If you ask your fellow gamer whether they're familiar with the Build engine, two things can happen. One, they'll stare at you with the perplexed expression of a hypnotized lemur. Or two, they'll stare at you with the perplexed expression of a hypnotized lemur. Some may cite Duke Nukem 3D, which popularized the engine; maybe Redneck Rampage if they're well-versed in '90s shooters on the PC. But the one I don't hear people talk about often enough is Blood. And that's no bueno, because this FPS has gunplay that outdoes Duke, scares that make Doom II seem G-rated, and an unsettling strangeness that's up there with the original Quake. It's also eminently quotable, provided you're a weirdo like me
You might recognize Blood's box art: a dripping, crimson handprint slapped onto a black background. It's an apt symbol of what awaits you. Though Blood is packed to the gills with gut-blasting, body-mulching violence, it also conveys an incredibly creepy atmosphere that's as disturbing as it is stimulating. You're Caleb, an Old West gunman who just so happens to be dead. The first Episode (because this was when shooters did that) opens with Caleb rising from his grave, ready to get revenge on The Cabal: cultists and their dark lord Tchernobog, who took Caleb in before orchestrating his death.
The opening line is an Army of Darkness classic: "I live…again" (my second favorite resurrection quote after the Warcraft II Death Knight's "I'm alive"). From that moment on, it's a parade of eviscerating zombies, pumping cultists full of lead, and lobbing bundles of dynamite into densely populated buildings. The visual style is memorably odd, blending free-hand pixel art with monsters that look like digitized claymation puppets. Blood was also the first game I ever played that involved corpse physics puzzles; some secret areas require that you punt baddies' decapitated skulls into receptacles like a soccer-loving serial killer.
But amidst all this virtual, self-indulgent sadism is some knee-slapping dark comedy. Caleb takes it upon himself to make as many quips and pop culture references as Duke Nukem--only, instead of taking the egotistical 'roid monkey approach, Caleb's one-liners have the kind of vicious snark that only someone who loathes all living things could muster. "When you get to hell, tell them I sent you. You'll get a group discount." "I'm here to donate some blood. Somebody else's." That sort of thing.
He's not the only quotable character, though--the brown-robed Cabal cultists that you spend much of your time slaying have quite a bit to say themselves, in a shrill, bizarre-sounding fake language. It's one thing to hear a tommy-gun-brandishing acolyte from around the corner, muttering to himself and fully unaware that in seconds, you'll be shooting his face at point-blank range with a sawed-off shotgun. It's another to set foot into a room, only to have a dozen cultists screaming in your face as they turn your reanimated body to Swiss cheese. You remember how creepy it was hearing Resident Evil 4's Los Iluminados fervently chanting as they slowly closed in on you? This is like the freakier version of that, almost a decade prior.
After a while, though, what was once disturbing becomes hilarious. When you hear a cultist screech "Marana Infirmux!" for the fifteenth time, their unnerving war cries suddenly sound like ridiculous patter. To make matters even more hilarious, the Cabal member's death rattles are high-pitched squeals that sound Homer Simpson-esque. Before long, you may find yourself blurting out their strange-sounding banter without realizing it.
Blood quotes somehow worked their way into my repertoire during college. My favorite line wasn't from the cultists, though--it was a goofy misinterpretation of the most emotional moment in the game. During the opening of the first boss fight, Caleb stumbles onto a horrible sight: his fellow cultist and lover, strung up dead on a stone slate. "Ophelia…NOOOOOOOOO!" Caleb screams in anguish, before challenging her gargoyle-looking murderer to show himself. But for some reason, all I heard during my numerous boss attempts was "Muffiyaya? NOOOOOOOOO!" This absurd, completely non sequitur line made me chuckle to no end, and I would blurt it out during deaths in other games. Before long, my roommates were saying it despite having never played Blood in their lives.
I didn't even talk about Blood's best feature: the imaginative, diabolical arsenal, which includes pitchforks, aerosol-can-plus-lighter flamethrowers, remote detonators, and--best of all--voodoo dolls. But I suggest you try out their fearsome killing power for yourself, given how a measly six bucks is all that stands between you reading this and you playing Blood. Who knows--as you massacre your way through this underappreciated FPS, you might just pick up a new catchphrase.
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