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Vampire, The Masquerade: Bloodlines

Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, is a fabulous game developed by Troika based on two solid foundations: the Half-Life 2 Source Engine and White Wolf’s popular Vampire the Masquerade pen, paper, and dice RPG.  Though it was ready for release a year ago, the delay of Half-Life 2’s release meant that Troika had to sit on the product for a year due to licensing agreements.  The good news for fans is that Troika’s used the extra year to further refine the game.

Let’s deal with the first item: Valve’s famous Source engine.  It’s the physics-based 3D FPS engine that also includes character models with highly detailed muscular and skeletal modeling.  Each character in the game (and there are lots, since this is an RPG!) is unique in his or her look and clothes.  As you converse with people in the world, you’ll get an up-close view of their face as their eyes look eerily into yours and their facial expressions accurately depict their mood.  Environments also benefit from the Source engine.  The gritty nightlife of Los Angeles and its surrounding regions are captured well by Troika’s efforts.  Dim alleyways, fire escapes, and rooftops will be your favorite haunts as a vampire prowling the streets of LA.

But what’s this all about?  White Wolf is the publisher of a wildly popular RPG played on old-fashioned pen and paper.  The RPG is designed to accurately model the behavior, skills, and attributes of vampires and their respective clans.  By bringing that entire damage, combat, and character back-end to what looks like a first-person shooter, Troika has successfully created a fantastic game with the depth of an RPG and the frenzied action of an FPS.

The coolest feature of this game is the way it captures the delicate balance between the vampire world and the human world.  You can’t just run around the nightclub district biting people in the neck.  The name of the game is The Masquerade, meaning you’ll have to pretend that you’re just a regular Joe in some portions of the game.  Of course, those are the times when role-playing is supremely important.  For the other parts of the game when you can bring out your vampire abilities, the combat really shines.  You can use guns, swords, knives, or just your hands and canines to wreak havoc against bystanders and enemies alike.

Vampire, The Masquerade: Bloodlines is shaping up to be one of the sleeper hits of the holiday season. Slated for release just a day after Half-Life 2, and based on the same engine as Half-Life 2, the scope of the game is just as important to the video game industry.  Unfortunately, it will likely be overshadowed for a time by Half-Life 2’s immense marketing machine.  When the dust has settled, however, I recommend you pick up the title.