Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds - X-Box Review

September 29th, 2003

I am a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I liked the movie. Saw it in the theatre even. I loved the T.V. show. Watched it from day one. Which is not to say I'm a fanatic. I find the comics a little... off. Fray is good, but the actual Buffy and Angel comics are a missing that distinctive Whedon zing. I own the C.D. of the musical episode. This is all a way of me saying that I know a bit about Buffy. Hopefully I've already proven that I know a little about video games. I own the first Xbox Buffy game. I still play it from time to time. This was all a preface, me setting the stage so that you can take me at my word when I say Buffy the Vampire Slayer:Chaos Bleeds is a disappointment. The only thing improved in this sequel is the graphics, everything else is a step backwards.

And the graphics aren't a huge improvement. The first game weren't ugly, but there was room for improvement. This game looks crisper, cleaner and more colourful than the last. And the character models look a slight bit better. Except for Willow: she looks WAY better in this one. But the improved visuals come with some drawbacks. The environments seem a lot less interactive. There are ledges all over the places that should be grabable but aren't. And Buffy should be able to break more stuff. In addition, Buffy should have more moves. Her repertoire seems more limited this time around. There are definately moves missing. Sequels are supposed to add moves, not take them away. Sure, there are way more controllable characters this time around but Willow is the only one that plays significantly different. Xander may be more weapons oriented, but his weapon combos are very similar to any one else's. And the character's interactions with the environments leave a lot to be desired. Maybe I'll start a new paragraph since this is more to do with play control than graphics.

Sunnydale is a slippery place. It sure as hell seems that way in this game at least. A fine layer of ice has descended on every surface since the last game. Everything seems sloppier and slipperier. One thing that has somewhat improved from the last game is that Buffy no longer takes excessive damage from minor falls. What the hell kind of slayer gets hurt from falling only one story I asks ya. So that's been improved in this game, maybe improved isn't quite the right word. Ignored is more like it. You no longer fall off ledges, you walk off them. Usually, you just keep on walking. Then gravity takes the hint and pulls you down but oftentimes the walking animation continues. It's as if the characters don't even notice they've plummeted. Weak. The jumping is lackluster as well. You can jump up on to some things, but you eventually slide off, so its not usually worth the effort. Or the aggravation. This would all be forgivable if the fighting engine was as tight as the last game, but that is not the case. I don't know how Eurocom fucked it up, but they did. Wait, I do know how they fucked it up. They not only ignored some of the failings of the last game's fighting system, they exacerbated most of them. Once Buffy, or anyone else for that matter, initiates a combo string she's stuck in a straight line. If the opponent sidesteps, or if your aim was just slightly off, you'll get hit from the side or behind by an opportunistic opponent. Or opponents. Couple this with the floaty, loose, sloppy controls and you've got a recipe for crap. Plus now Buffy gets stunned on occasion which opens her up for even more pain. Lame. And all the characters share the same throw. And unlike the last game, you can no longer pick which direction you want to throw the enemy. So say there's a handy dandy bit of sharp wood jutting out of somewhere, it's quite the chore to impale your undead foe upon said wood. Impale doesn't quite describe it, the vampire brushes up against the wood and turns to dust. It looks very stupid. To put it as simply as I can: the combat in the first Buffy game was very enjoyable, the combat in the sequel is annoying.

The sound is worse in this sequel for one simple reason: no Alyson Hannigan. She was in the first game, but not this one. And unlike the Buffy sound-alike who is great, the Willow "sound-alike" is grating. Which sucks cuz the in game Willow Willow model looks so much better in this version. But when she opens her mouth, the illusion is shattered. And Anya don't sound like Anya neither. The soundtrack and the ambient noise is just dandy though.

It's not just a couple of the character's voices that are off though. The voice of the entire game ain't quite right. Even though it's jammed full of Buffy stuff, it comes across as a third rate episode. There are still a lot of funny quips and such, but there's just something missing. There's a heavy reliance on fetch quests as well. Especially compared to the first game.

The one thing they did right in this game is the extras. There's all kind of unlockable goodies. The best ar the interviews. You get to hear Joss Whedon, Nicholas Brendon, Amber Benson and Anthony Stewart Head talk about all manner of things, including the game. Very interesting and amusing, especially if you'r e a Buffy nut. There's some artwork and such and highlights from the recording sessions that aren't all that exciting. And you can unlock more characters to use in the multiplayer modes. Oh, did I forget to mention the multiplayer modes? No, I didn't.

It's always sad to see a sequel that's worse than the game that came before it. Especially since The Collective gave Vivendi Universal/Eurocom such a great base to build the sequel on. The graphics and sound were great, and the fighting was just plain enjoyable. But there was still room for improvement, a few obvious flaws. This sequel fixes nothing and then breaks a few things just to be safe. On the bright side, this is one less game to spend money on.

- Tyler