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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

IGN Games Reviews ’Chaos Bleeds’

By Hilary Goldstein

Friday 29 August 2003, by Webmaster

August 28, 2003 - Last year EA and The Collective brought Buffy the Vampire Slayer exclusively to Xbox, and the game was a big hit. Successfully transforming a popular TV show with a devoted following into a good game is not an easy or automatic task. The challenge of repeating that success would be difficult, as Vivendi Universal and developer Eurocom found out with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Choas Bleeds for Xbox, PS2, and GameCube. With a new team taking Buffy’s reigns and a need to develop the title simultaneously for three platforms, there were plenty of places where Eurocom could have gone wrong. Did they improve upon a promising beginning or squander the franchises potential? Features Sequel to the popular Xbox exclusive Buffy the Vampire Slayer Play as six different characters including Buffy, Faith, Spike, and... uh, Sid the dummy? Voice-overs from most of the original cast 12 large levels to explore Over 10 hours of gameplay Four multiplayer modes let you hack it out with up to three buddies PS2 exclusive James Marsters interview Gameplay Written as a lost episode for the second half of Buffy Season Five, Choas Bleeds revives Faith victim Kakistos (a vampire of incredible power and age), brings back sniveling villain Ethan Rayne, and thrusts Buffy and Co. into a deadly encounter with The First (the original evil, no less!). For non-Buffites, here’s the scoop: Buffy and her pals live in quaint Southern California town Sunnydale, which happens to be located on top of a Hell Mouth (aka Gateway to Hell). Because of this, the town is a magnet for the bizarre, oh and for demons and vampires too. Buffy is a Slayer, vanquisher of evil, and her buddies (Willow, Xander, Spike, et. all) often lend a helping hand. Pick your poison In Chaos Bleeds gamers get the chance to play as Buffy Summers (duh) along with five other fab characters from the series — Spike, Faith, Willow, Xander, and Sid. Yeah, you read that last one right. For some odd reason, Eurocom decided to include the demon hunting dummy (literally) from Buffy Season One. Actually, the diminutive Sid is a hoot to play. Though I was skeptical of the choice, once I had a chance to take control of the wood munchkin I was glad he was added.

Each character controls differently than the next and they all have a unique set of moves and special abilities (though, sadly, Faith and Buffy are identical in all ways). Willow, the witch, relies on magic and Xander has far less moves, which are slower to pull off, than Buffy the Slayer. Of the twelve levels, the majority are still played as Buffy, with only occasional swings as the other five. There is interaction with these and other famed Buffy characters in cut-scenes and there are double-team fights where the AI sends Willow, Tara, Spike, and others to assist you in your struggles against evil.

Oh... my groin! As a slayer of the undead and unholy, Buffy is constantly faced with demons and vampires. Normal methods are often not enough to dispatch of these enemies. Vamps, of course, must be staked, beheaded, or burned and in Chaos Bleeds no amount of fist-pounding will kill a bloodsucker. Instead, you’ll need to equip a stake or other weapon and then hit the stake button to jab at the nasty thing’s heart. This can pose interesting problems, because vampires don’t generally want to be turned to dust and will often block stabbing attempts. Chaos Bleeds is rather forgiving though, and so long as you remain persistent, just about anything can be staked fairly quickly. The collision detection is pretty bad, though, and many vamps get dusted from getting a wood splinter in their toe or, more often, their groin. Guess we know the fastest way to a man’s heart.

Eurocom has also seen fit to place some dangers in the environment. Broken benches, open fires, pits of toxic sludge, and numerous pointy things can serve to ace a vamp if the undead beast is tossed properly.

Like, gag me with a pitchfork! Weapons are plentiful and it’s not just stakes at your disposal. Pitchforks, battleaxes, swords, and Holy Water super soakers are all part of the Scooby arsenal. Most weapons have health so that as you use them, they begin to wear down. A shovel will eventually break, but you can then pick up the splintered remains to use as a stake. And if you find yourself in a pinch and need a weapon fast, you can kick chairs, tables, and wood boxes for instant stakeage. A smart weapon system brought over from the original game remains just as fresh and useful the second time around. Chaos Bleeds is a lot more action than the original. While there are plenty of puzzles in the game (and more complex than the first time ’round), the AI has been toned down. It’s a bit too easy to kill this time around and there’s rarely a sense of fear for dying. Even Xander seems more powerful than humanly possible. I mean... Xander?! This didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the game, but the easier AI made for a bit more of a button-masher than the first. There are still moments where vamps are tough to stake or where they knock you down and pick up your weapon to use against you, but it’s hardly as prevalent as it could be. Those looking for a true challenge will find it in some of the later levels of Chaos Bleeds, but a slightly higher level of difficulty would have made me appreciate the game a little more.

Ready for my close-up Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the lack of any improvement of the floating camera, which is quite troublesome a good deal of the time. The Chaos Bleeds camera can be manipulated with the right thumbstick, but it cannot pass through solid objects, meaning that if your character is in a corner (and with lots of tight spaces, this is not a rare occurrence) the camera cannot move behind you. Rather than trying to get in the immediate action, the camera’s purpose seems to be focused on how nice Buffy and her friends look. That’s great, until you have to fight things off-screen. Some developers have found ways to get around the 3D action game camera conundrum, Eurocom, apparently, is not one of them.

Multiplayer Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds isn’t just a single-player romp. The movie-turned-TV-show-turned-game also includes four multiplayer games that up to four people can get in on. Whether it’s Bunny Catch (where you battle to nab wabbits) or Slayer Challenge (where one person is the Slayer and the others control monsters trying to do her in), Survival (last player standing among a horde of evil things) or Domination (where you battle to control specific points on the map), the Chaos Bleeds multiplayer is a great addition. That’s right, this isn’t just some slapped-on extra. The multiplayer is a lot of fun and adds some extra value to an already sizable adventure. As an added bonus, players can unlock extra playable character for the multiplayer modes (24 in all), including series creator Joss Whedon. Mr. Pointy is ecstatic.

Graphics Aside from some pretty effects (the Slayer moves look cool, and Willow’s spells have enough particles to make your eyes sparkle with delight), Buffy isn’t anything special in the visual department. The environments offer some great detail, but the enemies only come in a few, endlessly repeating varieties. There are moments when Buffy’s fight moves look as if the real deal were dancing on screen. But then there are moments where characters climb up ladders like a turtle might (if turtles could climb ladders, which, to my knowledge, they cannot). Some moves, like Spike swinging just about any two-handed weapon, look just a tad bit off. And while Buffy and Xander’s character models look fine, Spike has somehow been transformed into a prune. It’s a bit disturbing. Add a touch of slowdown at specific moments (nothing to really hurt the enjoyment of the game) and all of the pleasant enhancements come off as a little less impressive.

Sound It’s always nice when actors from a famous license come on board to voice the video game incarnation. Here it’s extra nice, because the cast of Buffy is a lot of fun. James Marsters, Anthony Stewart Head, and Nicholas Brendon (Spike, Giles, and Xander, respectively) do a splendid job doing what they’ve been doing the past seven years. And though Sarah Michelle Gellar is nowhere to be heard, her double (who also voiced the Buffster in the Xbox original) does an uncanny rendition. Alyson Hannigan, better known to geeks around the tube as Willow, is not present and her voice double will have you doubling over in pain as she attempts to add Hannigan’s patented shy mutterings and stumbles to the roll. In shorts bursts, she sounds fine, but anytime there’s more than a sentence of dialogue (and this is often) it’s just downright tough to stomach. The score is perfectly Buffy and the sound effects are solid. Whether it’s the smashing of a chair into little stake pieces or the crumbling of bones as you put your foot through a skeleton, everything sounds as it should. A little absent, though, is an excessive amount of quips from the villains. Part of Buffy’s charm is that the bad guys give off just as much attitude as our heroic Scoobies. There’s some stuff there, but a bit more couldn’t have hurt. Closing Comments Chaos Bleeds is as fun as the original Buffy game on Xbox, but not quite as tight. The AI is a bit too forgiving at times turning the game into more of a button-masher than it needs to be. But, like I said, it’s lots of fun. With plenty of Buffy flavor, Chaos bleeds will appeal to Buffy fans but is accessible to noobs, as well. The multiplayer is an added bonus and is in no way shoddy. And hey, how many games have allowed you to play as a dummy? If you love Buffy, get this game. If you dig action games, this one might be better served as an extended rental.