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Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds

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buffycb_boxSo after already saving the world in the first Buffy game on the Original Xbox, I was curious when the apocalypse beeped me for the sequel. My main interest was to see how the creators did and if they were able to improve on the issues of the first game. Developed by Eurocom, these guys had their work cut out for them as not only was this game released just a year after the Xbox exclusive, it was also multiplatform released on PS2, Gamecube and Xbox in 2003.  Lets cut to the chase and find out if this game was doomed to the hellmouth or was it everything Buffy fans wanted?

Chaos Bleeds is set during season 5 of the TV series and is actually believed to be based on a lost episode of the show. This time the big bad is “The First” – anyone familiar with the TV show will know this nasty. The basic storyline is: The First has a bet with Ethan Rayne (another popular bad guy-who worships chaos) and they must each summon five heroes or villains to fight it out. The winner of the bet gets the ultimate prize of a nice little condo overlooking the sea. Naturally Ethan goes for Buffy and her Scooby gang, except they want to find a way to destroy The First so at present no one can win the bet.  Once again the story is engaging and certainly feels like it could exist in the same universe as the TV show. It’s just a shame that much of the plot is ruined by some bad voice acting, but we’ll come onto that later.

buffycb_xanderAs well as playing fan favorite Buffy, this time you control a whopping six characters throughout the campaign: Willow, Xander, Faith, Spike and Sid the dummy – who incidentally was only in season one for a single episode, but sure why not.  While it was a nice idea to have you playing as other protagonists, there is little variation in the way each one controls.   It really takes you out of the experience when Xander is just as strong as Buffy, but combat is switched up with Willow casting spells and Sid the dummy being small but not very combat savvy. There was an opportunity here to create a more unique experience for each character, such as a stealthier approach for Xander,  but sadly that’s not the case.

The graphical style in some ways feels improved, the death animations of the vampires look really good this time around with added extra bones, however in another more prominent way the graphics also fail to hold up. A lot of the models for key characters appear off and don’t resemble a believable likeness to the actors.  The game once again features areas from the TV series, but they just don’t seem quite right in comparison to the show. One little gesture of credit has to go to the developers who  thought to put posters of films Josh Whedon had written like Alien Resurrection and Titan A.E in the Sunnydale cinema. This was possibly my favorite part of the game and a great bonus.

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To the games credit they trim the awful platforming segments from the original game down to two segments.  Instead, we get these small puzzle sections where you’ll quite often find yourself backtracking through levels to find certain items to complete. Along the way you will also have to check everything, as it’s never clear what can and cannot be interacted with. While doing your backtracking enemies will infinitely respawn making each segment more frustrating and an added obstacle this title could have easily done without.  One major improvement is the game features checkpoints during levels which are reasonable and not too far apart.

buffycb_zooCombat seems to be a lot easier than the original, but also similar in that you just beat up the bad guys a bit and stake them.  Staking the bad guys has also been made a lot easier with the use of a single button. Even if you have another weapon equipped a press of L1 (left trigger on Xbox) will automatically switch to the stake and go for the heart.  A lot of the times it will look like your character stakes the enemy somewhere else like the leg, but it still seems to kill them – kinda weird but apparently gets the job done. This even works for any other enemy, whereas before you’d just punch them till they died. Instead of throwing a few enemies at you, the game decides to just bombard you with enemies back to back. This makes it comes across as very cluttered especially when vampires, werewolves, demons and zombies seem to be teaming up to take you down. It gets boring pretty quickly and only suits to prolong the game experience; in this case the term “less is more” feels appropriate.

Chaos Bleeds also features a generous amount of boss battles and all the boss characters are infamous villains from the TV show.  Most are pretty decent and require a little thought to conquer, however some go for the whole “lets throw tons of enemies at you while you are trying to do something important.”  This leads to cheap deaths and game rage. Bizarrely, I found the final boss encounter in the game to be way too easy and possibly the easiest fight in the whole game.  It’s almost as if the developers just gave up at the end.  Even the end cut scene itself seemed pretty anti climatic, especially when you look back at the original.

buffycb_willowThe voice acting is a mixed bag.  Giselle Loren once again fills in for Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy and a lot of the actual TV cast also lend their voice talent to the game.  One huge mistake is the voice actor for Willow: Kari Wahlgren.  I guess she tries to catch that nervous Willow feel from the show but instead comes across as really irritating and oddly sexually charged.  If Willow didn’t talk much it would be easy to ignore but for some reason she is given a lot of dialogue and it just doesn’t work. This probably wouldn’t sit well with fans of the character in the TV show, especially since the Willow in series five has come into her own. The writers made the right move in reducing the repetitive puns from the first game but instead replace it with dialogue that occasionally just doesn’t fit to the scene.

Music is pretty forgettable in the game. The infamous theme is featured in the main menu but you aren’t treated to an awesome montage this time around. Occasionally through the game you would hear memorable scores from the TV show but not much else. The sound effects are ok, but the best part is still staking the vampires which gives the familiar death scream from the show.

The single player game will probably keep you busy for just over ten hours of game time and there’s only one difficulty setting.  It’s not too difficult, though I recommend playing this in short gaming bursts due to the areas of frustration mentioned earlier.  Once you’re done you probably won’t ever play this again unless you want to go back and search for every secret. There is also a multiplayer for up to four people and a couple of game modes like survival and bunny catcher, but I really didn’t give much time to this. What modes I did play came across as random and maybe something you would bring out at a gaming party for a bit of fun, somewhat similar to bringing out a bad film to watch with friends just to laugh at it.

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Overall, I guess Eurocom did an impressive job making three ports of the game in a very short period of time. The sad part is the game feels like it could be something so much more with polish and a bit more time. What we have instead though, is a game with a decent story but cringe worthy voice acting. Gamplay elements have been improved from the original but have been substituted for many more problems which is a shame. Hardcore Buffy fans will look through the errors and play this game anyway for everyone else, this game just doesn’t seem to hold up not even in a guilty pleasure way.

Now-what is left to say but…Grrr-Aaarrg.

Final Score: 2 out of 5 stars

Written by jamalais

March 7, 2014 at 11:28 am

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