I finished Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines: Too Many Colons last night, and I had nightmares. Not about vampires, just car crashes and stuff, but it was that intense. (This is a follow-up to my in-progress review.)
It was about forty hours of game, so I definitely got my $5 worth.
In some ways VMB shows how much of a game can be subpar without ruining it, if it’s good at its core competence. The graphics are too low-res; sneaking is absurdly simple; the vampiric disciplines for my Toreador were not phenomenal. (They didn’t rise to the level of Neat To Use that you get with HL2’s gravity gun, or Hydrophobia’s water control, or Singularity’s TMD.) But the story is excellent, the voice acting and music are great, and the atmosphere is compelling. In the middle of a fight, for instance, you can feed on your enemies, if they’re human.
In some ways the best modernization of the game is Batman: Arkham Asylum, which has the sneaking and melee focus but does them ten times better, and also loads up on the dark gothic atmosphere. (Of course Batman is a goody-goody, and doesn’t get to drink blood.)
Some of my friends say it’s quite replayable, especially if you swith to Nosferatu (who can’t interact with normal humans and have to travel by sewer) or Malkavian (who are insane and have a gameplay experience to match). Maybe later.
I was happy with my build, which ended up with 8 melee, 6 ranged, 9 defense, 7 lockpicking, 7 sneak, 6 hacking, and 8 persuasion. Forget research, inspection, haggle, and intimidate. Seduction is fun, especially in the early part of the game.
Except for the boss fights, combat could be a little more challenging. It wasn’t till one of the final boss fights, in fact, that I bothered to learn how to block. I usually didn’t use the disciplines, either. My favorite quest is probably the infiltration of the Golden Temple, where there are loads of enemies, including some very nasty ones with flaming crossbows. (Those guys, and the vampire hunter dude, are almost the only enemies where you really need to use guns.)
There’s a side quest where you get (not too revealing) nude posters of some of the female character; one is visible in the screenshot. I think this an adolescent rather than a misogynistic touch, and it kind of goes with the low-life milieu anyway.
There’s an interesting sequence where you’re trapped by a mad scientist who wants to test vampires and how to kill them. He mentions that vampires are room temperature, which I think doesn’t fit with the main idea, that vampires can mix with humans (including touching and having sex with them). Surely that would be awfully noticeable, even in balmy L.A.
My one dissatisfaction with the game is the ending. You can pick a faction to side with– great. I made a reasonable choice, and the ending I saw was just fine. But from reading the walkthroughs, it’s almost the only reasonable choice. The game ends up being more moralistic than it had appeared; it cooks up one faction as The Right Choice a bit too starkly.