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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Bloodborne.

Transcript Edit

I think it’s fair to say that a beach resort on the dark side of Mars would have an easier time making its money back than a lot of AAA games these days. Seems like there’s only two options: you can either make something with such broad mass market appeal that it could only possibly offend lunatics who get triggered by pre-animated takedown moves 'cause they were a neck in a previous life, or you do one specific thing so well that the people who are into that have no choice but to come to you for it, a business strategy that works for both three-legged dwarf gigolos and From Software, who have been doing one specific thing for about four games now.

Fortunately, it’s a thing I’m into because I like explorative Metroidvania-style gameplay, I like subtle storytelling, I like banging my head against a wall with a scary monster drawn on it, and most of all, I like being incredibly depressed by the inevitability of death and lifelong suffering that will probably come as a result of banging my head against a wall. From Demon's Souls to Dark Souls to Dark Souls II to Bloodborne; same shit, different anus.

Bloodborne is Dark Souls after running all the text through the find-and-replace a few times, and the first challenge for the seasoned Dark Souls veteran like myself is figuring out what they renamed everything to. Estus is now Blood Vials, Souls are now Blood Echoes, Titanite is now Bloodstones; something of a pattern emerging here. It’s all blood, all the time. It’s like that time of the month at the all-female gladiatorial arena. 

This is normally the point that I’d attempt to summarize the plot, but since my time machine is in the wash, I haven’t completely finished the game or gone through the whole thing with a team of archaeologists yet, so all I can say for certain is that you’re a chap or chappette in a slightly pre-industrial fantasy London full of angry townsfolk and werewolves, and your goal is to explore places and murder things until the game tells you to stop, and there’s something to do with a nightmare that makes things turn increasingly surreal, until you’re mainly fighting twisted monstrosities with four bums for a face, which I've personally have had nightmares about since the day I got trapped at the bottom of an orgy during a stomach virus outbreak.

It’s interesting to note that Dark Souls was about fighting dudes in armour and the odd malformed grotesquery with seven bollocks for a neck and Dark Souls II went on to be mainly just be about fighting dudes in armour, so appropriately Bloodborne takes the divergent path and becomes mainly about fighting smashed together abominations with eleven vaginas for a shin. There’s a wet, filthy, diseased overtone to the aesthetic that reminds me of a 7/11 sausage roll, but design-wise I’d say it’s closer to Dark Souls I than Dark Souls II was.

Dark Souls II went mostly for linear open areas with one entrance and one exit, while Bloodborne goes back to the maze-like environments that twist around and loop back into themselves appropriately enough like a handful of old tripe, with a starting city being most strongly reminiscent of the undead burg from Dark Souls if a touch more unintuitively laid-out (if you can believe that!), frequently raising the familiar Dark Souls feeling: Thank fucking Christ I found a dead end at last. Now I can try one of the other nine routes I discovered on my way here right after I investigate this innocuous looking pile of dead crows- ARGH! GEDDOFF! GEDDOFF! GEDDOFF!

As is always the case with 'the From Software game’, for there is only one, the broad strokes are the same but the nipples have been tweaked; the combat might be the plumpest and rosiest one. There’s a gun now, which introduces the concept of riposting attacks without having to take a meaty biff to the mush if you miss the two nanosecond window. Shielding is out, but you get health back if you hit them right after they hit you, favoring the frenetic girly slap-fight over the cautious approach, and you better get slapping, because you don’t fill up your potions at check points anymore. That’s fine when you’re in one of the areas where enemies drop health potions like they’re on their way home from the health potion keg party, but if you’re not and are in full bang-head-on-wall-mode trying to get past a boss, then to have the best possible chance, then every few tries you have to go back to a previous area that is now so beneath you, it can only be picked up by deep sea geological surveying, and beg the locals for health potions like a Big Issue seller with a halberd.

I don’t play 'the From Software game' to stop banging my head on a wall for a while, I wanna bang it again and again, feeling it break a little more each time, before victory finally comes and I can go to the Accident and Emergency. And if they’re gonna patch the game at all, here’s a big fat suggestion they can consider the top of the priority list like your gran on a strippers’ pole, Please let us warp from any bonfire (or lantern, whatever) to any other bonlanfiretern. As it stands, you have to warp to the little green between worlds before you can warp anywhere else, so if you’re doing a lot of warping around exploring or scrounging potions, then you have to go through two loading screens to get anywhere, and the loading times are almost unforgivably bad! I've been staring at the game's logo so long I can see the patchy wedding invitation font every time I close my eyes. It’s almost deal-breakingly obnoxious for the game model that lives by the motto: If at first you don’t succeed, die, die, die again. 

Still, at least we can take solace in the fact that this will NEVER be fixed because Sony gotta have their fucking exclusives! If there were a PC version, we’d know if the loading times were shit, there could be something we could do about it- buy better hardware for our rig, feed it chocolate truffles- but that loathsome little plastic cunt under my TV wants to keep 'the From Software game' away from all his old friends like a bitchy fiancée.

Maybe the loading times wouldn't be so long if some things weren't so bloody overdesigned! A user message can no longer just be a simple orange sprite that's easy to spot against murky backdrops. Nooo, now there must be dancing skeletons all around every single one, popping off champagne corks as the words are inscribed in gold dust on the midriff of a virgin. I’m guessing this is someone’s idea of “Next Gen”. 

It’s odd because otherwise the model’s been fairly streamlined: no equipment loads, not as much variety in weapons and armour, although you can bling up your weapons with gems- sorry, blood-gems, how could I forget! On the whole, while Bloodborne is a huge game, the standard From Software model is plonker-tuggingly huge game, so that’s a step back if anything. 

I like it more than Dark Souls II. The twisted atrocity boss is much more visually interesting than the dude-in-armour boss, but how many times, From Software, are you gonna fall back on "monster made up off multiple bodies smashed together?" It was cool when Castlevania did it, now it’s getting old. It just makes me wonder if the bodies ever argue over who has to be the arse. 

Addenda Edit

  • Bloody hell: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Bloodborne is actually the evil parallel universe version of Melbourne
  • Who is this mystery person who keeps wrapping everything in bandages
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells

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