Blood: One Unit Whole is an FPS game originally released in 1997 and features both expansion packs that were released for it. We play as an anti-hero protagonist called Caleb who has been betrayed by a demigod he once loyally served and has risen from the grave for vengeance. Hearing your motivation and the fact that Caleb dresses like an emo cowboy with glowing red eyes one might assume this to be a rather serious game but boy is that wrong. Nearly every word out of Caleb’s mouth is either a reference to pop culture of the 90’s or a witty one liner. Freshly risen from the grave your only weapon will be a pitchfork which is mostly a last resort weapon only useful against the lower tier creatures such as undead ax wielders. You’ll quickly find your next weapon, a simple flare gun that once fired at an enemy will usually set it on fire within a couple of seconds.
Nearly every weapon has an alt-fire for added diversity and options during combat. Your simple flare gun’s alt-fire allows you to shoot an exploding flare that has decent area of effect allowing you to clear out rooms in a rain of fire at the cost of more ammo than normally firing it. You’ll eventually run across your run of the mill shotgun and machine gun that are staples of the FPS genre but the rest of your arsenal is much more unique and memorable ranging from holding a lighter in front of a spray can for an improvised flamethrower to a voodoo doll you jam with a needle in order to harm the enemy in front of you. Learning how to use whatever is on hand is a necessity in Blood since there is simply not enough ammo for blasting your way through the game with the normal weapons. Fire and dangerous explosions will be your best friends if you plan to survive this brutal world.
Above all skills learning how to chuck a stick of dynamite thru a window without blasting yourself is a must. Dynamite is common and is devastating to most enemies as well as great at evening the odds when you are greatly outnumbered. There is a great variety of enemies but the most common are also the most dangerous. These enemies are The Cultists and they are packing heavy weaponry like machine guns and shotguns to ruin your day. While you may be undead, getting shot in the face still hurts and will drain your health/armor in no time. The Cultist’s aim is superhuman, being able to nail you right in the forehead from a huge distance with robot like reflexes and their placement in the levels further stacks the situation in their favor. If you expect something bad to happen or think that the sudden corner up ahead would be perfect for something to kill you chances are your instincts are right so be ready to fire at a moment’s notice or if you have a decent supply of dynamite chuck one to make sure there isn’t a mime waiting in the shadows to strangle you.
In addition to your weapons you will have multiple items at your disposal. These range from a portable medkit to a pair of boots that allows you to jump insanely high. They can be used anytime you wish however they do have very limited use and will be gone quick if you use them excessively. Scattered around the levels are items that will be used upon picking it up such as Akimbo Guns that allows you to dual wield two of the same weapons allowing you to relive the ending to Scarface with twice the manliness. In all seriousness that power-up would have been far better as a portable item instead of an immediate since whenever I usually picked one up I either didn’t need it or didn’t want to waste that much ammo. The more useful ones are the invisibility that allows you to wail on the clueless enemies in ghost form and a weird floating eye that will supercharge your overall health from the typical 100 to 200. The amount of options and opportunities to annihilate your foes are massive which leads to much more engaging gameplay than just going in blasting with a shotgun.
That’s not to say using the shotgun isn’t fun as well. As you may imagine with a name like Blood the game is very violent and enemies just fall apart, especially when you use the alt-fire to unleash both rounds from the barrel at once to splatter the room. Sometimes their head comes off and you can kick it around like a soccer ball until it breaks apart which is admittedly yet morbidly great fun. One thing that I love about Blood is that our character just loves what he is doing and will occasionally laugh like a madman whenever he causes carnage which never fails to bring a smile to my face. The voice acting is pretty good too and it really helps Caleb’s dark sense of humor. Whoever did the screaming for enemies on fire deserves some kind of acting award and it adds just that much more personality to this title.
Levels in this game are enormous and are brilliantly designed. They feature your key card hunting you’d expect out of the FPS games of yesteryear and require you to pay attention to your surroundings. From a level that has you fighting your way through a moving train, a city being bombarded by planes and your more suspenseful horror themed levels Blood has a ton of levels that will stick with you far after you completed the game. It’s not as simple as walking around everywhere to reach the end of a level. Multiple times you will have to go swimming underwater to reach a location which sounds like an easy task until the first time you see a giant shark with legs rapidly approaching towards you. Luckily you can still fire your guns underwater somehow but that won’t be much help when you are being attacked from all sides. Fleeing out of the water does you no good as they will jump right out and run on their freakish legs as they will not be denied their feast, lack of lungs be damned.
One semi-serious flaw of the underwater sections is the lack of visual feedback telling you how close you are to being out of breath causing you to start losing health. Your screen does get slightly red but something more noticeable such as an oxygen bar would have been far more preferable. Unfortunately this version of Blood is pretty sub-par. It has many problems running on modern machines like music not looping leaving you with nothing but ambiance noise throughout, tons of screen tearing and slowdown and the final 6th episode isn’t even playable in game, instead you must go to the game’s directory and drag the “Cryptic.exe” to the Dosbox program. The controls have been slightly modernized and movement is now “WASD” while offering horizontal mouse view meaning you can’t look up or down upon starting. Simply pressing the “U” key will allow you to look around freely and pressing the “I” key will add an aiming reticle. People say that the GOG version is better but as I don’t own it I can’t confirm these statements. Steam’s version is not unplayable but the poor performance and screen tearing are a major detractor.
It’s a shame really as this was my favorite of the trilogy of Build Engine games, the other two being Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior. Those two have been brought into the modern age and play great thanks to Devolver Digital’s respect for the hit 90’s shooters while Atari just plopped “Blood” onto the market, running on Dosbox with just enough tuning to make it playable. Blood is still a fun and unique game that has great level design, tons of weapons and interactive environments like workable light switches, certain walls being destructible and tons of creativity. Having 6 episodes to play through this is one title with a ton of playtime. There is just something so endearing about playing as the bad guy with no qualms about gunning down bystanders unfortunate enough to get in his way while cracking cheesy one liners which is a ton more memorable than the silent protagonist of so many other games. For those of us that played this game back in the day it is a solid low costing purchase regardless of the flaws but for those looking to get into old school shooters I’d suggest Duke 3D whenever Gearbox decides to put it on sale again.