Vampire - The Masquerade: Bloodlines

The Cable Brothers 12/6/2004 

Hookers make some vampires puke.

The people who made this did a good job despite the flaws that still exist (which seems pretty typical of hugantic & tremendous single player RPGs), and when the game works its an amazing experience. I would have to say that the Source Engine definitely helps the game world. Troika clearly couldn't use the engine to its full potential, but I think they did a great job and worked around some of the bigger problems to deliver a more stable game.
There's a lot to say about this game since it's very long, has a lot of good and a lot of bad, and a lot of stuff to do. There's a sort of Deus Ex, Shadowrun, Fallout vibe and atmosphere to the game, which is a big positive.

In this Vampire universe, there are 13 clans and the game lets you play as one of 7 of them. A couple of other clans are represented by characters in the game -- either enemies, friends, or the mysterious "I dunno"-type characters you can chat with, but whose asses you might want to kick on instinct. The clans you can play as are different in major ways, not just different starting stats. All of the clans have different types of magic stuff. You've got shape shifting, cloaking, summoning and mind control, and on top of all that there are some passive stat boosting spells. Some of these things can actually be used in the dialogue trees. All of these cost magic (the dialogue spells) in the form of blood. Use more spells and you'll need to find someone to feed on. Some of the different clans feed in different ways: Nosferatu can get extra blood from rats whereas Ventrue get no blood from rats and in fact will puke up blood from feeding on skanky ass hookers (which is fun to see at least once). All of the different clans have an interesting twist to them, not just with spells and skills but with their behavior and inherent alliances. I went with the Ventrue.

LaCroix is not available after 11:00am.

The story starts simply where someone makes you a vampire. The "prince" of Los Angeles (a fruity Ventrue named LaCroix, which might be delicious with some bacon, egg, and cheese) kills your sire and decides to make you an employee, running around doing this and that at his whim.

All of this takes place in many tiny portions of Los Angeles where you walk around a few streets in small hub areas that are populated by many buildings you can enter (which all trigger loading), people walking around, a cop here and there. The types of areas you travel around in are seperated into three categories.

First up are combat zones, where you can shoot and kill and feed all you want. These are usually for missions where someone wants you to go in and kill people or explore. There are almost always several ways to get through these missions. You can go in blasting, but as opposed to most games where machine gunning your way through a few hundred people is no big deal, the firearms abilities in this game are nerfed big time, especially at the start. (If you spend most of your game putting points into firearms by about halfway through you'll definitely have the firepower and skill to mow everyone down.) The alternatives are usually a combination of stealth and melee attacks. All the melee weapons (including your bare hands) can be used for stealth kills in a system that works very easily -- just get behind someone while sneaking and a "stealth kill" icon pops up. At that point, just hit "Use" and you break their neck or cut their throat or whatever. One clan even has a cloaking device skill which is perfect for snappin' some necks.

The next type of area you can wander around in is the masquerade zone, which covers the hub areas outside the buildings. This is where the people walk around and stuff, and you're supposed to keep your feeding and powers secret. If you don't, you commit a masquerade violation, and there's a counter of 5 in your stat sheet, after 5 it's game over. It's actually really easy to avoid doing this, especially with the magic of quick saves. If you break a couple, you might get vampire hunters on you. You can still feed on people, but only if there's no one else around.

The last type is elysium, which is inside the non-combat buildings, like bars and clubs and hotels. Here you can't even draw weapons or use secret type powers. This is mainly for areas where you chat with people.

The combat zones are basic random turn corridors with stuff blocking doorways you're not supposed to go in, or doors that just don't open.


Here's about a thousand bonus words on how smooth the engine is.
Most of the areas are average in detail really, and the city hubs aren't that big, certainly not like GTA big. It's more like Deus Ex 2: For Real And Not an Xbox Port. The real shining aspect to the graphics is the characters and their facial animations. There are times here and there where the characters don't seem to emote according to their dialogue, but when they do it really does work. When you kill a vampire they vaporize in ashes and fire and skeletons, Blade style. Other than the other cool things of that nature, the graphics will probably result in the most stuttering and frameloss and chugging this game has to offer. :(


The people you meet in the game are interesting and well-written. Some people you'll probably hate, some you'll like talking to. Some people will hate you right off the bat. There are many vampires of different clans who all have completely different opinions about each other. The guy you take most of your top orders from is a Ventrue, which is like the political/corporate running type vampires. Brujah are like the fightin' hippies of the world and they hate your boss so they will automatically start off with a little less trust in you, along with little trust in most of the other clans. Nosferatu are the ugly-ass-fuck, deformed-as-hell vampires who can barely even be seen outside of a sewer or abandoned silo, but are known more as information brokers in the vampire world, and have more trust for the straight-laced professional vampires. Gangrel are shape shifting type vampires who turn into big walking bats or whatever, great for melee attacks, and most of the ones you meet are a little nutty. The Malkavians are totally nuts in many different ways. The Tremere are the mystical magical sorcerers who have magic and study ancient whatever the fuck about any occultish thing. Toreador are the faggoty puffy shirt wearing vampires. And all of these are in a big group called the Camerilla, which set up the rules of the masquerade and hiding vampires from the rest of the world, even though there's a lot of distrust between this clan and that clan, and it really comes out well in the game. Then there's the Sabbat, which are the stock cannon fodder most of the time, who have no rules and want to rule the world. Every other clan hates the Sabbat more than they hate each other. The Kuei-Jin, which are the Chinese vampires, get huge mixed reactions from just about everyone in the game, which only makes this huge political character scape even more complicated.


Overall, the sound is great. Excellent voice acting, lots of great sounds for guns clicking, blamming, swords clanging, punches thumping, and some good mood music and some crazy gothy metalish licensed music for bars and clubs that totally sounds like it belongs in the game. There are a few negative points, like the Magnum gunshot is just the wimpy ass MP5 sound ripped directly from Counter-Strike. Also, every enemy in the game, either Sabbat or the cops or ninjas or SWAT dudes or hunters or vampires all use the exact same "hey you," "stop right there," "freeze" "hey stop," and "what was that" sound clips. Not that it matters, since an enemy is an enemy, and they can save space using the same sounds instead of recording the equivalent for every type of enemy.


I thought it was pretty interesting. The character/clan politics make for captivating moments. You'll find characters you like (or are at least allied with) have completely opposite views of other clans. You might even help out clans that disgust you. Anyway, the overall story is a prequel to some "end of times" thing of Vampire, which apparently was indeed the end of vampires and this universe. That doesn't happen at the end of this game, but events are leading up to it, and a lot of characters talk about it. Not only that but you see lots of evidence of the vampire clans and existence going wrong, with "thin bloods" showing up and being all weak and barely vampire. In the meanwhile, plenty of fetch quests, assassination jobs, and exploration. Fetch quests still aren't any better in this game, but at least the backstory to them is worthwhile.

Worst Part of the Game

As a Nosferatu, I had a lot of play options available to me, so my character was very customizable and modular. I was able to use a combination of stealth (which actually works decently in this game, but is a lot harder without obfuscate), combat, and a tiny amount of conversational abilities to persuade and occasionally intimidate. I focused on stealth hacking/lockpick skills and firearms/melee combat skills -- the other 7 playable clan characters can basically be molded anyway you want, but they also all have certain restrictions based on their origins. The most combat-heavy clans aren't as good at stealth or chatting, though you can still put experience points into those areas.
Naturally, it's a fucking sewer level. The level design for combat and wandering puzzles is pretty bland, but this sewer area where you're supposed to find some hidden Nosferatu dudes is the biggest butt-ass boringest bullshit ever. It actually breaks the boundaries of shitty sewer levels. It also drives the whole "alternate approach" concept straight up your ass, because it gives you alternate ways of hitting one switch in the worst area of the worst area of the worst sewer level in game history. There's a part where you can go in a room and turn off power to stop the electricity in a main flooded room, and then in the main room is a switch that floods some reserviors. There's also a computer console on the wall next to the flood switch, which does the exact same things as these switches, but you have to hack into it. Why would they protect an alternate switch when the alternative is completely out in the open? It only confuses just about everyone on the fucking planet thinking they have to struggle with hitting a switch and using the power and then using the computer and hacking and uh oh better improve your hacking skill -- oh wait I can just guess this password. While you are flailing away like some kind of fucking faggot on this bullshit, in the end all you REALLY have to do is turn the power off to stop the volts from frying you, hit the switch to turn off a fan in the water, then turn it back on to flood the reservoirs and swim your ass off down a pipe before the fan can keep you back. Oh yeah, and you have to go in reservoir #2, because #1 for some reason doesn't flood and in fact showcases a confusing hall of mirrors in the ceiling. Another awful part in this fucking asspain sewer -- I swam down a tube and actually fell below water into a hall of mirrors room, where I actually saw water above me, while I was standing in knee-length water in an empty black room. And after all this bullshit, it's another sewer maze with left right right right left left up right left up right right left dead end, find a keycard, and then find a control room. Then after that there's still more walking down paths to get to the Nosferatu. A simple "find this dude and talk to him" quest turns into about 3 or 4 hours of wandering in pure confusion. They needed to cut this part so bad. It cripples the experience of the game in unrecoverable ways. Creexul's Caltrops Gaming Tip: Don't fuck around in that part, just hit the switches and run through. There are a couple other nonintuitive (read: shitty) puzzles like this in the game, but this one is the absolute worst.

Best Part of the Game

There are lots of points where you feel really good about your progress, from getting people to do what you want with talking, beating some major ass, using spells to fuck people up big time, an interesting plot point, or seeing some big fat fuckin titties flopping around in a strip club LIKE THAT TOTALLY HOT SCENE IN DEAD TO RIGHTS.


10/10. Excellent use of the Source Engine's ability to have big fat fuckin tits wobble around. With all the crazy vampire clan infighting and outfighting, it's harrrrrrrrrd to remember that there are some nice hoowars in this game. EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE JUST POLYGONS as a jealous, flat-chested girl would say.


Well there isn't an M1 in the game, so I guess it's a 0. But the other weapons are cool if you have the stats to use them well. Even if you don't, like at the beginning, melee asskickings are incredibly easy to pull off. If you get to the end of the game with good gun stats, hosing people with a fully automatic assault shotgun, or fanning a Magnum revolver at people will definitely do it for you.

Ass Kickings

I must help this underage jap chick in chinatown battle her demon. That's why I'm standing so far back, waiting for a good shot with my .44 magnum revolver, activating my fortitude spell which makes me like a giant towering spire of rock.
While this is an RPG with intricate and involved conversation trees for choosing this or that, when it comes time to beat some ass they really put in a lot of ways to do it. Apparently the ability of using a gun in this game is nerfed for a few reasons, one is that it increases the incentive to try other methods. Another is that vampires are supposed to be more resistant to gunfire, so in order to properly fight vampires with guns you have to be extremely skilled. God help the vampires that got in my way with a gun though. GOD HELP THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The alternative for ass kickings is melee. Using a melee weapon is apparently the prefered method in the game because you can easily hit an entire crowd around you with some swings here and there, or use the weapon to stealth kill them if you're being sneaky. When you get a stealth kill with a sword there's some Chinese nong bong fong gongs or Japanese harp thingy that plays, which is a cool touch. Other than that, there are stats here and there and some clan-specific skills that help for just going straight up punching WITH A RIGHT LEFT RIGHT YOU'RE TOOFLESS. The animations and movements for your characters when they're whipping around and beating serious ass or slicing up people so that they have to go home forever disgraced and then they leap straight into the sun from suicidal depression... are awesome. I almost got off track there. Anyway, while you can play most of the game in first person, you can also play all of it in third person at any time, but for the melee (and swimming) it's third person only. Which is fine, you know. Hey what.


Well, if you were looking for bugs and gave a high rating for a high amount of bugs, this would probably get a 10, because there are a ton of them. There's cutscene bugs, people warping around (and not with fruity vampire powers either), sound bugs, memory leaks, intense chugging even on powerful systems, dialogue cutting out, cutscenes not triggering, crashing to desktop (usually soft in my experience though, THANKS WINDOWS XP ^_^). Almost all the time when I would feed on someone until they die, when I throw them they just kind of fall. Boxes that you open (like crates, drawers, refrigerators, mailboxes) seem to have a hard time actually staying open in the inventory window, they just close again unless you're looking at them from a specific angle or ducking or not ducking. Sometimes when I would mind control an enemy dude to get him to attack other dudes, he'd switch from his cool gun to a gay melee baton or a knife and do absolutely no damage to the enemy, and I'd just watch them slash at each other for a minute until my target just naturally died from time running out. There are many more bugs. They do get in the way of the gameplay, but unless you are some kind of nut (or Bill Dungsroman) who will flip the fuck out at bugs, they shouldn't get in the way of the enjoyable parts.


Severely underused, but I guess there are good reasons. There are some objects physically simulated, and then the rest is static. I can live with that. There are confusing spots where you'll be able to shove one shopping cart around, and another cart around the corner is totally static. Anyway, this is just an RPG, not Half-Life 2, so most of the detail went into stats and wanting your character to have gray eyes and BEAUTIFUL FLOWING SILVER HAIR or whatever. Enabling every object to be physically simulated might cripple all machines in the world, in the modern world (where great leaders resolve conflicts... with WORDS O_O). Still, I think if they just waited for HL2 to come out, waited for the SDK to come out, and then made their Vampire game a full on screaming assfuck Half-Life 2 major professional Total Conversion Wow Edition, it could've been more stable and probably would've had all those bouncing bottles and breaking glass. Then the world definitely would've been more intricate, instead of a lot of static props with doors here and there and people yelling at you that HOW COULD YOU TRUST THEM PSH DON'T EVEN LOOK AT ME. Anyway, the physics that are used are things like planks of wood that you get caught on trying to walk over them, which is gay as hell, and the occasional really cool physics thing, like at the end of the game when there are bamboo spike traps that shoot out of the walls, and you can manually push them back in with some use key manipulation, and also a door with a wooden post blocking it that you just manually push open while people run at you. There are some really cool areas here and there with fucking monsterous huge enemies chasing you, so while you run through a doorway, it runs at the door and crashes that shit right down, door and wall and everything. There's a gargoyle in a Hollywood theater that will punch down pillars and bring down walkways above it that you might be trying to hide on. So in that respect, there's an excellent use of physics. Ragdolls would be cooler after draining people if you always threw them, but I think that's a bug because I know a few times I really did throw people, sometimes face first into a wall.


Fucking around in this game universe is fun, with the physics and people and feeding and shooting. There's an optional person in the game that you can try to help by feeding them your blood, and eventually they become some kind of fucking bipolar nut in love with you forever. You can keep them around at your hideout and abuse them in many many many ways. I think it's universally a redhaired chick who thinks she's just so in love with you for some reason. She's a good source of blood whenever you stop off at your hideout, and a source of fun if you tell her to change her appearance in a downright Patrick Batemanish sort of way, or drain her dry and throw her head first into the TV, or just jump on her and slam your pelvis into hers while moaning..... and feeding off her blood! Ah ha ha ha, fun. Oh yeah and you can make her beg pathetically for more of your blood while beating off and continuously quick loading, but the game will not beat you off for you, you have to do that manually. Also, there are alternate endings depending on what factions you are nice to, which ones you backstab or say bad things about behind their back. That and the different clans sort of maxes out the potential for replay value. Along with a console cheat that gives you as many experience points as you want (just put -console in the shortcut, load your character, and type giftxp # for however many xp points you want).

Overall? A good PC RPG, with flaws and flaws, but if you bear with it you'll probably have many more fond memories of the game than negative ones.

The Cable Brothers