With an influx of DOOM-esque games currently on the market, it’s no surprise that Bloodhound, a retro-style indie FPS, has recently joined the ranks, too, via Steam. The game’s early marketing campaign shines a spotlight on a splendid, grotesque, hellish, and optional nude offering.
But visuals alone simply won’t cut it in the now-flooded boomer shooter market. Neither will a spat-out copycat of a classic formula feel stretched out too thin. So, I guess the question ahead of booting up Bloodhound is whether the game manages to carve out a unique identity for itself or is merely a regurgitated rendition of the old days.
Compared to boomer shooter games from the ‘90s and early 2000s, like Painkiller, Quake, and Unreal Tournament, or even the modern Metal: Hellsinger, they did an outstanding job replicating the DOOM arena shooter electronic formula while still standing on their own two feet. But each added a unique specialty of their own that helped shoot them out into the spotlight.
Sadly, other more recent entries don’t bother setting themselves apart from the original boomer shooters and, as a result, wound up drowning in the flood. So, is Bloodhound going to be a success story of the former bunch, or will a few months from now gradually slip out of memory into existential gloom? Let’s find out in our Bloodhound review down below.
Jump Straight to the Action
If you head into Bloodhound expecting some kind of compelling story, please don’t. Boomer shooter fans never boot up their next hellfire storm expecting to be tugged at the heartstrings – so you shouldn't. Instead, Bloodhound jumps straight to the action and makes no apologies whatsoever.
All the game is willing to give is a stream of comic pictures at the start of the game. Outstanding job, to be fair, but with no connective plot to them, so try not to make sense out of them. It doesn’t tell us who the protagonist is or what their motives are. We don’t even see the protagonist to begin with—their hands even. Simply, a shotgun hanging loosely on the screen, waiting for you (the player) to fire at will.
Onward, the game doesn’t split its “missions” into chapters. There is no sense of story progression or objectives to guide your path. At this point, I bet you’re beginning to get the idea that, yes, in fact, Bloodhound is a no-story type of game that throws you into the sea and lets you somehow find your bearing out swimming with the sharks.
But Bloodhound isn’t entirely without some kind of structure. It splits its missions into five acts, each with a boss battle. In the meaty parts of the game, you’ll fight off hordes of demons of different kinds across different arenas. There are no checkpoints (which would ideally be objectives) in between the acts. So, it’s difficult to grab dinner, as you may find yourself restarting the act from the beginning.
Grotesque and Beautiful
In Bloodhound’s defense, though, the levels do have distinct and intricate details within them. They are structured as narrow corridors and tiny or big rooms that you traverse through in a mostly linear fashion. “Mostly” because you may steer off the beaten path for a little while to locate keys and collectibles like hourglasses that give you special abilities like slowing down time.
The pathways lead you into an arena where relatively short combat encounters take place. With nowhere to go, your only option is to wipe out all the enemies within the arena. When you’re done, a pathway to the next one opens up, and then the next, and the next, until you reach the end of the game.
Fortunately, the pathways look stunning. They spot creepy, hellish features distinct from each other. So, even as you backtrack, it’s relatively difficult to get lost. Visually, Bloodhound looks pretty decent, too. It incorporates Unreal Engine 4, which displays grim detail on the environments and enemies as well.
Enemies aren’t always the scariest of the bunch. They’re cultists and demons of varied types. Some fly, others stand awkwardly still, while others launch toward you for the kill. They also attack in different ways, with some launching projectiles from afar and others wielding swords that deflect ammo (except shotguns).
On the other hand, boss fights are superb, with varied attack patterns and posing a good enough challenge to engage you as enemies swarm all around you. Some bosses even throw bear traps around the arena. So, while you have to be on the move constantly, you also have to watch out for hazards.
On the Move
Bloodhound perfectly nails its fast-paced combat. It encourages always moving about the arena. So, despite fighting in an enclosed area, the pacing is enticing. Besides evading enemy projectiles, you’re always on the move because enemies could spawn from anywhere. They can spawn behind you, in your face, or even above you, and picking them off as soon as they spawn is the best way to stay alive.
Fortunately, you have 10 weapons to blast the demons back where they came from. Most of them are generic – shotguns, revolvers, crossbows, machine guns, etc. However, Bloodhound has some interesting new additions; frankly, the one innovative thing that stands out in the entire game is a chainsaw-cum-flamethrower.
You’ll inevitably switch between weapons. However, a few will quickly become personal favorites, likely the shotgun and chainsaw-cum-flamethrower that pack an extra punch. However, the others pretty much feel generic. It’s fun blasting enemies across an arena. But when the same enemies respawn in the subsequent arenas in the same exact ways, nitty-gritty issues begin to take their toll.
Not Quite There Yet
Enemy respawns lack ingenuity. It’s swarms of them, spawning all over the place and lacking any accompanying chill sound effects—maybe screams—to keep the fights interesting. The only sound effects are your gunshots, which don’t feel nearly as good as they should. Otherwise, there isn’t much else to create an immersive experience that a place crawling with demons should induce.
During fights, you blast off to a hard rock soundtrack that’s perfect for the bullet fire you’ll often engage in. However, it hardly has any build-up, intensifying at the peak of battles. Plus, the soundtrack is the same heavy metal piece streaming over and over again. Meanwhile, trekking the corridor and room pathways has an atmospheric sound playing in the background, which is decent but hardly bone-chilling.
While we’re at it, I should also mention that you don’t have any minimaps or pause screens to help locate your position. So, if you miss picking up a key or collectible or can’t open the door to the next level, you may need to backtrack your way to find what you might have missed.
Before long, missions become repetitive, which is bound to happen when immersion through sound and sight is only decently achieved. It’s the same arenas, with the same enemies, who fight the same way, over and over again, until the end. Perhaps a compelling story would have helped smooth things over. Or simply a polished mission structure that packs a punch whenever you fire or are fired upon.
No matter how you look at it, every gameplay element in Bloodhound is only decently done. There isn’t a single element that stands out, whether in the game or the genre as a whole. A chainsaw-cum-flamethrower is the best innovation so far. But it hardly packs the badass punch you might expect, and the consequent animation barely looks as ravishing as you might hope.
With the swarms of enemies constantly coming at you, it’s impressive to see Bloodhound hold its own on the graphic and performance side of things. Picking off randomly spawned enemies from every angle requires a smooth-running performance, and on that front, the game succeeds.
However, enemy placement is wanting. It hardly feels creative, and after a few runs, it begins to feel annoying instead, especially when enemies hardly pose a challenge. Some enemies can wield swords that can deflect bullets, which raises the stakes for you. However, the same enemies cannot deflect shotguns. So, it becomes a matter of switching weapons whenever you run into them.
In the end, Bloodhound comes out looking like a mindless shooter for you to have fun with in the short run-through—relatively five hours, give or take. Afterward, it pays no mind whether you move on from it to undoubtedly way better entries in the genre out there. It’s sad, though, because some elements truly deliver pretty fun moments, evidently well-thought-out, which begs the question, was Bloodhound rushed, low-budgeted, or simply unpolished?
Bloodhound Review (PC)
Retro-Style Indie FPS for DOOM-esque Fans
Bloodhound takes us back to the old days of the arena shooter electronic formula of games like DOOM, Quake, and Painkiller. It throws a fresh coat of paint on an old-school formula that still retains a growing fanbase to date. If you fancy a mindless shooter that doesn’t take itself too seriously, you should enjoy a pretty decent, fun time playing it.