Platform: PC
Release Date: May 31, 1997
Developers: 3D Realms/Monolith Productions
Players: 1 (solo campaign)

When most people think back to early first-person-shooter games, they automatically recall classics like DOOM, DUKE NUKEM, and QUAKE, all of which emerged in the mid-to-late 90’s. It’s no surprise, since all of the aforementioned spawned highly successful franchises, spanning a wide range of sequels, consoles, and even film adaptations. If you really put people to the task, they may even remember oddball titles like HERETIC, POSTAL, or the satirical REDNECK RAMPAGE. However, in 1997 a game developed by 3D Realms and Monolith Productions was released. A game that, for all its worth, still seems to fly under the radar more often than not. A true FPS for the horror fan, chocked full of horror references that would make any genre buff smile! That game… was BLOOD.

BLOOD places you in the character of Caleb, a freshly resurrected gunslinger and former leader of a cult known as The Cabal, who worship the long-forgotten god Chernobog. After rising to the top of The Cabal, he and his fellow cult leaders are summoned before the god, and then savagely murdered for an unrevealed failure. At the start of the game, he has no idea why he has been brought back to life, but knows he must find Chernobog to gain answers, and to extract his vengeance. Throughout the game, Caleb is a merciless killer with no regard for life whatsoever, deriving a certain glee from each enemy he must vanquish on his quest.

Never in a million years would I bash DOOM, DUKE NUKEM, or heck, even WOLFENSTEIN 3D. Without those trailblazers, the FPS genre of gameplay wouldn’t have exploded in popularity the way it did. And certainly, games like DOOM, D.N., OR W3D have horrific elements to them; whether you’re fighting demons on Mars, mercy-killing beautiful women ensnared by tentacle monsters, or gunning down Nazis, there’s a high enough creep-factor to satisfy any horror gamer. But the fact is, those games were never intended to be full-on horror games. That’s where BLOOD is different. You don’t start the game wielding a gun and attacking demons in a futuristic or modern setting; you start off in a goddamn cemetery (right beside the “Morningside Mortuary”, for all you Phantasm fans) brandishing a pitchfork!

Your weapons range from somewhat normal firearms like a flare gun, a sawed-off shotgun, and sticks of dynamite, to downright bizarre items like a voodoo doll, aerosol spray cans employed as flamethrowers, and even an experimental rifle named after Nikola Tesla! And lucky you, you get to use all of these weapons to take down level after level of flesh hungry zombies, bloodstained butchers with meat cleavers, insane cultists, gargoyles, giant spiders, and more! The stages lead you through some uber-creepy settings, including the previously mentioned cemetery and mortuary, as well as a carnival, an abandoned hospital, a train station, and more. As I said, the stages and the enemies are both tailored to appease the horror fan. And in 1997, in the midst of all the other first person shooters that were being released, this was exactly the sort of game I was looking for!

As I mentioned earlier, the game is rife with horror references. Throughout the six episodes the game is broken up into, there are references to: PHANTASM, ARMY OF DARKNESS, H.P. LOVECRAFT, JAWS, FRANKENSTEIN, THE SHINING (you need to traverse the hedgemaze on your way to the “Overlooked Hotel”… and if you keep your eyes open, you’ll even spot the frozen body of Jack Torrance!) IT’S ALIVE, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (in episode 4, look for Freddy Krueger’s sweater and hat on the wall of the house), FRIDAY THE 13TH (plenty of nods to the series here as you travel around the cabins of Crystal Lake…), and DAWN OF THE DEAD.

Flesh hungry zombies, psychotic butchers, pitchfork brutalities, flare-gun fatalities… I think it’s pretty clear the game is bloody violent. I mean, it has the word right in its title! Gorehounds will not be disappointed.

I don’t know how difficult it is to get ahold of the game these days, or even how feasible it is to the run game considering it was originally released on DOS. However, if you’re lucky enough to find a Windows friendly version (or even run the game through an emulator) you’ll find BLOOD to be a truly satisfying gaming experience. I’ve included a video of the introduction, first level, and the ending of BLOOD, so choose carefully how much of the game you want to see. Much like DOOM, DUKE NUKEM, and all the other FPS games I’ve mentioned throughout the course of this review, BLOOD has an extremely high replay value. The first level alone never gets old, and in this reviewer’s humble opinion, BLOOD succeeds where many modern horror games fail. Though the graphics by today’s standards leave much to be desired, the well-crafted gameplay and macabre levels never fail to leave you wanting more!