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Microsoft Game Studios



Stormfront Studios



T (Teen)



Q4 2001



- Great water effects
- Cool weapons
- Easy control
- 2-4 player mode
- Fun missions



- No cut-scenes
- Uninspiring environments



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Blood Wake

Score: 8.5 / 10


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The subject of water games has always been a sensitive one. It‘s a nightmare for programmers and a tender spot for gamers who have been bitten by the use of crappy wave effects and glitchy physics. So to embark on the creation of a water based game is difficult as one flaw in the water physics and control can completely ruin an otherwise perfect game. To the contrary, an imperfect game can resurrect itself if it gets this aspect right. Enter Bloodwake. A game whose flaws are more obvious than it’s strong points but still manages to be exceptionally entertaining.

The story is actually not as bland and unimaginative as it seems yet it’s ingenuity is lost in the substandard presentation. Set in a South East Asian offshore environment, the main character leads an unsuccessful attack on a group of rebel




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pirates called the Shadow Clan and is saved by them after defeat. He then joins them and performs a variety of missions in their favor. The game has an interesting set of environments but cheats itself out of exploiting them with a lack of cinemas. Instead of cut-scenes there are pirate scroll-like drawings between each level narrated over by someone who sounds like they’re straight out of Water World. The


drawings are nice to look at but fail to display the power of the $300, 10-pound gorilla sitting underneath your television. Level objectives are displayed in text afterward so the story sequences are rendered inappropriate.

At first Bloodwake feels pretty incomplete and generic lacking an intro scene, or extensive options. You’ll quickly find yourself in a catamaran (or any one of the games many boats) slicing through the water – and what beautiful water it is. Depending on the waters mood you might have a calm dark sea or a swarthy raging waves in the middle of a storm and it looks so realistic. Most of the game is set in open expanses of water framed by nondescript stretches of land and changing weather conditions. Still, the backgrounds are well detailed and form a decent sense of environment. Camera angles never zoom in on anything (besides the front end of your boat in first person mode) so nothing is ever seen close up. As a result, the characters in the ships (enemy and ally) and objects on land are diluted in the picture of the whole. In the beginning this seems unappealing but once you realize that the real focus is on the boats and the water physics the other details are easily forgotten.


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Unlike a lot of the other Xbox exclusive first generation titles (Azurik, New Legends etc.) Bloodwake doesn’t hold its graphics up like a shield hiding all of its weak spots. While the graphics are realistic the game’s format doesn’t focus on visuals nearly as much. What the developers focused on most were the all important water/control physics. The water is amazingly present - you can almost feel it underneath the boat. In turn, the water’s turbulence affects the boat convincingly reducing your speed in choppy water or launching you above the waves if you hit them just right. Sometimes this can be annoying when you find yourself flipping through the air while enemies close in one your boat but you can avoid this once you learn to control it better. Although I haven’t seen any blood in the wake of any of these ships it’s impressive to see how perfectly the water reacts to all the activity in it. When you’re chasing a boat or riding the catamaran with a pulled back camera view the way the water separates is breathtaking.

Yet while the physics are realistic Stormfront studios had the crucial foresight to make the boat controls more precise than in real life to facilitate turning and chasing in intense situations. Each of the 10 boats you use throughout the game will handle the water slightly different but they all have precise control and can whip around quickly for intense gun battles. This is important because sometimes enemies’ll swarm you and you’ll need to change direction quickly. Also, each time you sink a boat power-up crates spring from the wreckage and you need to spin back around and collect them – something that would be extremely frustrating without such great control. The quick turbo boost helps speed things along in sticky situations.


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At first the games concept seems repetitive and simple but as you move along the play becomes addicting and satisfying in an old-school way. The first few missions are easy but the difficulty ramps up as you move along – they’re not too imaginative but never get monotonous. You’ll have to retrieve stolen property, sink vital enemy ships, protect land bases or escort important cargo plus complete sub-plots like the boat race mission. The variety of weapons at your disposal is meager but fun to play around with after you get the timing down. There are homing rockets, underwater torpedoes, water mines and cannon shells plus a few others to hunt down enemy boats. In the game, there’s nothing more satisfying than hearing the crunch of your torpedoes against a ships hull crackling through the salty air.

The soundtrack is another one of the games strengths. It has a nice Tribal/Asian beat and compliments the game immensely if heard through a good sound system. The two to four player mode is good if you can get that many people together – otherwise you can go head to head with a few computer controlled boats in a water arena sprinkled with power ups.

I have to say I was skeptical about this game. I expected it be another Xbox launch creampuff – hold the cream, extra puff. But about half an hour into it I couldn’t put it down and one by one my complaints evaporated into thin air. Cut scenes and greater detail would have been nice but it all boils down to the game play and in that department Bloodwake delivers well. Hopefully a sequel will iron out these minor wrinkles.

- Doug Flowe
(March 7, 2002)


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