When the first Buffy game was released I was pretty naïve to the whole world of vampire slaying. I had never watched the show and had only seen bits and pieces of the 1992 feature film. But I was still interested in the game all my friends had fallen in love with, a game that certainly looked like fun even though I didn’t have a clue who the characters were.
After playing through the game I was impressed by its witty dialog, odd characters, and interesting story, and I wondered if the show was anything like that. Thanks to the power of syndication, I have been able to catch up on all seven seasons, leading me to proclaim that I am indeed a Buffy fan. And with this new found respect and admiration for the television show, I was excited to dig into Buffy’s second game, Chaos Bleeds.
Where the first game was set fairly early in the TV shows run, Chaos Bleeds fits right in the middle of season five. This change allows the game to drop some of the more boring cast members, like Cordelia Chase, and utilize a few of the more interesting characters, such as Faith, the unpredictable second slayer. It also introduces convincing ways of using some of the characters who were more secondary players in the original game. Willow, for example, has been mastering magic, a skill that proves useful when battling vampires and the undead. And then there’s Spike, an enemy in the first game, but now, several seasons later, a “friend” of the Scooby gang.
Thankfully, all these new characters are able to take some of the burden off of Buffy Summers. This time the slayer isn’t the only one getting in on the action, as you are required to play as a total of six different characters throughout the adventure. Both of the slayers, Buffy and Faith, fight the same, with speed, precision, and strength. Spike, the vampire, uses a variation of the slayers moves, and Xander, who really doesn’t have any special abilities, is slow, sluggish, and nearly worthless.
It’s Willow who ends up being the most refreshing. Since she isn’t much of a fighter, you are forced to either punch your foes to death or use magic. She only starts with a few spells at the beginning of the game, but by the end she has a grand repertoire of interesting and destructive moves. She, like most of the other characters in the game, take a backseat to Buffy, who you end up playing as the most in Chaos Bleeds.
And then there’s Sid the demon hunting ventriloquist dummy, the sixth playable character. Sid was used in an earlier episode of the Buffy TV show, one that was a little more tongue and cheek than usual. The fact that he returns in this game is both a surprise and a disappointment, since he’s not a very interesting character and doesn’t add anything to the story. There are a lot of forgotten characters from the Buffyverse that would make a lot more sense to this story than Sid the puppet, characters like Riley Finn or Angel, just to name a couple.
My other minor complaint is the way they use Xander, who shouldn’t be out there taking on groups of vampires all by himself. It would have been nice if they could have used his “army guy” knowledge from the show to better use, perhaps giving him heavy fire power or letting him drive or something. As it is, he just seems like the slow-motion version of Spike, which isn’t who he is on the show at all.
Much of the story revolves around the Scooby gang trying to figure out what is causing the outbreak of violence and how you can stop it. Throughout the course of the game you will run into a number of familiar foes, including Giles old pal Ethan Rayne, Anyanka the vengeance demon, and Adam, a robotic creature made up of parts from all kinds of demons and creatures. These enemies aren’t just reintroduced so you will have somebody to fight, but rather as part of some larger plan concocted by “the first”. If you can figure out what is going on in time, then you may just be able to live to see another episode.
Most of the Buffy cast is back to reprise their rolls, with the exception of a few key missing voices. Much like the original game, Sarah Michelle Geller is nowhere to be found, so we get somebody doing their best imitation of Buffy. It never quite sounds exactly like the real slayer, but ends up being as close as you could hope for. The Willow sound alike, however, didn’t turn out nearly as well. It’s clear the voice they were gunning for, but it certainly comes more as a Saturday Night Live parody than the red-headed Wicca she’s supposed to be. This is especially disappointing after the wonderful job Alyson Hannigan did in the original Buffy game.
The over-all atmosphere is spot-on; every measure of the moody incidental music to the theme song performed by Nerf Herder sounds like it’s lifted directly from the show. Although a few of the sound effects are a tad over used (especially the character grunts and expressions), for the most part the game sounds as intense as any other action game this year. About the only thing missing is the obscure indie band playing at the Bronze.
Where the game begins to fall down, though, is when you see the graphics. The original game, released almost exactly one year earlier, looked good, but not spectacular. Now a year later, twelve months of Xbox games trying to outdo each other, it’s hard to get excited by the outdated look of Chaos Bleeds. The backgrounds, while effective, are extremely simple and rudimentary. Though a lot of the enemies are well drawn, some of the character models of our heroes look a little off. With a different voice and a low-polygon character model, Ayna (a personal favorite of mine) is extremely difficult to pick out of a crowd.
The crummy graphics aren’t the only thing to return from the original, as you’ll find that the camera has more than a few control issues. For the most part the camera behaves itself, but every so often, especially in close quarters, it tends to be just as unruly as any one of the beasts crawling out of the Hellmouth. Thankfully it’s nothing you can’t work around, but it does add some unneeded frustration to the game.
Though there are puzzles in each of the twelve levels, most of the game is about fighting vampires, zombies, and demons. In a lot of ways the game reminds me of the days of the classic arcade brawlers like Final Fight or Streets of Rage, with endless amounts of enemies coming at you from all sides, beating them off with whatever weapon you could scrounge up, and just doing your best to get to the end of the level. Buffy is a great action game in an era that expects something more than just great action.
Unlike Final Fight and Streets of Rage, Buffy comes with a set of moves about as long as any one on one fighting game. Your character has numerous throws, plenty of melee attacks, combos, and all kinds of impressive special moves, all ready to be used on whatever unsuspecting vamp that gets in your way. Some moves are more useful than others, and there are a few that are just too difficult to pull of to be practical in battle, but the game is certainly a step-up from the Bouncer and every other games that have tried bringing the classic brawler into the 3D world.
Since the game is story driven, it tends to be a little on the linear side. There are a number of secrets hidden in each level, but they do very little to add to the game’s one-track agenda. Many of the levels are large and sprawling, but you always have to take them in the same order with the same enemies every time. It’s a great story with all kinds of interesting twists and turns, but like any TV show, you probably won’t want to watch it too many times before you move on to the next thing.
Though the story itself is extremely linear, there are a number of incentives for you to play through them more than once. The game comes complete with a number of DVD-style extras, including a gag reel, cast interviews, video of the voice over work, and more. Though these don’t add much to the game play, they are longer than you’d expect and should provide a great deal of entertainment for the fans of the Buffy series. It’s a shame more games don’t provide these little extras, they certainly add a lot to the value of this game.
When you’ve gone through every last interview, you and your friends can take on any one of the numerous multi-player games. You can take on three of your friends in a fight to the death Survival match, or you can run around trying to catch cute little rabbits, in Bunny Catcher. The game also allows you to play a game of Dominance, where you’re fighting to take control of land, as well as take the Slayer Challenge, which is about as much fun as real training must be.
Perhaps most impressive, though, are the 24 characters you can choose from to play these games. Obviously the game allows you to take control of Buffy, Xander, Willow, and the rest of the Scooby gang, but if you’re feeling a little more evil, you can choose from any one of the bosses, random vampires, or zombies. Heck, you can even play as the show’s creator, Joss Whedon, which is just about as gimmicky as it sounds.
Unfortunately your choice of levels is somewhat limited, and a few of the modes are decidedly less fun than others, but ultimately it is a nice addition to an already impressive package. About the only extra features missing from this game is deleted footage or a director’s commentary track. For some fans of the series, these extras alone may be worth the price of the game.
Chaos Bleeds won’t set the industry on fire with its originality, and to a lot of people it will look like more of the same, but you’d be hard pressed to find a game like it that offers more excitement. This is one of the very few TV shows that actually works as a video game, and should be picked up be every Xbox (or PlayStation 2 and GameCube) owning Buffy fan. And though it features a story that ties in to other episodes, it’s easily accessible to those who have never even heard of the series. Who knows, it may even prompt you to give the show a chance.
Buffyâ€™s second outing has a new cast of characters, a better story, loads of exciting weapons, and a lot of guilt-free action! So why does it remind me so much of the first game?