Blood is the beloved B-horror movie of '90s FPSes. If Doom is Aliens, Blood is The Evil Dead. Blood’s edgy slasher aesthetic spoke to a generation of teens in the midst of Satanic Panic who were hungry for more of this bloody new genre. The basic blueprint was near-identical to Doom and its legion of clones, but Blood stood out with attitude and execution.
Blood's basic elements hold up tremendously well in 2019. It didn’t take long for me to find a groove in Blood: Fresh Supply (out today on Steam, GOG, the Humble Store, and Discord for $9.99), thanks in no small part to the remaster’s 2019 conveniences. Produced by Nightdive, the same folks behind the System Shock remake, Fresh Supply supports modern resolutions and adds a proper 3D camera, gamepad support, and rebuilt multiplayer netcode. The repackaging eased me into an era of gaming I wasn't super familiar with, and allowed me to better appreciate what was great in 1997 is still mostly great now.
Blood’s arsenal was designed to stand out from Duke Nukem 3D and Doom 2, but it’s even more ostentatious today. In place of a boring old pistol is a flare gun that sets baddies ablaze. Who needs a flamethrower when an aerosol can and lighter does the job? Grenades are fine, but TNT makes a bigger boom. A knife is reliable, but a pitchfork is the right kind of demented? Then there are weapons that challenge the idea of “weapons,” like the voodoo doll that I repeatedly stab to mirror that pain on my enemies.
The depth of Blood’s combat shines through its weapons. It was one of the first shooters to have alternate fire modes for everything: Some are simple, like single vs. double fire on the shotgun, but others essentially turn one weapon into two. Left click with the voodoo doll pokes the doll with a needle, but right click sacrifices the doll to melt every enemy on screen into mush!
My personal favorite is the TNT. Its alternate fire cooks the boom sticks before throwing to act like a traditional frag grenade, but its primary fire makes it a glorious impact bomb that absolutely annihilates anything in its path. It’s like charging up a drive in golf games, except zombies explode when the ball touches grass. It’s not surprising that Ion Maiden, a modern take on a '90s FPS also made in the Build Engine, lifts the feel of Blood’s TNT for its Bowling Bomb.
Skeletons in the closet
Fresh Supply comes packed with all of Blood’s original levels and expansion packs. It’s dozens of levels in all, each one a labyrinth of interconnecting hallways, wide-open battlegrounds, and hidden rooms. I got lost on almost every map I played. I appreciate the complexity and planning applied to Blood’s grand mansions, but it becomes a lot. The real-time map, in the style of Diablo or Duke Nukem, doesn’t mark any points of interest—it’s just a pure 2D layout. At least a third of my total playtime was backtracking through hallways to rediscover the locked door I passed minutes ago.
And that’s a bummer, because thoroughly exploring Blood’s dense levels is otherwise a delight. Secrets are around every corner and come in many forms—revolving bookshelves, fake paintings, hidden pressure switches, cracked walls. Quick, brutal fights with crowds are balanced by my need to take it slow and examine a room to uncover its mysteries. Once I learned the language of how Blood hides things, secret hunting became a basic part of the gameplay loop. Kills net me some ammo and health, but secrets are the only way to ever feel well-equipped.
For how open its levels are, Blood’s objectives stay unabashedly simple—shoot through zombies and grab keys that unlock doors that lead to more keys. Blood never tries to hide that you're doing the same thing over and over, the way some modern shooters do. I don’t always need gamey goals to be masked as unique missions, but some of the samey-ness, particularly in re-used graphics, betrays Blood’s impressive environmental storytelling. Levels are packed with so much cool detail that it’s then distracting to be unlocking the exact same doors as I did in the last 10 missions.
Where Blood most clearly dates itself is its inconsistent tone. After a self-serious intro cutscene, Blood swings wildly into farce territory, constantly referencing classic horror movies. And the references aren’t exactly subtle—while traversing a hedge maze, I stumbled upon a bloodied axe-wielding man on his knees that did his best Jack Nicholson impression with “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!” Another time, I was coasting down a river in a rowboat as protagonist Caleb remarked that he’s “gonna need a bigger boat." The moments are playful and harmless, but feel trite 22 years later.
A fresh coat of blood
Nightdive’s remaster drags Blood into 2019 with new video options and rebuilt netcode for multiplayer. There are also some nice quality of life features you'd find in a modern shooter: Fresh Supply natively supports monitor resolutions up to 4K and adds the Build Engine version of antialiasing, ambient occlusion, and interpolation. Everything looks crisp on my 1080p 144hz monitor, but switching on ambient occlusion and interpolation don’t add much beyond some extra shadows painted on the walls. There’s only so much that can be done on the technical side of a game this old, but it’s great to have a bunch of small improvements supported out of the box.
Native gamepad support is a big plus for those who usually have to fiddle with JoyToKey for their classic games. The default layout is a bit strange by modern standards, but decisions like mapping “interact” to clicking the left stick make sense after a while.
Watch the “Test Subjects” sign and try not to get light headed.
The best addition is a "true" 3D view for aiming up and down. The original camera seemingly wasn’t meant to support vertical scrolling and gets around the limitation by bending the world in some truly nauseating ways (the gif above shows what I mean). After 20 minutes, I had to take off my headphones and hold my head in my hands. Then I turned on the “true” 3D view and it suddenly worked exactly how I’d hoped. I could look up without wanting to faint.
I didn’t get a chance to test out Fresh Supply’s rebuilt multiplayer, but it supports deathmatch and capture the flag both online and split-screen. Mod support is built in—Fresh Supply will even support mods created for the original Blood.
Fresh Supply is a fantastic way to dive into a game that exemplifies what made the classic FPS era so fun. Some of its dated qualities, like the nauseating camera, are buffed out in Nightdive’s remaster. Its graphics, archaic as they are, almost feel back in style now. Blood’s fluid, kinetic combat doesn’t skip a beat, and more of today's developers should probably be looking in its direction to find an interesting hook for their modern FPS.