It's 2022, and there's a new battle royale on the block. I thought games had explored just about everything worth doing in the circle-shrinking genre, but then I started running up walls and drinking up civilians like juice boxes in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt. “This free-to-play battle royale is pretty darn good!” I say to my friends who, respectfully, will not download it to play with me.
Bloodhunt launched on Steam in Early Access last year when I wasn't looking, but it came out for real last week. The Vampire name will surely throw off fans of the original Bloodlines RPG from 2004. This is not that. Bloodhunt uses Vampire's world as a battleground for 45-player vampire-on-vampire showdowns on the streets of Prague, and quite well so far.
I'm really impressed with how well developer Sharkmob has nailed the basics here—guns are punchy and easy to aim, jumping, sliding, and wall-climbing are slick, and my class vampire powers feel immediately useful. I'm only a few matches in so far but I might have found a favorite in the Saboteur, a slippery vamp who can place gas traps and poof into a smoke cloud to zip away from bad situations.
I also like the small touches that set Bloodhunt apart from the crowded BR space. Players can feed off the blood of wandering civilians to gain passive bonuses like health regen or melee damage boosts. Running down the street blood suckin' like there's no tomorrow sounded like a good idea at first, until I realized that you get heavily punished for letting a human catch you in the act of feeding—this “breaks the masquerade” and temporarily highlights you on-screen for everyone to see.
When I first saw Bloodhunt's rooftop hopping and high-mobility firefights, I got a little nervous that I was walking into a repeat of Ubisoft's forgotten Hyper Scape battle royale. In that game, players could move so fast and get so high that tracking down a single kill was like pulling teeth. I haven't had the same issues with Bloodhunt so far. The high FOV of Bloodhunt's third-person camera makes tracking airborne targets a bit easier and I suspect hitboxes are more generous too. At long-to-mid range, I've already had some fun back-and-forth fights poking out of cover looking for headshots.
A lot of fights seem to end up close range, though, and that's where the action can get a little too frantic. Like Fortnite, there's a lot of jumping and shaky aiming while two people try to line up a shotgun blast or track a steady stream of SMG bullets on each other. This is where vampire abilities can come in clutch—every class seems to have an ability that helps them engage or disengage from a fight. In my last match, I was running toward an enemy with a shotgun until they force-pushed me 100 feet backward.
Bloodhunt has enough cool stuff going that I'm surprised it also feels the need to copy a bunch of other battle royale mechanics that bog down an otherwise breezy game. You'll spend a lot of time putting on new armor plates or taking cover to desperately consume “blood bag” medkits. Thankfully, there are no attachments to juggle or backpacks to manage.
I'm enjoying Bloodhunt in the same way I've enjoyed the occasional match of Fortnite's Zero Build mode the past few weeks. A low-stakes shooter with easy shooting and fun movement is an effective palate cleanser to a night of intense Hunt: Showdown matches. I'll continue to plug away at it alone until I get tired of solo mode and teammates disappoint me.
I bet Bloodhunt would be even more fun with friends, but as with Fortnite, I doubt I'll ever manage to get two friends to try it with me. “Free-to-play battle royale” has become a non-starter with my friend group, and I can't really blame them. Jumping into another game with another meta and another loot system and another battle pass with another roadmap is exhausting.
Bloodhunt might be an easier sell if it weren't yet another circle-shrinker. These days, my friends and I have been more interested in what comes after battle royale. I appreciate that Sharkmob probably started development when bog-standard battle royale was at its peak, but hopefully it realizes that Bloodhunt could also excel as a PvPvE “extraction royale” type game that cuts some of the annoying randomness out of BR. I'd also show up for a fully co-op mode against AI, or basically any other implementation of Bloodhunt's strong foundation.
That said, Bloodhunt seems to be off to a good start without the help of my friend group. It reached a new peak of 25,000 concurrent players today on Steam. Considering that's only one of three platforms it's on, Bloodhunt might be around for a while.