by Alessandro Ebersol (Agent Smith)
In a region known for cruelty, Caleb was legendary. Born in West Texas in 1847, he earned the reputation of a ruthless gunman at just 17 years old. His blood lust found a new menacing tone as he entered the Tchernobog cult. But the real massacre began when he was betrayed and discarded by his master, the God of Darkness Tchernobog...
So begins the Blood game, a first person shooter video game developed by Monolith Productions and published by GT Interactive Software. The shareware version was released for the PC on March 5, 1997, while the full version was released on May 31, 1997 in North America, and June 20, 1997 in Europe.
The game begins with the four chosen in the presence of his master, Tchernobog, and for some unknown reason at the time, punished and shattered. To each of them a horrible end is given: One is devoured by hellhounds, another is attacked by a giant spider, Shial, Ofelia, the love interest of our hero, is dragged into the darkness by Cheog, one of Tchernobog servants, and finally, Caleb, is thrown into the darkness of the abyss, where the words of Tchernobog echo "consider my power, in an empty grave."
Years later, in the 1920s, he wakes up in a grave, in the Morningside cemetery, and exclaims: I live. Again!
But the land that Caleb finds is very different from the one he left. The cult of Tchernobog grew as Caleb rotted in the grave, to the point that now it dominates almost all of the land. Yes, cultists of Tchernobog walk the streets in preparation for the arrival of his master to this world. And because of this proximity, the dead were awakened from their eternal sleep, and infest the streets.
Caleb revived by the same power that destroyed him, will seek for revenge against the being who betrayed him. It is evil against a greater evil.
Concept design of the Caleb character
Thus starts the epic story of Blood, following a gunman revived against the cabal of Tchernobog and a myriad of monsters loyal to Tchernobog: Zombies, hell hounds, gargoyles, giant spiders, rats, bats, possessed hands (as in Evil Dead).
The gameplay is similar to the common FPS of the era where the player must find the way out of a level, seeking keys, solving puzzles, and of course fighting against hordes of monsters and Tchernobog servants, always seeking to reach the next stage.
Blood is organized into four episodes, each episode containing a total of 8-9 different maps that consist of 6-7 regular levels, a boss level and a secret level. The level design is varied, as some levels seem to lead to each other, but others jump to the player. Some levels were inspired by the cities of the time, with places like buildings, museums, pubs and shopping malls. Others are generic temples or mines.
Weapons, artifacts and bonus items appear in Blood. Firearms include a flare gun, a sawed off shotgun, and a Tommy gun, explosive weapons like dynamite and napalm launcher, a shock rifle named after the inventor Nikola Tesla, and various artifacts of black magic, including a Voodoo doll and an aerosol can that can be used as a flamethrower. The game also features a power-up known as "Guns Akimbo," which allows the player to use certain weapons in pairs (with both hands, à la John Woo).
Graphics can be improved and seen in 640x480, and are considered the best graphics of all the games based on the Build engine, by the engine's creator, Ken Silverman. Even though most are 2D bitmaps, they are very well-made and neat.
Here's where Blood excels: The work of actor Stephan Weyte is fantastic. If Duke Nukem had funny one liners, Blood has over a hundred lines where Caleb, by the acting talents of Stephan Weyte, comments the deaths of his opponents in the game, or events succeeding to the player. The interpretation of Weyte is the high point, where his voice smooth, sarcastic and sadistic, gives the exact tone of the game: a laughing terror.
A labyrinth where we find Jack Torrance frozen? I think I've seen this movie.
Blood is considered today as the best of games based on the Build engine, surpassing even Duke Nukem 3D. At the time, however, it was eclipsed by the launch of Quake 1, which was a great injustice. After all, the game is super fun.
Ignored at launch, it gained a legion of fans over the years, so much so that many websites have been created about the game. Total conversions of Doom and even Duke Nukem appeared, as well as attempts on unofficial remakes and re-creations.
The game is something like a virtual version of a horror movie from the Evil Dead franchise. Yes, it's that good. The exact mixture of fright, adventure and humor is present in this game. The game is very difficult, but rewarding, either with the cartoonish deaths of Caleb's opponents or funny comments he does when bad things happen to the player, when one reaches the end, the feeling of accomplishment is rewarding and fulfilling.
Besides the cultural references of several films (Evil Dead, The Shining, Return of The Living Dead, etc.), there are references as well to TV shows and pop lore, like the Simpsons.
And, costing US $3.19, it is a bargain, something to buy without blinking.
GOG offers the Blood package: One Unit Whole Blood, which includes the original Blood and the addons Plasma Pak and Cryptic Passage. The package has 287 MB to download, also includes three manuals in PDF, the soundtrack and the video "Love You to Death".
The url of the game is: https://www.gog.com/game/one_unit_whole_blood. The package will be downloaded to your computer, and installed by a script in your /home folder.
As always, I recommend using DBGL to manage your DOS games and use the native DOSBOX of PCLinuxOS, and not the bundled version in the package.
As written above, the game achieved cult status, and today there are several sites dedicated to unofficial addons, extra levels and conversions made by fans. It is worth exploring all there is about Blood, beginning on the site http://www.blood-wiki.org, starting point for all things Blood on the internet.
Blood also had a sequel, Blood 2, which is also available from GOG, however only for Windows. It works in PCLinuxOS via POL (PlayOnLinux), so, you can play it too. But it is a topic for another future article.
And the future of Blood?
Blood became a legally controversial item, since the rights to the game IP belong to Atari, but the engine of Blood is owned by Monolith productions, which is now part of Warner games.
Therefore, a third incarnation of Blood is unlikely at the moment.
Let's enjoy Blood, a game that turned 20 in May, but is still highly playable, challenging and fun today.