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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

"Buffy The Vampire Slayer" X-Box Video Game - Teamxbox.com Review

Saturday 1 July 2006, by Webmaster

Licensed video games are a hard combination to figure out. Take one look at the reputation that movie based games have developed over the years, and it is no mystery that titles designed around pre-existing characters and storylines tend to fail. However, this isn’t a golden rule that applies to all licensed video games, especially on the Xbox. Once again we’ve unsealed the Vault here at TeamXbox.com, have sifted and sorted through your e-mail suggestions of favorite past Xbox games, and have spent some quality time with an Xbox title from the past. The newest title to receive the TXB Vault treatment? The surprisingly solid licensed game Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Ask any Xbox gamer who had some time with Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it dropped, what their feelings were on the game, and the general consensus was that it was a solid third-person action game with a killer combat engine. The license may not have appealed to every gamer, but there was still love shown towards the game from the community as a whole. The title garnered slightly above average reviews, with an average score of 79% at GameStats.com, and 80% at Gamerankings.com. Here at TeamXbox.com, we enjoyed a lot of what the game brought to the table, and awarded the game a 7.5. So what did this action title offer up that caught the attention of gamers at the time, and still has many of you craving for the title many years later? Quite a few things actually, including; an incredibly solid combat engine, a load of Buffy content that fans ate up, and an ass kicking female whose last name wasn’t Croft.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

An Xbox exclusive that was developed by The Collective, Buffy the Vampire Slayer the game acted as a lost episode from the insanely popular cult TV show of the same name. Now off the air, most gamers have probably at least heard in passing the shenanigans of Buffy and her gang of evil fighting friends. As a quick recap, Buffy Summers is your average 17-year old high school girl with one exception, she’s been bestowed a set of incredibly powerful slayer abilities, with the task of ridding the world of vampires, demons, and other sorts off nasties that live under your bed. Along with managing high school and fighting the undead, Buffy had to balance her love life, a relationship with her mom, and her wacky friends as well. As a Buffy nerd since day one of the series, and even a fan of the less than stellar movie that was released pre-show in 1992, this series truly is worth checking out on DVD for those that haven’t. As stated before, BtVS the game is a lost episode from the show, that sends Buffy out to stop the plans of the Master (think of him as the king of vampires) as he is once again back from the grave and out for blood.

The biggest draw that brought gamers into the world of Sunnydale and Buffy was the combat engine. As the slayer, Buffy had an awesome array of abilities at hand, including super strength, speed, and the ability to spit out one-liners like nobody’s business. The combat engine designed for this game was incredibly intuitive, and was layered in a way that enabled players to continually learn new moves as the game progressed. As Buffy, players had the ability to perform basic punches, kicks, as well as varying jump attacks. Through the use of the Xbox face buttons, players could also string these simple moves into more powerful combos. There were a variety of combos to pull off, each with a distinct purpose. Whether to clear out a pack of demons that were descending at once, or to throw a vampire across the room - each situation had a combo that fit.

Buffy also had a “slayer power” meter, which deplete every time it was used. These slayer powers could be used on regular combos, by holding down the last button of the command. Buffy would glow, and when released, the attack would intensify a great deal. As the game progresses, players add pages to their slayer journal, which are a variety of combo instructions for newly learned moves. In order to replenish Buffy’s power meter, players had to collect orbs that were released from defeated enemies. This wasn’t the most ingenuous system, but it worked nonetheless. One major flaw that constantly plagues superhero games is the conversion of their superpowers over to the pixilated screen. While Buffy may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or shoot webbing out of her wrists, her devastating powerful moves were translated over soundly.

On paper, these moves may not seem incredibly exciting, but stringing together a series while in combat was. For instance, if multiple vampires are attacking, the best bet may be to throw one baddy across the room, and then beat the other one to a pulp with a shin breaker combo. Only when an enemy’s health has been depleted can they then be staked. However, hit detection ensures that you must hit the heart with the stake, otherwise the vampire will get back up and continue the fight. These little battles that occur throughout the game are straight out of the show, and are a blast to take part in.

In addition to her slayer moves, Buffy could use a wide variety of melee weapons and ranged projectiles to defeat the undead. The traditional wooden stake through the heart is a classic, but this is also spiced up in a variety of ways. For instance, a player may beat a vampire down to a pulp with a rake, but eventually that rake may break, providing the perfect Buffy-sized stake to dust a vampire with. As weapons wear out over time, a fist fight with a vampire can certainly get intense without a stake on hand, as that is the only way to take vamps out for good. Other weapons included a crossbow, pool stick, holy water vials, and our favorite, the super soaker loaded up with holy water. Environments could be used as weapons as well. As an example, if Buffy is going toe-to-toe with a group of vampires without a stake, and there just happens to be a large piece of wood protruding out from the wall/floor, Buffy can toss her foes onto it, dusting them in the process. The incredibly intuitive combat engine, plus fun weaponry, mixed with vampires, equals out to the biggest draw this game has.

The entire nature of the show, as well as the game, is a perfect blend of black darkness and evil, with some light comedy sprinkled over the top for good measure. This black comedy can be seen in the dialogue between the characters, as well as in the way in which “evil” is portrayed. Personally, as a fan of the show, there are a lot of moments in the game that stick out as “freaking cool” from a story standpoint. As the events of this game were penned by writers from the show, and fits logically into the storyline, there are events in the game that series watchers loved. There are spoilers below, but c’mon now; the game has been out since 2002. Events such as staking that first vampire, taking part in “Scooby” meetings in the library, battling Spike in the back lot of the Bronze, and the final showdown with the Master just reek of coolness.

The visual and audio presentations in Buffy were solid on both accounts, and were a highlight for fans of the show. The game portrayed the likenesses of all the actors exceptionally well, and with all of the talent from the show (except Sarah Michelle Gellar) reprising their roles, the production values were incredibly high. We had forgotten how silky smooth some of the combat animations were, and the variety of locations from the show were awesome. Locales such as Sunnydale High School (including the library), the cemetery, the Bronze, the Master’s sunken church, and even Angel’s mansion were all in the game. Some of the magical attacks sported nice particle affects as well. We did notice a few flaws during our second Buffy outing, such as rehashed enemy designs used constantly, and baddies also seem to shout out the same vocal attacks time and time again.

Although there is plenty of love that should be spread around for Buffy, that doesn’t mean we didn’t encounter our fair share of evil while fighting the undead. While not as bad as other games in this genre, the camera control for Buffy left us unable to see our attackers one too many times. Not a problem throughout the entire game, (it didn’t hamper any of the platforming elements), it did creep up as annoyance from time to time. Also, the game isn’t long on life, and can be completed easily in about ten hours. This isn’t bad for a game of this style, but was definitely a deterrent for many gamers looking for a purchase at the time. Other annoyances were a lack of level checkpoints (which added length to the game in a bad way), and some less than engaging puzzles.

Whether as a rabid fan of the series, or just a gamer who enjoys a solid action experience, there is much to be found in Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the Xbox. There was a follow-up sequel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds, but with a different developer at hand, it was fun, but didn’t capture the same level of smoothness as the original. What is particularly nice about Buffy the game, is that while gamers who enjoy the show will love all of the little nuggets of information strewn throughout, the title is also accessible to non-fans, and doesn’t require gamers to have seen an episode of the series to enjoy it. For anyone looking to re-experience that joy of staking the undead, or any Xbox fan late to the game looking to enjoy a solid title from the past, the disc can be picked up for no more than about $10 in your local bargain bin, or for roughly $5.00 on America’s garage sale eBay. Sadly, at this point, there is no Xbox 360 backwards compatibility for this title.

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