Picked up this game when it was on sale for $5 during the Halloween sale (can you believe they still think it's worth $20, 8 years later?) because I'd heard there were mods and patches and stuff that dealt with the legendary bugs and generally wonkiness that was part and parcel of the original game.
And... well, the gameplay is still solid, but jesus christ you can see how little Troika knew what they were doing with the Source engine. Well, maybe that's not fair - after all, I'm looking back at the game 8 years after I first played it, complete with all the things I know about proper game design now.
But, man, textures are incredibly blurry (even HL2's textures weren't this bad), and movements look so stiff and unnatural, to the point of things being unintentionally comical at times.
But anyway, for folks that haven't heard of this game, it's a game set in the Old World of Darkness pen-and-paper roleplaying game setting, which basically means vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night are real and are essentially controlling humanity from behind the scenes. Like the title suggests, you're a vampire, and "The Masquerade," refers to the vamps having to keep their existence a secret from humanity; because even though even the lowliest vamp is more than a match for any human, there's a hell of a lot more humans than vamps, and if humans as a whole got pissed off at them, they could easily wipe out the vamps (and likely all the other creepy-crawlies that exist in the setting.)
As far as setting goes, the design for the vampires has plenty in common with old-school Dracula myth, mostly with the Christianity-related bits taken out. Crosses and running water don't do shit in this setting, but sunlight definitely won't make you sparkle, and fire bad... very bad. Vampires are really hard to hurt with any kind of blunt instrument (fists, baseball bats, sledgehammers, and oddly enough bullets are counted as blunt weapons), but they're as vulnerable to blades as humans are. Vampires are divided into several clans, which you pick one during character creation, each of which has its own traits and "Disciplines," which are the special abilities that define each clan. Special abilities range from supernatural speed and strength to the ability to dominate minds, drive victims (temporarily) insane, and good old-fashioned vampiric invisibility.
Combat is pretty much entirely stat-based. Whether or not you can even hit a target will be determined by your aim, but how much damage that attack does, whether it hits them (in regards to guns), whether or not they can block or otherwise deflect the attack, and things like that are all determined via stats. Swinging around a knife you don't have the necessary skills to use properly will result in your attacks being weak and easy to defend against, and trying to use an assault rifle without much skill in ranged combat means you're going to be spraying all over the place instead of hitting the target.
Dialogue and social interaction is a major component of the game and is again heavily stat-based, with the typical RPG "Persuasion," ability along with the ability to seduce and intimidate NPCs into compliance, or use of the "Presence," discipline (which consumes your all-purpose magic resource, blood.)
For its time, I seem to remember the game being lauded for creating a realistic, believable world, with NPCs wandering around and doing their own things. The concept is seriously dated and pretty comical in some ways now, especially with games like the GTA series raising the bar for "believable worlds full of random NPCs living their own lives," stuff, but compared to other games back in 2004, it stood out.
Anyway, I think I'm rambling now. Just want to advise people that if they see it on sale again (seriously, it's not worth $20 these days), go ahead and pick it up. Install the Unofficial Patch to fix a lot of miscellaneous bugs and missing content, and go nuts. You'll alternately groan or chuckle during the horribly outdated cutscenes with wooden character movements, but the gameplay itself is still pretty solid.