everyone in your cult isn’t a smart idea when said cult is already large and powerful enough to dictate world decisions as it is. Caleb then spends the next century doing whatever he pleases, simply not giving a shit, which is about where we’re left off at the start of this game.

The playable characters in this game differ by way of four stats: Strength (their melee damage and how much ammo they carry), Resistance (how well they stand up to damage), Speed (obvious), and Intelligence (how much Focus they have for using magical weapons). Caleb, rather surprisingly given most games’ focus on making the primary protagonist the balanced character, is focused more on high strength for middling to low speed and resistance and poor intelligence - he carries a lot of ammo and does better damage with guns, which is good because he’s limited in his magical abilities later on. When left idle, Caleb will randomly start singing old showtunes.

Caleb’s voice is provided by Stephan Weyte, an alumni of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art who’s best known for his video game roles in the '90s, Caleb being his best-known role. Other video game roles he’s known for include Captain Nathaniel J. Claw in the 1997 platformer Claw, several voices in Humongous Entertainment’s children’s games like the Pajama Sam and Freddi Fish series, Ike’s father Greil and narration in 2005’s Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, and the unnamed Colonel who shows up at the end of Metroid: Other M. Of course you don’t be classically trained as an actor and only do video game roles, so of course he’s got several live action roles under his belt as well, such as Albert in the 2000 comedy dot.CON, Steven Spielberg in a 2006 short Showering with Spielberg, Jack Stern in the 2009 Mixing Karma, and, perhaps most notably, playing to his reputation in the 2014 FPS: First Person Shooter, a film in the style of Hardcore Henry (although it actually predates that film by a year and a half), wherein he narrates the journey of the protagonist to rescue his wife Linda and defeat a scientist who’s created a devastating virus. EDIT: As of December 2018, he’s also found his way into the retro-style FPS DUSK - rather appropriately, as the full release also shows the protagonist of that game has a design similar to Caleb’s.


Gideon

The primary villain of our story, the face of the Cabal and the one most directly responsible for its current existence as the world-spanning, multi-million-dollar industry CabalCo. Little is known about his early life, other than that he was groomed for the position of the Cabal’s leadership since birth, and that this most likely took place quite some time after Tchernobog’s defeat in 1928. Supplementary material claims that, despite the immense power he’s managed to wrestle from the world through the Cabal, he feels unworthy of his position so long as Caleb, the Great Betrayer who killed their God, still lives - thus, his single-minded obsession with killing Caleb, reclaiming the power of the One That Binds, and acquiring abilities beyond which even the Cabal can grant him. Normally I’d take what the manual, promotional websites, or even the between-level texts say with a grain of salt given the wildly different characterization of other characters (claims of Caleb having his sights on ruling the world, alternately destroying or controlling the Cabal to do so as in the manual and the like, versus simply not giving two shits about anything but killing people whenever he wants as he’s actually presented in-game), but in Gideon’s case what we’re actually shown in-game doesn’t stray too far from that idea.

Gideon’s voice actor was the late Edward “Ted” D’arms, a Colorado native who had a rather short tenure as a video game voice actor, starting as the voice of Rupert, the judge, and Mr. Fahrman in 1995’s Torin’s Passage, Admiral Nathaniel Akkaraju in Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, and Gideon in this game and its expansion, and all but retiring from video game roles to focus more on performing on stage around his home after 1999’s Starsiege. He also had an extensive resume in live-action roles, IMDb claiming he’s most famous for his role as the unnamed veterinarian in 1993’s Homeward Bound. Though he started in the early '60s with a role in The DuPont Show of the Week, he really hit his stride in the '70s as he moved on to film roles, such as 1973’s Cinderella Liberty where he played Cook, and Dennis COoley in '78’s Doubles. He was most prolific, however, in the '90s, between the video game roles from '95 to '99 as well as continuing to appear in live-action roles like Bill Tudor in Past Midnight from 1991, Captain Bullard in Adventures in Spying from 1992, and Richard in the 1998 short William Psychspeare’s The Taming of the Shrink. His last role before retiring completely was as Dick Nickerson in 2003’s G-Sale, a mockumentary in which his character, a retired star of a '60s sitcom, competes with a market researcher, a computer programmer, and owners of an antique store to acquire an antique board game worth a small fortune. He passed away on December 18th, 2011.

The Weapons


Knife

Bog-standard melee weapon to replace the pitchfork of old, though it actually at least feels a little more useful, even if only because there are more innocents to stab with it. Primary fire swings it twice for a somewhat decent amount of damage, secondary shifts to an underhanded grip for a noticeably stronger stab. All four of the Chosen have their own variations on the knife - in Caleb’s case, a Bowie knife with a slight curve to its grip - but the animations and reach are identical; the characters’ individual strengths determine the strength and speed of the attacks.


Beretta 92

Similarly bog-standard pistol acting as the first ballistic weapon available to you. Primary fire is a regular gunshot with somewhat-decent accuracy and a fast refire rate, secondary is a sort of emergency mode where your character turns it on its side, lifts it above their head and aims downward to empty it into the nearest threat. Can be dual-wielded and very likely will be considering effin’ everybody in the first chapter drops one, so don’t expect to even be able to use the secondary fire, much less get any use out of it that primary’s lack of a fire rate cap can’t do more efficiently from a longer range. Uses bullets as ammunition; the characters’ individual strength stats again determine how much ammo they can hold, with Caleb getting a max of 500.


#3

So caleb has got some fantastic one liners with a personal favorite being, “When you get to hell tell them I sent you, you’ll get a group discount.”


#4

I believe that was a unique one for this game, even, there was a contest to submit one-liners and that one got listed in the credits with several others.


#5

“That hurt. That hurt a lot. The last time you blacked out, it was after throwing back nineteen consecutive shots of JoJo’s Black Label #47, and even then, you think that your physical proximity to the ice-cream stand you blew up had more to do with it. Ah, well. That idiot vendor shouldn’t have pissed you off by putting sprinkles on your Killer Kiddy Kone. Speaking of sprinkles, you suspect it would behoove you to find Gideon and liberally sprinkle him on the nearest wall!”

Now’s where the game starts to get comfortable in widening the playing field, giving you part of an actual city to explore with a decent stream of enemies to lead you in the right direction and a few goodies to collect for poking around elsewhere. Also the obligatory sort-of physics show-off with that seesaw at the end; not quite at Trespasser’s level but this was still impressive shit for twenty years ago.

I didn’t show it off this time, but when I tried to do this game way back in 2009 I ended up going up the down escalator before the first conversation with Gideon, and as such had Caleb slide back down off-screen during the cutscene. Weird stuff, but mostly harmless; there’s other bugs relating to cutscenes as well but with any luck we won’t be seeing those because they tend to be more disruptive. As in, there’s at least one case where an NPC who’s supposedly to be friendly just ventilates you with a chaingun if a later cutscene doesn’t work properly. And don’t even get me started on doors in this game, we’ll… we’ll get to those.

The Weapons


MAC-10

More bog-standard shit, it’ll get interesting soon. Replacement for the the Tommy Gun of old. Primary fire sprays bullets in the general direction you’re aiming at, faster but less accurately than the Beretta. Secondary fire unfolds the stock, takes a tight hold of the front strap, and shoots much slower for an accuracy boost, but hell if I could really tell the difference before recording myself testing both modes and rewatching it five times. It’s pretty much useless anyway, the pistol is still noticeably more accurate anyway and by a minute into the third level you’re going to be using this thing akimbo to get any real use out of it before the assault rifle obsoletes it. Uses bullets as well.


Flare Gun

Returning from the first game as more of a unique gimmick weapon rather than the game’s stand-in for a pistol, remaining useful mostly because of its ability to deal damage over time and the way the engine handles dynamic light sources (see, LithTech did something right from the start). Primary fire launches a single flare of a random color, which embeds into the first wall or enemy it impacts, dealing continual damage to the latter until it burns out or they burn up. Secondary spins the cylinder to launch a starburst of multiple flares which explode on contact, but due to a bug does not ignite enemies, so it’s really only useful if you’re a damaged individual who hates when weapons only consume a reasonable amount of ammo (ref whoever designed the Shotcycler-6). Uses flares as ammunition, with Caleb’s max being 100 flares, firing one per shot with primary fire and eight with secondary.


#6

“CabalCo’s Lafayette Museum of Antiquities announces a new featured exhibit: Cults and Rituals. Take a remarkable and informative guided tour through the histories of some of the world’s most bizarre fanatical organizations, ranging from the cursed Sect of the Barking Tree Frog to those dreaded fez-wearing Shriners. Also, do be sure to stop and sacrifice a moment of your day to visit our new Animatronic Dark God Exhibit. Scary!”

This level always gave me trouble back when I first got this game and I’d always get stuck. Not least because the difficulty in this game isn’t balanced all that well and going from Genocide (easy) to Homicide (normal) is kind of like playing classic Doom and going from I’m Too Young to Die (lowest difficulty) straight to Ultra-Violence (fourth of five; not to imply I’m a master of this game, but my first playthrough on that difficulty in preparation for this LP was hell), but also I had a hard time figuring out where I was supposed to go because of all the lasers blocking various paths. In hindsight I think the latter was only a problem because I was kind of an idiot, because that shit’s definitely not giving me problems now. The difficulty balance is almost certainly gonna bite me sooner or later, though, but we’ll kill things on that bridge when we get to it.

Honestly without my own stupidity getting in the way, this is a pretty decent level for a variety of reasons. If you’re a nerd like me it’s interesting because of some actual info you can get on real ancient civilizations, even if it’s the kind of thing that you could have learned from glancing at the Wikipedia pages for Egypt’s Third Dynasty or the religion of the Inca Empire for about fifteen seconds just three or four years after this game came out. From a gameplay standpoint this is also our introduction to dual-wielding with the SMG and the return of the favorite of every old-school shooter arsenal, the sawed-off shotgun. Granted, both are kind of mitigated, because while dual-wielding is the only real way to use the SMG, the SMG itself is going to be rendered obsolete in another two or three levels once we get the assault rifle, and the devs kind of forgot to put more than one or two boxes of shotgun shells per chapter anywhere past this level, but it’s the thought that counts*.

*(Kadorhal, Inc. note: thought on its own does not actually count all that much)

Also on that note, this is the third time I’ve rendered this video in full - I did so once to get more consistent quality on the clip from the previous episode in the start (basically for reasons involving faulty hard drives, I didn’t have the raw footage from that recording easily available), then again to bump the subtitles up a size (thanks your evil twin for the suggestion) and redo some parts of the commentary I wasn’t 100% satisfied with while I was at it. What with having already rendered both of the previous episodes twice (a complete rerecord of the first episode entirely and redoing the commentary with my new microphone for consistency on the second) I’m hoping this doesn’t become a trend. I did the third render slightly differently - normally I save losslessly to .avi then run that through Zarx264 to slim it down into .mp4, though as a test I basically cut out the middleman and rendered straight to .mp4 to see how well Vegas Pro handles that. It looks good, but the filesize is… well, it’s a lot bigger than the final videos for my old method. And they’ve been unreasonably dark for no reason when I save them that way, too, and I’m having a hard time finding brightness and contrast settings that fix the issue that shouldn’t exist - call me crazy but the first-party .mp4 renderer may possibly not be all that efficient (shocking, I know). At this rate we’re looking at, at most, one more ridiculously-dark video (I’m going to have to redo at least one either way, though since the other one is less than half as long I’ll probably redo them both anyway) before I go back to the two-pass .avi to .mp4 thing and just bump up the bitrate in Zarx264.

The Characters


Gabriella
The first of Caleb’s old “Chosen” buddies to come back to life through CabalCo’s use of the Singularity Generator, and the only one to have… rather odd side-effects from that resurrection. For example, not having been a black lady who’s taller than Caleb in the original game. Little is known about her early years, other than the old website claiming she was “born out of vengeance” and groomed for battle since a young age, giving her a bloodlust comparable to Caleb’s. How she joined the Cabal is unknown - given the “groomed for battle” stuff, she may have been born into it for all we know - but her skillful service to the cult eventually lead her to become one of the elite Chosen. Unfortunately, this meant she was eventually betrayed as part of the dark god’s gambit to take control of Caleb’s body, captured and cocooned by the mother spider Shial. And then, a century after Caleb’s own resurrection and the death of Tchernobog, Gabriel’s back too. As Gabriella. It’s a long story.

Gameplay terms, interestingly, see Gabriella as almost an exact duplicate of Caleb. She’s as strong as he is, allowing for stronger attacks and a high amount of ammo carried at once, but she has the same low intelligence granting little use for magic on top of being slightly slower in return for higher damage resistance. Personally, I think I like her skillset the best, sometimes Caleb feels a little too hard to control at full speed (though the walk function not working at all is probably partly to blame). Physically, she is the tallest of the Chosen, meaning low cover is harder to take advantage of and some areas may be more difficult to navigate without at least clipping the camera through the ceiling. When left alone, Gabriella will occasionally crack “yo mama” jokes.

Gabriella’s voice in this game is Lani Minella, a former radio personality turned voice actor who founded and owns the voice-acting agency AudioGodz and is perhaps the most prolific of the game’s vocal talent by a wide margin. Like Stephan Weyte, she’s best known for her video game roles, starting from 1996 on with roles such as the title character of the ill-fated Bubsy 3D from 1997, the title character of the Nancy Drew games, Anne Knowby and several Deadites in 2000’s Evil Dead: Hail to the King, the English voice of Soulcalibur’s Isabella Valentine from 2005’s Soulcalibur III onward, most female voices in the Unreal series (particularly the standard and “sexy” forms of the female announcer for Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004; note though that some sources are split on whether these voices are Minella or one Sioux Blue), Sindel and Sheeva in the Mortal Kombat reboot from 2011, and Pesta in the 2018 God of War. Amusingly, she’s also responsible for another famous Build engine-era protagonist’s distinctive voice - one of her first works in video game voice acting was as the voice director for 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D, having first met Duke’s now-famous voice of Jon St. John when she was cast to voice for a commercial he produced in San Diego. The story goes that John was impressed by Minella’s vocal abilities, then demonstrated his own ability to imitate those voices, after which Minella asked him if he’d ever acted in a video game. From there, she managed to get him into a telephone interview with one of Duke 3D’s producers, George Broussard, and from there John was ultimately cast as Duke Nukem’s voice.

The Weapons


Sawed-off Shotgun

Caleb’s signature weapon and, like in most Doom clones, the overall most useful weapon in the game… in the original Blood. Here it’s received a noticeable downgrade - it shows up later, and it fires and reloads more slowly, including still requiring reloads while used akimbo. And basically no enemies use it, which sounds good from an “avoiding buckshot to the face” angle (which was the only problem it had in the first game) but conversely proves just how important and necessary an ammo source enemies are when you get to the last chapter of the game and realize upon thinking back that you only had enough ammo to really go to town with the shotgun in three or four levels across the entire goddamned game. On the plus side, pairing them up doesn’t require a rare, limited-time powerup, so you can pair it up as soon as you find a second one; I remember being able to get one of the enemies standing around the first pickup to drop one at least once. And my current playthrough is already showing more shotgun ammo than I remember, so there’s that. Primary fire fires a single barrel, snapping the weapon open for a reload after two shells. Secondary fires both barrels at once for greater damage but also greater spread and an overall slower rate of fire due to the recoil and reload; like with the other akimbo-capable weapons, you can’t use secondary fire while using two shotguns at once in the unmodified game, but since akimbo weapons both fire at the same time anyway, in this case it’s more like you get a permanent upgrade to secondary fire only with the spread downside mitigated. Uses shells, which Caleb can carry 150 of in total.


Proximity Bomb

Updates to the various thrown explosives of the first game, replacing ye olde bundles of TNT and a lighter with square packages of C4 or some other variety of modern plastic explosive. As the name suggests, the first version acquired utilizes a proximity detonator which sets the bomb off whenever an enemy gets close. Primary fire tosses the bomb, how far determined by how long the button is held, while secondary drops the bomb at your feet. Ultimately, as with all motion-sensor bombs in first-person shooters, it’s pretty much entirely worthless as the game is never a defensive affair; at best it’s good for saving ammo in an extreme pinch where you don’t want to use the knife and are able to funnel the enemy you need dead into a tight hallway or something. The bomb varieties are treated as inventory items rather than true weapons, thus are accessible through their own hotkeys and the inventory list rather than taking up any of your ten weapon slots; the limit for each bomb type is 10 each.


Gabriella’s version of the knife: a larger, apparently military-style blade.


#7

“Gideon got away, but he’s still on the run. You’ll put him to rights and turn out his lights soon enough. Meanwhile, he’s left behind some of his rotten friends for you to deal with. These pestilent meat-chunks do remind one of the undead things that the Cabal used to churn out in the old days… except for that weird stitching on their chests. Something’s different about these particular walking-carcasses. But hey, gibs are gibs.”

Right around this point is where things start to take a turn for the weird. The Cabal seems to have gone the way of the future and is content to just send regular people after us - better armed and armored as we go along, but still regular people. These things we’ll be seeing this level are… different.

In a sense it’s also about where the game starts to take a down-turn and never quite recovers, at least to me, because bone leeches still creep me out, even if I sort-of intentionally let one start face-fucking me for the purpose of demonstration as to why that is. On the plus side (or another negative if you absolutely hate the idea of backtracking) we see the game attempting a hub-style level, as while it’s technically a different map we’ll be seeing quite a few of the same sights we saw on the way to the museum. Main difference is a bit more rubble and junk, blocking off the way we left last time, but a new path having opened up. Don’t get used to levels being reused in interesting ways like this, we’re coming back this way one more time and from then on every time we see a level again it’s the height of laziness. Chapter 2’s start is pretty apparent, but a late portion of the game is going to turn into a fucking slog because of it.

And on that note, since we already saw this level in a manner of speaking, let’s go ahead and make this the first double-feature update.

“Man, do you hate sewers! The smell is rather appealing, but all-in-all slogging through the Floaters gets old. When you finally get around to ruling the world, it’ll be time to declare the place a no-sanitation zone. The perks of an open-sewer society include not having to budget for pipe repairs. The stuff can find its way to the oceans on its own. Either way, even with the local fragrance, you can smell Gideon’s nasty stench. The coward’s probably headed for a Cabal safehouse.”

And the obligatory sewer level, already. Yeah, we probably hit the high point for this game when we grabbed the shotgun in the museum. It’s not an immediate downturn, but man, it’s certainly not pulling any punches either. On the plus side, there’s more shotgun shells than I remember (I must have forgotten my “destroy all crates on sight” instincts during my last playthrough, between newer games making crates only openable with credit cards and the fact that I can never trust shit in this game to not blow up in my face and kill me when I break it - an issue I’m finding much easier to deal with now that I’m past the “wasting bullets on crates” stigma and just use the MAC-10 to do it quickly), we get the remote-detonated bombs, and there’s a reference to Unreal (and Aliens and Predator).

Also, this whole deal with trying to change up my editing process has been “fun”. I wanted to save time and effort by skipping a few steps, and it turns out the old way is actually still faster overall. And if I actually bother changing the bitrate, I get comparable quality for a still-small filesize (the final videos through the old method are only one-fifth as big as with the new method) and the same color settings I actually recorded and edited at. Well, no harm done so long as you learn something from an experience, even if that something is “this free software fills a specific niche far better than an official and more generalized paid product does, again”. The irony in this revelation is that I have to use paid software for actually recording this game because it crashed three minutes in every time I tried to do it with OBS.

The Weapons

Remote Bomb

The command-detonated version of the proximity bomb, and as such the best version. Otherwise, these bombs differ primarily by the red coloration on its electronics, compared to the proxy bombs’ green. Utilized in the same manner as the other bombs, other than that detonation is triggered by a separate button press (default D - fortunately, this game somehow supports side-mouse buttons).


#8

“With humanity breeding like roaches, and over-crowding plaguing the whole planet, disease has become our second biggest business! We’re proud to announce that we have a near monopoly at the Cabalco Center for Disease Management! This state-of-the-art facility has extensive research, dissection, and trauma centers. We assure you that the CDM is on the cutting-edge of disease, plague, and affliction of all types. Whether you’re interested in the Ebola virus or just some plain-old, tasty syphilis. Our motto? Invest and Infest. Cabalco does the rest!”

I do find it funny that ebola became a buzzword ten or fifteen years after this game came out and made a reference to it. Anyway, things are looking up now that we’re past the sewer level, as we get regular humans to fight again, and this level is the one to finally introduce us to one of the true mainstays of our arsenal.

That said, getting this video ready has been “fun” for a variety of reasons, mostly in the sense that trying to get a test run through the level was difficult. The inconsistent difficulty was only half of it, I could work with that as long as I remembered to quicksave. The problem is, even with all the patches and dgVoodoo stuff to get the game to actually run, it’s still unstable. Like, entering the menu too often in one session crashes the game unstable. Including loading screens from quickloading. Not to mention as well I was kind of rushed to actually put together the video and only just recorded it yesterday… and then immediately had to rerecord it because 90% of the runtime ended up being at 10 frames per second for some reason. Even unrelated to instability on the part of the game I’m also quickly reminded why regular humans are actually kind of a real bitch to fight when they’re all Fanatics.

“Gideon is headed for one of the executive airships docked at the top of the building. It is obviously time to stop pounding back so much charred flesh at the corner Beefy Queen, 'cuz you ain’t in proper shape to take the stairs. Interestingly, Gideon has also been taking his fair share of meat at the BQ, and thus he’s had to install express elevators in each of his skyscrapers. Not having to walk up the thousand-plus floors is a kindness if only you could figure out how to turn off that infernal music!”

I like this level for how silly and inconsequential it is. It’s short, it has like five guys in it, and it pretty much exists solely as an excuse to give you the sniper rifle before immediately hopping onto the airship.

I promise we’ll eventually get sequential levels that are long enough that I don’t feel the need to put out two videos per update. Unfortunately, I can also promise there’s going to be a long period of doing this constantly much later.

The Weapons


M16

Still exactly as you expect from a shooter, but this is the case where its role still can’t be beat. Primary fire is standard shooting, faster and with more accuracy and damage than the SMG, while secondary finally becomes truly useful with the underbarrel grenade launcher firing off grenades. The grenades only detonate on impact if you hit an enemy and run on a timer otherwise, which means it’s useless against more mobile targets, but just about perfect for slow-moving ones or for clearing out nuisances from around a corner, rather than turning that corner and risking something attaching itself to your face. Uses bullets as ammunition for the primary fire and Die Bug Die pesticide for the secondary; Caleb carries a max of 150 ammo for the pesticide, which at 5 used per grenade comes out to 30 grenades.

Interestingly, the manual indicates that this was another gun that can be used akimbo. You can even see it in that image I used for Caleb’s bio with the first episode, which also used the version in the render above rather than what we’re actually given in-game (primary differences are the removal of the muzzle brake, recoloring of the grip and stock, and the grenade launcher being taped to the gun for some reason).


TW-X59 Tesla Gun

The fourth generation of the classic Tesla Cannon, changed primarily in looks, having a lower rate of fire but still dealing appreciable damage. Primary fire launches small balls of electricity at a slow rate, zapping and stunning whoever they hit. Secondary charges the weapon up and launches an electric bolt that creates a large explosion of electricity at the point of impact. Uses Tesla charges as ammo, which Caleb carries 500 of, using 2 units per primary shot and 25 for secondary.


Barrett

I suppose this is still bog-standard from a modern perspective, but when you’re coming out only a year after GoldenEye, a sniper rifle with a scope you could actually use was still a really big fucking deal. And of course, Blood II won’t settle for anything less than the biggest, baddest sniper rifle of its day. Primary fires a single bullet with perfect accuracy, dealing heavy damage especially with shots to the torso or head but having a long cooldown as the player character apparently needs to rechamber the weapon manually after every shot. Secondary fire activates the scope for enhanced accuracy but greater chance of making the skybox disappear for no apparent reason while scoped because this game is buggy. Uses BMG rounds, which Caleb can carry 100 of.


#9

“The Cabalco Industries Model 1701D Airship is one of the finest, and certainly, most-versatile, flying vessels ever to grace our soiled-skies. Versatility is the key word here, as our airship can be used simultaneously for both connoisseur-class business travel and military purposes. Why bother to make two trips? Carpet-bomb that nasty little Third-World country, while keeping your most important clients flying in style! Beneath its armored exterior the Cabalco Airship truly has a heart of gold. Spacious seating, relaxing cabins, well-armed stewardesses, and the best nuts in the sky! Fly Cabalco. Fly in style.”

I do like the design of the airship, at least as far as its exterior goes. Maybe I’ll have to take a shot at seeing if it’ll fly in SimplePlanes, although if my attempt at an A-10 for that SSLP contest thing a year back is any indication, it’ll probably break under its own weight the instant I try it out even if I resist the urge to put three tons of guns on it. The level itself is also quick and simple, and it turns out the requisite Life Seed is easy to get, so it’s pretty good even despite the lack of cover.

“We are going down! Assume Crash Positions! Please bring your seats and tray tables to their upright and locked positions. Place your head between your own legs. If you are smoking, please put yourself out. Have a nice day and thank you for choosing Cabalco Air.”

I figured I’d like this level, too, and then I had to play it approximately five hundred times trying to get both a test run where I actually completed the level and then a recorded run where DXTory recorded above 10 FPS (note for future reference: load level, start record, then restart level). Even ignoring the technical issues, Fanatics taking over as the most common enemy makes things overly painful with their fully-automatic weapons - then add on that they only drop life essences or armor, at best, about a fourth as often as cultists, who themselves only drop health about half as often as scientists or other civilians. And the medkit is getting wonky now, too; I was under the impression it just disappears between map changes for some reason until I was doing a test run through this level and I saw the fucking thing actually disappear from my inventory just as I noticed I had use for it - rather anticlimactically, in my first attempt at recording I managed to use it up entirely only to still die in the last real combat section (and then my game crashed), and then in the good recording thanks to the Life Seed I picked up in the previous level I never needed it, which probably means it’s going to disappear from my inventory for no reason again when I do need it two levels from now. Short version is I am pretty much a master at this game at this point, or at least this level. It’s my personal philosophy that I haven’t fully mastered a game until I manage to somehow clip the camera and/or my character model through level geometry in a way that the devs didn’t account for, but that’s actually surprisingly easy to do when you have the Bilders touch* like I do, so I think I count.

*Bilders touch: opposite of the Midas touch, wherein anything one comes in contact with will immediately begin to destroy itself. Named for Frank Bilders from Far Cry 2, a game in which weapons go from pristine shiny new models to corroded jam-happy and explosive-prone wrecks in less than a full hour’s worth of use. Distinct from the Dresden touch, where the end result is the same but an actual reason for it is given, e.g. magic interfering with technology as with that phenomenon’s namesake Harry Dresden. Also seems to effect economic decisions made by the individual with the touch, if the Steam Market’s insistence on ruining the value of everything I own is any indication.

On a lighter note, this update comes right off the heels of an announcement that Atari is done just sitting on the series’ rights and demanding unreasonable costs to do anything with them and is, in fact, working on a remaster of the first game with Night Dive Studios.

The Weapons


“Die, Bug, Die!” Insect-a-cutioner

A combined chemical and flamethrower weapon, an old-fashioned hand-pump pesticide sprayer with a lighter taped on top of it, serving as the replacement for the aerosol can and Zippo from the first game. Primary fire simply sprays pesticide, dealing high damage but with a low rate of fire and at a short range. Secondary flips it over to put the flame from the lighter in the path of the pesticide, decreasing the fire rate even further but from what I’ve read it’s bugged and deals even less damage, and knowing how the guns work in this game it probably doesn’t ignite them. Really, even for the high damage, grenades from the M16’s alt-fire are a better use of its ammo; the only reason to keep one on-hand is so you can get more ammo for that on the rare occasion you find another one of these rather than just loose ammo. Uses pesticide, which Caleb can carry a max of 150 of.


#10

“Well, that was fun… Gideon wasn’t on board, sadly… but you now have a solid idea as to his whereabouts: the cathedral! That’s what the sign out front said anyhow, ‘OCT. 30, GIDEON DOES HIS DISSERTATION ON THE RITUAL CRIME OF SIN AND HOW TO GET AWAY WITH IT. GET HERE EARLY AND YOU’LL HEAR HIS MINOR SYMPOSIUM ON A VALVE’S INCREDIBLY ONEROUS HALF-LIFE!’ He’s not the type to disappoint his fans, so get over there and let him know you’re in his audience.”

Knowing just how badly Half-Life crushed not only this game but SiN as well, both critically and commercially - to say nothing of SiN also doing slightly better than this game because it had a couple weeks to make a name for itself before Half-Life overshadowed everything - makes the jab at Ritual and Valve in the loading screen just feel badly-timed. It’s kind of like making a game where you’re hiding to regenerate health every five seconds because your hero dies in about three hits, then having your easily-killable protagonist proudly proclaim that “power armor is for pussies” right before playing through a near-direct copy of a level from Halo 2, except without being seven years out of date.

On the subject of copying and pasting, this is the second time we’re retreading the area around Pickman Street Station from level 2. The station itself is off-limits, but otherwise everywhere we could go before is available again, and the whole thing is expanded with an entire separate area we haven’t been to before. Like I said, don’t get used to interesting retreads like this, we’re doing this sort of shit again in Chapter 3 and it just gets old really fucking quick.

“You won’t find any nuns in this cathedral! The resident lurker-from-beyond has warped this place into something more to its liking. You might actually find it habitable yourself, if it was up for sale (at a reasonable price), and didn’t come with those annoying Cabal doormen. Ah, well. It’s time to clean this place out and find out where Gideon’s gone. Maybe you’ll find time to get a lovely stone rubbing for that empty wall in your walk-in gun closet while you’re at it.”

As I’ve mentioned, this is a game that saw the direction the shooter genre was evolving in and decided to do the exact opposite of that, so you’ve only got yourself to blame if you’re surprised that there’s a boss fight. If anything, the only surprising thing is that the chapters consist of ten levels on average rather than the standard eight as set by Doom. Anyway, with that we’ve finished the first chapter of the game. Next chapter will be starting next Tuesday.