If you've ever wished battle royale games were a little more supernatural, Bloodhunt might be the answer to your dark prayers. It's set in the Vampire: The Masquerade tabletop RPG universe, which means it features a contemporary gothic setting (in this case, the city of Prague) and various breeds of bloodsucker. There are still weapons in it—the usual selection of shotguns, assault rifles, and so on that you'd expect from a typical battle royale game—but the exciting thing about Bloodhunt is being able to use vampiric powers too.
I got a taste of these during a playtest as a member of the Nosferatu clan. These scary-lookin' vamps are ostracised by the rest of their kind, and are bad at hiding their vampirism from humans because they look like monsters. The class I decided to play as, the Saboteur, is built for stealth—which is ideal, because I basically approach battle royale games like stealth games. I prefer sneaking around on my own and avoiding people, then pulling my guns out when the play space has shrunk to the point where hiding is no longer practical.
The Saboteur is great because crouching turns you partially invisible. Your character model goes transparent—a similar effect to the stealth camo in the Metal Gear games—which makes you harder to spot in the cluttered, detailed alleys and rooftops of Prague. You're still visible, and I'm sure seasoned players will get frustratingly good at spotting these shimmering outlines. But if you stay still, it's pretty effective camouflage. And because sprinting cancels the effect, you're encouraged to move slowly and methodically to stay hidden.
Prague looks great, with a mix of modern and historical buildings making for an interesting urban landscape. I especially like the seedy backstreets that are lit by fluorescent neon signs advertising strip clubs and love hotels. It's shadowy and atmospheric and exactly the kind of place you'd expect to find a load of vampires trying to murder each other. It's also an effective setting in terms of map design, with narrow, maze-like alleys to skulk down and rooftops to scamper across. A densely packed urban setting, without any really big open spaces, works surprisingly well for a battle royale game.
As my Nosferatu and I crouch and sneak along a rooftop, I see other, less cowardly vampires leaping from building to building, exchanging gunfire. Occasionally other players will run past me, a few feet away, not realising I'm there half-hidden. It's a cool feeling. I also have an ability on a cooldown timer that turns me completely invisible for a few seconds, in a puff of smoke, and propels me forward at speed. This is great for ejecting myself from dangerous situations, or for making a quick escape if someone spots me and starts shooting at me.
Getting around the city is fun too. You can climb any surface, letting you easily (and quickly) transition from street level to the rooftops. Sometimes I crouch in those narrow alleys to avoid the chaos, occasionally crawling upwards to keep tabs on where people are and where the firefights are breaking out. The play space is, naturally, constantly shrinking. But there's a neat twist: the shape of it is random. This means you never quite know which parts of the city are going to be cut off as you're pushed towards the centre of the map.
When it was shootin' time, I inevitably got my ass kicked. But as a solo battle royale player, the Saboteur's magical stealth powers—and the verticality of the city—made for a satisfying couple of matches. But to mix things up, I decided to take a more aggressive stance in a later match. This time I play as a member of the Brujah clan, who have a reputation as fierce warriors and carry an affinity for war in their blood. Their best ability is a super-jump that lets you leap for long distances, which made navigating the rooftops of Prague a breeze.
Playing Bloodhunt as a straight shooter, I don't enjoy it quite as much—but that's likely down to personal taste. However, the combination of third-person shooting and those outlandish vampire powers is an entertaining one. The game has a very different, much more chaotic energy than a lot of battle royales. I don't last long as a Brujah, though. I was a lot more comfortable as a Nosferatu, slinking through the shadows, keeping out of harm's way. But it's encouraging to see different play styles catered for by its vampiric class system.
Bloodhunt is set for release on PC later this year, and will be free to play. If you want a taste of its fast-paced, bloodthirsty take on the battle royale genre, a closed alpha will be taking place on July 2. You can visit the official website for a chance to take part. Developer Sharkmob—a new studio made up of former AAA developers—has also promised that the game will feature "no pay-to-win or similar mechanics" and that it's being made with a "player focused mentality." A reassuring sentiment, and I like what I've seen of the game so far.