Every once in a blue moon a game comes along and sucks you right in. You play it from start to finish, relishing every moment of it, and when you feel yourself getting close to the end of the game, you start to slow down a little bit to smell the roses, for the most part just because you don't want the game to end.
For me, Vampire Bloodlines was that game. I love first person shooters. I love RPG's. And mostly I love guns. Throw vampires into the mix and it's just a bonus. Bloodlines gave me all four of those in one seriously terrific heaping helping with just a ton of atmosphere thrown in to boot. It will always stand out for me as the single greatest game I've ever played.
It's rather ironic because I bought the game three years after it came out - long after Troika studios went belly up. I got it because it was a $9.99 bargain bin purchase. I figured, what the hey, for 10 bucks, even if it sucks, I'm not out much. Best 10 bucks I ever spent... :-D
I felt so guilty about the amount of pleasure I got out of the game for the relative amount that I paid for it that I actually thought about looking up Tim Cain (ex co-founder Troika studios) to send him a check for $40.
The game did just about the perfect job of balancing RPG elements with first person shooter fair. The only game that's even come close in recent memory is Borderlands - and that's really RPG-light. Not so Vampire. Bloodlines is pretty much full on RPG and the mechanics were implemented almost perfectly. So you can choose from multiple types of vampires with multiple different powers, and you can choose different styles of combat. Did I mention I liked guns? You know my character was bad to the bone. decked out with Desert Eagle, Ingram Model 10, Steyr Aug, and a USAS 12 Combat Shotgun. Add to that the ability to sneak around, blending with the shadows, supernatural speed, and the ability to attack victims with a mesmerizing power and a vampire bite that also heals you and restores your vampire abilities... It was incredibly cool. One of the complaints leveled against the game was that the gun combat was underpowered and thus more difficult, however, if you download the unofficial patch, it addresses this issue and brings gun combat up to speed with melee.
Finally, the story was excellent too - being caught in a struggle between two opposing factions both trying to use you to get ahold of a MacGuffin called the Ankaran Sarcophagus...
It depresses me to no end that Troika went out of business. We'll probably never see a VtM:B sequel. If ever there was a game that I'd shell out double price for, that would be it.