I’ll say straight away that I’ve never played a Vampire: The Masquerade game, though, obviously, I know them by reputation. Gothic RPGs, right? Games about playing a leather-and-lace bloodsucker in modern-day society, tonally sandwiched somewhere between the Underworld movies and The Dresden Files books. But despite my ignorance, I am very into Bloodhunt right now, the free-to-play battle royale spin-off that’s out on PS5 and PC.
It’s pretty fun, though I admit part of why I like it is simply because I find it, how to put this, so… so… Adorable!
Too Ghoul for School
Seriously, are all the Vampire: The Masquerade games this hilarious?! There’s this amazing edgelord Evanescence seriousness to Bloodhunt that puts me in mind of a 15-year-old writing their first graphic novel, trying for “adult” ideas before going too far and toppling into comical immaturity. The hub area you form lobbies in is part-fetish nightclub, part-sacrificial cult chamber, and part-revolutionary hideout, like every location from the Matrix trilogy roughly crammed into one building. The costumes alternate between figure-hugging body armour, Hot Topic hoodies and sleek Armani suits. And no matter how hard you customise them, the player characters are all either slavering monsters or pouting Instagram hotties – or sometimes both.
That’s all very quaint and cute, but 2003 aesthetics aren’t everything. No, the main reason I found myself taken with Bloodhunt is its gameplay, which, somewhat surprisingly, can best be described as a battle royale take on Crackdown. You leap around the Prague skyline, bouncing from rooftop to rooftop like the bloodsucking flea that no doubt lies somewhere in your character’s distant ancestry, swiping guns off the ground and taking potshots at any other revenant who pokes their toothsome head into view.
I was already into it, but what makes it work are several gameplay twists. For one thing, there’s various classes with their own unique superpowers, some of which do seem to be stretching vampire lore a tad. I didn’t know Dracula could do ground-pound shockwaves or literally weaponise his sexiness into a flashbang, for example, but I won’t complain now it’s here. It means that conflicts are more flavourful than simply being two hissing ghouls with assault rifles springing around each other until one of them slips on a loose shingle and falls on an unsuspecting Deliveroo driver.
Speaking of which, that’s the other big feature – mauling the cattle-like NPC. Oblivious humans roam around at street level, and you can drop down at any point to bite out some throats, which allows you to regain health and even get special combat-enhancing perks, depending on the person’s blood type.
However, it’s not without risks – if any mortal sees you commit a social faux pas, like eating a mother of three or firing a minigun into a flower market, it triggers the titular “Bloodhunt.” Alarms start ringing across the map and you’re marked to all other players for the next minute, becoming a big glowing target that can be seen even through walls. Seems a bit hypocritical to me that all the other vampires are trying to execute you for the crime of vampirism, but at least it makes for an interesting mechanic, and means you have to think about stealth and subtlety whenever you drop off the rooftops – or risk becoming an easy kill for everybody nearby.
So I was having a decent time, testing crossbows and weighing up various vintages of O-Negative, until I discovered the joy of melee weapons. I assumed that the rifles and shotguns I was finding were more deadly than simple bats and clubs, but it just goes to show what I know. Bloodhunt’s not great at explaining itself to begin with, and it certainly wasn’t quick to tell me that the various fire axes, katanas and sports equipment laying around Prague all came with lifesteal effects. It means that as long as I kept bashing people, my body kept recovering from whatever they were doing to me.
Immediately, I switched to the burly “Enforcer” class with the invulnerability powers, and suddenly I was playing a hyper-powered version of Dead by Daylight as the infamous bouncing butcher of Prague. Jumping like a grasshopper and landing axe-first on an unsuspecting sniper, or following somebody into an alleyway and watching them madly scrabble at the walls as they tried to escape me was delightful, a malevolent joy matched only by the one felt when I was draining them like a juice box moments later. Why don’t all battle royales have this feature? Fortnite would be far better if you could eat Ariana Grande or the cast of Cobra Kai.
And now that’s basically all I do in Bloodhunt. Sure, there’s guns, and sure, they’re fine if you’re into that sort of thing, but clubbing the undead like baby seals is clearly going to be my de-stresser for at least the next couple of weeks. Sometimes I’ll be the class that can teleport and sometimes I’ll be the one that can create moving barriers, but either way, it’s all solely to creep up on the immortal creatures of the night and drive them into the ground like tent pegs. Simon Belmont’s got nothing on me.
From one of the best vampire games out now, to the best zombie games – which are your favourite?