When the first Buffy game appeared as an Xbox exclusive last year, more than a few PS2 and Game Cube owners were irked that they’d have to shell out for Microsoft’s big black slab of a console in order to play the game. The overall favorable reviews insured that a sequel was inevitable, and new developer Eurocom was chosen to pick up and expand upon many of the elements found in The Collective’s original game and bring it to all three platforms. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds does a mostly great job of enhancing the fun and challenge, although it’s not without it’s flaws.
The new additions here are the ability to play through the main game as 6 different characters from the series and a bunch of multiplayer games, should you have friends drop by and wonder why you haven’t seen daylight in a while. Although the gameplay consists of the same tried and true beat ‘em up action found in the first Buffy game, it’s in no way an easy ride. The plot is set up as a “lost episode” of the show’s 5th season, and does a great job of immersing new and old fans alike into the Buffyverse. To tell you the truth, I was never a huge fan of the show until I caught a few reruns, then I ended up sticking around for much of the last season kicking myself a little bit for missing out on a pretty good show. Meanwhile, back at the review…
Gameplay consist of 12 stages of beating up, burning, staking, and decimating hordes of vampires while solving puzzles, collecting weapon and health power-ups, and surviving some tough boss battles. Each of the playable characters has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and you’re forced to use some of them in really tough areas. As far as the girls go, Buffy and Faith are kick ass, stake names later kinda gals with powerful physical attacks, while Willow can learn and use some powerful magic, but has so-so fighting skills. On the flipside, Spike is the more durable of the guys here, with Xander being a bit frustrating to use if you try to rush through his areas. The big surprise here is the inclusion of Sid, the possessed ventriloquist’s dummy. He’s a bit tricky o use at first, with his height deficiency, low health, and oddball arm-waving special attack. But played correctly, his shortness works in his favor, and he also gets the best special weapon in the game. It’s too bad that he only gets to use it for about a minute or so before you have to resume the stage as Buffy.
Speaking of stages, the game look great on all 3 systems and features large, nicely detailed outdoor and indoor areas that will confuse more than a few gamers with no sense of direction. While it’s easy to get lost in some of the more open areas, you’ll find more than enough breakable objects scattered about to use as stakes once they’re smashed. Health pickups are a bit harder to come by in the game. Even though most enemies leave small health and magic pickups after they’re dusted, the game’s AI is quite fierce at times. You’ll sometimes even out by losing as much health as you gain after being swarmed by fast-moving corpses or leaping vampires, and you’ll constantly be blindsided by off screen baddies if you’re not always in motion. It’s best to hang back and deal with the small army of vamps or whatever in packs of 1-3 at a time that rushing forward into certain death. Once you’re sighted, enemies are relentless until they’re eliminated. You’ll almost wish that Eurocom had added a 2-player cooperative mode, especially on the harder difficulty settings.
In addition to the nicely sized levels, the character models are also quite well done. Everyone in the game looks close enough to their real-life counterparts, although the character models are a tad less detailed than in the first game. As far as the voices go, most of the Scooby Gang is in attendance, with the notable exception (again) of Sarah Michelle Gellar and the gal who played Willow in the series (so sue me, I’ve forgotten already). They all do their best here, although Willow’s delivery sounds as if the girl voicing her is channeling Marilyn Monroe at times. As for the music, the game grabs the show’s main theme and scores highly with some effective original tunes as well. The sound effects are solid if not spectacular and you’ll hear and feel every punch, kick, and snap through your controller’s vibration feature.
Two annoyances bring the game down a few notches, and they should have been ironed out before the release date. First of all, there’s no way to save your progress mid-level other than invisible checkpoints. You’ll restart at these spots if you die in a particular stage, but if you need to shut your system off, you’ll have to restart the stage from the beginning. Not a good thing in some of the later, tougher levels or those stretches of the game where it’s easy to get lost. The second, and more frustrating issue is the inventory system in the game, which is far too clumsy to use effectively. You can’t pause and select items, and trying to choose and use a health item or special weapon while cornered or surrounded by vamps is nearly impossible, leading to a couple of needless deaths. Hopefully these issues will be taken care of in the next game.
As for those multiplayer boards, they’re good for a few laughs but I’d rather have a co-op mode or the ability to play through the game as any character at any time (although some levels are specifically designed for their characters). Some folks will clamor for some sort of online play, but I don’t think the game needs it at all. Rounding out Chaos Bleeds is a pretty impressive slew of unlockable extras, from interviews with cast members, a complete Buffy comic book, and a ton of cast photos, among other things. All in all, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds is a great package for fans of the show and action gamers alike. Now if VU can borrow Sarah Michelle for a bit of work, things just may get even better when the next one rolls around.
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