Vampire: Bloodlines is the latest effort from the many ex-Black Isle developers who went on to form Troika Games. Troika's historical problem is that none of their games so far have actually been finished. Arcanum was a potential gem drowned out by balance flaws and bugs, while Temple of Elemental Evil was released prematurely, with all the bugs that entails.
Bloodlines is a Source-engine based first-person RPG, though it's quite unlike what you might expect. Bloodlines has more in common with Deus Ex and its sequel than with Morrowind or Gothic. In fact, the parallels to Deus Ex (more specifically Invisible War) extend across the board.
As with all roleplaying games, Bloodlines starts the player at the bottom of the totem pole - in this case, as a fledgling vampire. What's different is that unlike most titles which start slow and quicken the pace later, Vampire immediately throws the player into the thick of the plot. There's a clear sense of having come in the middle of great events that were set in motion, but of course the player still has time to sway the outcome.
Considering that many of the developers worked on Fallout, it should come as a surprise to learn that Bloodlines is actually rather linear. Areas of Los Angeles open up in a precise order, as they're needed. Many of these stay open and often quests take you back, but it's impossible to get ahead of the game, as you might with the Fallout titles.
Despite the variety of side-quests, the main plot is also fairly rigid. There are conversation trees that can be taken in different and, on occasion, mutually exclusive paths, but with only two possible conclusions - and even then the distinction between the two is rather slim - it's not as if the player is any sort of decisive factor in the story. And yet, this is hinted at all along in various conversations - that you are merely being driven by an outside force to do a specific job, an unwitting cog in a machine.
Vampire: Bloodlines also has an excellent tutorial and a very comprehensive manual, both features which are often sorely lacking these days. Even better, the tutorial is integrated into the story and yet completely optional. The player can choose to do the whole thing (which we'd recommend even for veteran players), a quick overview, or to skip it completely.