Vampire the Masquerade Bloodhunt Preview: An exciting attempt to feed off the battle royale greats

by Pierre Bell

Having sat down and played the latest build for Bloodhunt, I came away cautiously optimistic ahead of the April 27 release.

Vampires perched on a roof, with the Bloodhunt logo in the foreground

It’s been some time since we’ve been able to explore the dark alleys and treacherous halls of Vampire the Masquerade’s secretive society, but that’s soon to change, as Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt is dropping tomorrow. A battle royale set in the world of nightcrawlers and various powerful vampire clans, this title seemingly aims to summon the IP from its coffin, in a shiny contemporary package.

But how good is it, really? Well, I headed to Sharkmob's studios to try out the game ahead of its official release to figure out just how this upcoming battle royale fairs against the big hitters around at the moment. This is just a preview ahead of our full review, which will be coming in the near future once we’ve gotten to grips with the game post-launch.

To start, I wasn’t initially sold on verticality being a major selling point for the game. It’s been widely spread as a unique aspect of the game that separates it from other battle royales right now, but it’s hardly the first to do so.

Take Hyper Scape, Ubisoft’s short lived first person battle royale - that game had players scaling massive structures constantly, and that didn’t seem to be enough to keep it going. What I will say is that the map itself, the recreated city of Prague paired with the ability to scale the mix of gothic and modern landscape together, enhances the experience. There’s something about the rain slicked streets and the dark alleyways that lead to parks, graveyards, packed streets and open plazas that stand out amongst many other locations found in competitor titles.

You’re not in Prague to sightsee though. You’re there to take out other vampires with a selection of guns and melee weapons that you scavenge from the world. Weapon variety is pretty standard, at least in terms of firearms. You have two gun slots which can be filled with assault rifles, burst rifles, akimbo pistols, and shotguns. There are some more vampirical options available too in the form of the dual one-handed crossbows, and a larger crossbow with gas bolts that deal AoE damage.

While at times I wished for a bit more variety, this all fits in with the Vampire The Masquerade world, where everything is set in a realistic environment rather than some totally outlandish fantastical future. So, I get why they’d keep it largely basic here. You do get some more eccentric options with the melee weapons though: fire axes, dual swords, katanas. All of which come with inbuilt abilities that assist in fending off foes, or closing the distance on ranged parties.

A gunfight breaking out in Prague.

Legendary weapons are in the game too, and they seem eye-wateringly powerful from the short time I had to mess with the game. I managed to nab a legendary revolver off another playtester which seemed to be dealing more than 25% of a player’s health per body shot, and I was utterly wiped out by some lad with a minigun later on, which appears to be the map’s uber powerful weapon pickup. It’s still a bit early to determine any sort of ‘meta’, but I can totally foresee map knowledge becoming crucial for competitive players, and battling over key locations across the map where these legendary weapons are more commonly found becoming a cornerstone of early game matches.

There are other parts of the battle royale experience that retain those links to the Vampire experience, the most obvious of which is feeding off mortals that you can find. They're often chatting with friends or checking out their phones on the streets of Prague. Doing so provides permanent buffs that improve abilities or aspects of your character, such as health regen and melee damage. At an entry level, it acted as an active way of increasing player power throughout the game other than grabbing rarer guns and snatching consumables off the ground.

I felt as if I could set out with a gameplan before the match started, something beyond landing in a spot with great loot and keeping an eye out for particular guns I liked. Also, for those worried that sucking the blood of strangers on the streets of Prague feels a bit aggro for the series, don’t worry. If someone sees you feed, shoot your guns or use your abilities out in the open and you’ll be marked on the map for a short amount of time as punishment for revealing yourself. Don’t break the Masquerade!

A vampire feeding off a a regular person on the streets of Prague.

One thing Vampire The Masquerade Bloodhunt has that may tip it over the bar for many is the vast selection of customisation options. In the preview build I got my hands on, everything was unlocked. As such, I was able to mess around with a gigantic range of costumes and facial/body features. This allowed me to create whatever brand of night life weirdo I wanted. Some of them are really intricate too, especially some of the legendary outfits that seem like they were pulled straight out of Blade or Underworld.

I was especially a fan of the streetwear options, usually assigned to common or rare options that most players will be able to get their hands on. Anyone who’s played PUBG or other battle royales with similar customisation options will know how lame it can feel to be stuck with literal rags (not in a cool Nosferatu way), and how it makes it hard to feel content with your character visually. Having basic clothing options which retain a bit of that cool factor is a great thing to see.

One aspect that may appeal to the old school vamp crowd is Elysium, a social hub where NPCs from each vampire clan provide quests and nuggets of lore. I admittedly didn’t get too much of a chance to mess around with the quests present in the test build available, instead wanting to focus on getting to grips with the runnin’ and gunnin’ present in the battle royale. However, from the limited amount I experienced there’s a running narrative throughout this hub area, which will take you between these distinct characters and out into live matches to grab items and figure out what’s going on in Prague’s vampire underworld.

It’s hard to imagine, and frankly unrealistic, to expect the same narrative focus that we've seen in previous RPG instalments in the series. Although, there was a reassuring moment when I realised that some time had been spent installing a story that fits the IP here. I’m curious to discover just how much quest content is available in the initial season, and whether it provides a fulfilling plot that weaves between hectic matches, or just acts as a source of rewards and fancy costumes.

Three vampires in different outfits, facing the camera. A mix of punk, modern, and high tech.

As it stands, with just some brief exposure to the core of this game, Bloodhunt seems engaging enough to grab a decent initial community at launch. It gives off a great first impression, but whether it retains that interest once the initial shine wears off is the main question with this title, or any live service battle royale that launches in the age of Warzone, Fortnite, etc. While it is launching at the start of what’s looking like a dry period of major AAA releases, it may also get overshadowed by Season 3 of Warzone dropping on the same day. Whether the darkened streets and supernatural gameplay can drag away enough players from their usual hangout games remains to be seen.

Bloodhunt possesses elements that range from standard to fairly enticing, but some aspects leave me cautious. For example, how aggravating it is to level through the battle pass, the quality disparity between rewards for paid and free players, the depth of the game’s combat, and whether the initial questlines without seasonal updates will have any bite to them.

It’ll take some time post-launch to figure this all out, but as a free to play game with a solid foundation, it’s totally worth trying if you’ve considered taking a dance on the dark side.