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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds Package Art
†GENRE
††Action-Adventure
†DEVELOPER
††Eurocom
†PUBLISHER
††Vivendi Universal
†NUMBER OF PLAYERS
††1-4
†CONNECTIVITY
††no
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds,The sequel to last yearís Xbox exclusive, puts players back into the tight pants of Buffy Summers, the Vampire Slayer. To those of you who didnít consider the past seven years worth of Tuesdays as sacred, the story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is simple. Vampires and demons are real and they prey upon innocent people all the time. Buffy is the current incarnation of the chosen one, a girl from every generation who is given super human abilities in order to protect the world from the forces of evil. When one slayer dies the next is activated. Through out history, slayers have faced this never ending battle with minimal guidance from the Watcherís council. Buffy, however, has her very own Scooby gang to back her up; an assortment of average, above-average, and non-evil vampire friends who fight alongside her. The story of the game takes place midway through season five and involves a showdown between the First (the original evil) and Buffy and Co. Players move through twelve different levels using six playable characters on the voyage.

Obviously, the story of the game, and the series as a whole, is much more complicated than what you find in your average brawler. The game boasts an original story that fits right into TV mythology. The creative staff from the show, including all the actors (except Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alyson Hannigan), took an active role in making sure this game has the authentic feel of the Buffy-verse and isnít just some also-ran licensed game. Does that mean that Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds has both the depth and the gameplay to slay the competition?

visuals

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds has a level of visual quality that should be emulated by other games. First and foremost, the game runs in Progressive Scan mode with 16x9 widescreen support. If you have the proper television, the game looks incredible. The character models are smoothly animated and realistic. For the six main characters this means that they flow through the different moves in all of their combos without looking unnatural or fake. The high resolution graphics also show off some nifty particle and lighting effects. While the lighting effects arenít as complicated as those in the original Xbox game, they make nice use of the Gamecube hardware. My favorite effect is the absorption of life or slayer power after staking an enemy. A blue or red ball of light floats from the dust of your enemy leaving a light trail that slightly illuminates the area as it travels.

Granted, the graphical effects will be familiar to anyone who has experience with the first game, but those new to the game will be pleased will the overall quality. The biggest flaw is the lack of variety in the graphics. Effects repeat the entire game and there arenít many character models for the vampires. This means that, from the first level to the last, you will be fighting vampires that look exactly the same.

audio

The audio quality in the game, specifically the voice acting, is superb. As mentioned before, most of the original cast does the voice acting for their characters giving Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds a level of authenticity that many licensed games lack. Even the sound-alike for Buffy does a great job. Iím willing to bet casual fans of the show can't tell Sarah Michelle Gellar is MIA. The sound-alikes for Alyson Hannigan and Emma Caulfield, on the other hand, are awful. They seem to have good intentions but the actors wonít fool anyone.

Unfortunately, despite the quality of the voice acting, it becomes repetitive and irritating. The characters witty one-liners for killing an enemy or trying to open a locked door repeat too often. So, while, at first they seem funny, five hours into the game you will be reaching for the mute button. This is a good choice as any important dialogue is subtitled at the bottom of the screen. The music in the game is okay, but nothing special. There is so much dialogue that, most likely, players wonít even notice the music. I had to pay specific attention to the music to notice it. The music merely accompanies the action of the game, much as music accompanies the action of a television show. As a whole it fits the twists and turns of the story and does its job well, but it isnít going to have you on Kazaa trying to find a soundtrack.

gameplay

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds is, at its core, a mindless brawler. The game progresses in the style of any third-person action-adventure game. You solve puzzles and you defeat waves of enemies before facing stronger bosses at the end of the levels. This model of gameplay can work well enough to create enjoyable games but there are simply too many major issues in the puzzle design, hit detection, and lock-on system for the game to be great.

The puzzle design is particularly frustrating. While the puzzles themselves are mentally challenging and original, they donít fit together logically. For instance, on one level a player has to raise a screen in front of a door and then moments later set off a fire alarm. What makes these two juxtaposed puzzles frustrating is that, in order to advance, you push Y in one case, but you have to punch or kick the object in the other. Had there been more consistency in the game you wouldnít have to spend extra time just trying to figure out how to fulfill the objective with your controller. The frustration goes beyond this simple example too. The relics you need to solve different puzzles in the game are all activated differently and there is no rhyme nor reason why. Some relics must be treated like projectile weapons which require a player to hold L and push Y to fire. Other objects react when you get near the objective and push Y. Sometimes you simply have to be in the right place and the game will fulfill the objective itself. While it might seem like this is a minor complaint, it causes far too much frustration for the simple puzzles. When you canít get past a level because you donít know how to trigger the right reaction, the puzzle designs are flawed. To add salt to the wound, most levels have vampires that continuously respawn, adding to the frustration by forcing you to fight an unending stream of weak enemies.

The fighting engine in the game has a smooth, varied feel. During the course of the game players take control of Buffy, Faith, Willow, Xander, Spike, and Sid the Dummy. Each character has their own style of control, different moves, different strengths, and different weaknesses. The character design fits the mythology of the show very well and none of the characters feel like they are given more - or less - power than they should have. For example, Xander, the average guy, has attacks which are weaker and slower than the other characters. Switching between the characters gives the game variety and doesnít feel forced or tacked on. Itís entertaining to play as any of the characters and, seeing as most of the game has you controlling Buffy, reduces the gameís tedium.

The fighting usually pits you against two or three different vampires or demons. You use A to punch, B to kick, X to jump, and R to block. These buttons can be combined into different three-move attacks that will do more damage than single punches or kicks by using a little slayer power. Once you drain an enemyís life bar you must then push Y or Z to stake them or they will regain some strength and attack you again. Each character has a big enough variety of combinations that you will learn dozens of ways to dispatch the evil undead. The combat system is easy to learn and, most importantly, it is highly pleasurable taking out waves of enemies. There are also quite a few weapons that you can find to take out the baddies more efficiently. You will use everything from a holy water gun to a baseball bat. The wooden weapons decompose as you use them and will eventually break and become stakes after a while; a realistic touch.

The biggest problem with the fighting system comes from the fact that the enemies attack in gangs. Although technically you can push L to lock-on to one enemy, the lock-on doesnít work very well. It might take three presses of the L button before you lock on to the enemy you want to kill first which is long enough for a good vampire gang to get in a few cheap shots. Another problem with the lock-on system is that once you start a combo you will attack in a straight line until you unleash all three moves. So, if a vampire moves or if you werenít properly locked-on, you will take some hard swings at the air. Swinging at the air isnít exclusively a lock-on issue; the hit detection in the game is terrible. Sometimes you seem to hit an enemy but do no damage. Likewise, you will take damage from enemies who donít seem to be anywhere near you. The only benefit of this awful hit detection is that you can stick a stake anywhere in a vampire to dust it.

The game also features DVD-style bonuses which are unlocked after you defeat levels in the single player game. As you progress through the story you gain access to interviews with cast members, show creator Joss Whedon, footage from the voice-over sessions, and a digitized version of the Chaos Bleed comic book. These are great extras for fans of the show as many of the interviews are not specific to the game but give insight onto the entire Buffy-verse.

multiplayer

There are four multiplayer modes that support up to four players. An all out melee called Survival, where the last player standing wins. Bunny Catcher mode where players must grab as many rabbits as they can before time runs out. A Slayer Challenge where players face off against waves of computer-controlled enemies. Here one player takes the role of a good guy and up to three other players can control vampires and demons. The object is to see how many enemies you can slay before dying. The final mode is called Domination and is essentially a standard king of the hill game. Players score points by controlling a pentagram on the ground and the person with the most points when time runs out wins. Initially there are only five characters available for the multiplayer mode but more are unlocked by completing levels in the single player game. Ultimately, the multiplayer portion of the game seems tacked on and isnít very fun. Youíll be lucky to glean five minutes of fun out of these simple and tedious modes.

overall

If you are a fan of the show you will like Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds despite its flaws. The game is more or less enjoyable and, if you can overlook the glaring flaws in the gameplay, or you donít mind using walkthroughs, you will like this game. If you arenít a fan of the show there isnít enough here to make you a fan. There is fun to be had in the game; it fits the mythology of the show, shares the same sense of humor, has great unlockables, and a lot of inside jokes that will reward diehard fans. Unfortunately, overall I found the game to be frustrating more often than fun. The problems were just too much to overcome.

final score 6.4/10





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Staff Avatar Mark Martinez
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"Unless you're being ironic, turn that off."


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