Blade II was released the same day as the film of the same name on home video (September 3rd, 2002), and was the last game to star the vampire hunter outside of playable appearances in things like the Ghost Rider games and Marvel Ultimate Alliance. While it didn’t come out in time for the North American theatrical release of the movie, it’s the closest of the three games starring Blade to be considered a film tie-in. The instruction manual also references the first film as back story for the title. Besides coming out for the Xbox console, it also came out for the PS2 with the only real difference in the versions being the exclusive trench coat in the Xbox version (I am not making that up).
The game shares the same publisher as the PS1 title, Activision, but hailed from developer Mucky Foot Productions. From what I’ve been able to gather about them, they worked on a PS1/DC title called Urban Chaos (not to be confused with a game of the same name I will talk about later), a PC title called Startopia, and information that I’ve been unable to confirm stated they were working on a Punisher title amongst other things prior to the studio closing in 2003.
Whereas the first Blade console title tried to mimic the popular survival horror titles found on the PS1, Blade II was focused more heavily on action, with its most prominent feature being its interesting hand to hand combat system. As opposed to having melee mapped to a button, Blade II’s combat is mapped entirely to the right analog stick making it one of the first games in my memory to offer crowd control in its fighting system.
When in combat you push the analog stick in the direction of your attacker and you move the stick in slow, rhymytic motions to perform combos. In a scenario where you’re faced with foes on multiple sides you can chose to focus on pretty much anyone surrounding you. It’s a little bit weird to get used to at first, but once you get the hang of it the combat in the game is actually pretty fun and interesting. Before the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Arkham City, not a lot of games offered a way to confront multiple enemies at once.
With the right analog stick mapped to fighting, that takes player camera control off the table. The game does a fairly good job of keeping the camera in a decent position, and there wasn’t a lot of circumstances where I couldn’t see where an attacker was coming from. Unlike Blade on PS1, you also have a quick 180 degree turn you can execute by double tapping the left analog stick twice.
Outside of fisticuffs, Blade has other tools in his disposal for fighting vampires. Initially you start off with only a pistol, but you can unlock other weapons an armor like the glaive, a shotgun, and UV grenades by collecting points found within the levels or be completing secondary objectives designated before the start of each level. The upgrades you get aren’t very extensive, and you’ll most likely accumulate everything by the end of the first Act. Before entering a stage, you have a limited amount of space in which to carry extra inventory so you must be selective. You do access to Blade’s sword as well, but that is only available when you trigger the “Rage” mode.
Though the combat system is interesting enough to keep you going through the game, Blade II’s levels are pretty dull. In fact, later in on the game you’ll have two different levels as part of an act where in the first you’ll go through the level, and in the second you’ll just go backwards. The stages themselves are also fairly long with sparse checkpoints found within, so if you die, you loses a lot of progress. The enemies have a tendency to respawn as you’re going through as well, so you lure yourself into a false sense of security when you think you’ve cleared out all the opposition. Blade II also has two of those protection missions that I’m ever so fond of, but here the problem is compounded by the fact that your hits actually hurt the one you protect (you always do, don’t you….) and as the game is close quarters melee focused, they end up getting caught in the fray rather easily.
As I stated above, Blade II is probably the closest film tie-in of the three games but it’s hard to place just exactly where it takes place in context of the franchise. The first film is summed up in the manual, but Whistler is alive through the entire game (he does the tutorial in fact) so it must take place after the film, however there are reaper strain vampires in the game, and I assume they were taken care of but guess there was some left over. Blade also has a tendency to spout random lines from the film when he dispatches an enemy that are oddly out of place. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer is solid advice, but not something that goes with driving a stake in a vampires skull.
While I did enjoy Blade II, mostly because of the combat system, it didn’t keep me as engaged as the PS1 original. If you want to check it out, I believe it won’t set you back very much money and it is backwards compatible with the Xbox 360, though I did have problems accessing the pause menu so I ended up playing on the Xbox 1.