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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds

Review By:  Siou Choy

Developer:  Eurocom
Publisher:  Vivendi Universal
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Action
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  10-9-03

Welcome, friends, once again to the world of misty magic land.  Buffy is back, bringing the whole cast of characters of teenage America’s cult favorite TV show with her.  In fact, this round, you’ll be given the opportunity to play as Xander, Willow, Faith, Spike, and the ever popular “Sid the Dummy” as well as Buffy herself.  Rotation through the cast of characters provides the gamer with a nice change of pace in comparison to the original Buffy game.  Willow, for example, uses her magic to fend off vampire enemies; Spike (a true pain to beat in the original) has a bit more power behind his moves than Buffy does; while as expected, Xander proves the weakest (and whiniest) of the group all around (is anyone surprised?).

Veterans of the original Buffy will notice fairly early on that Chaos Bleeds is somewhat easier than its predecessor.  Staking vampires, the bane of the original Buffy experience, proves a bit less finicky this go-around.  Instead of being forced to stake vampires in the heart, you can get away with staking them just about anywhere - leg, head, heart, or should you be so inclined, even (wince) the crotch (you sick sadist, you).  The bosses in the game also seem to be a lot easier to beat than last time (though after all those damn hellhounds and the part with the fat hick vampire and friends, that’s not really a complaint).  Also, and most welcome of all, you don’t have to flip back and forth through menus to re-select your stake every time they kick it out of your hand (damn, Buffy was a pain in the ass).

The entire cast, with the exception of Gellar and Hannigan, who obviously felt they were too important for this (I mean, really – does anybody seriously say “wow, that blond chick really put everything she had into that Scooby Doo picture!” or “damn, that redhead, what a stellar thespian!  I can’t wait for the next American Pie movie!”), provide the voices for Chaos Bleeds.  The actress providing the voice of Buffy, as in the last game, does a nice job.  Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the actress filling in for Willow (yeesh!).

That said, Eurocom must have realized their game to be a bit less of a draw than its progenitor, as a sequel with less “star power” (and, as will be noted subsequently, substantially less graphical “juice”), as several unlockable extras were tossed in to make up the balance.   Namely, by finding secrets hidden throughout the game, you get to open up several cast interviews (I found the Anthony Michael Head interview to be particularly amusing) and unlock maybe a dozen playable characters and monsters.  So if you always wanted to play as a zombie, just run through the first two saves, then jump into the new multiplayer mode (relax, I’m getting to it…) for some slow moving, slowly rotting fun (or not, since once you get over the novelty of it, the zombie proves to be a rather weak fighter, all told).

Chaos Bleeds has more of a Resident Evil feel to it than the first Buffy (which was more of a straight up platformer).  With the addition of several puzzles, you’ll find yourself doing a lot more running back and forth (while the previous game had one or two sequences like this, such as the gem activated doors at Angel’s place, this sort of thing proved to be few and far between).  A typical level will involve a scenario along the lines of the following: you’re trying to rescue Giles, only to discover that you need to fight off several gargoyles to do so.  But before you can fight them, Giles needs you to find a book for him.  Once you’ve brought him the book, he peruses it only to inform you that have to find a potion.  Once you find the potion, you have to make sure it’s the right one by finding a piece of a gargoyle, which is the only way to test that you have the right potion to coat your stake with.  Then and only then can you fight the gargoyles, which, by the way, take less than a minute.  After all that, you can finally escort Giles back to safety.  Hello!

The befriended among us will also be able to take advantage of a new multiplayer mode (see, I told you!).  Up to four people can take part in the four different multiplayer games: Survival, Bunny Catcher, Slayer Challenge, and Domination.   Not that that’s saying much, mind you.  The whole multiplayer mode appears to have been tacked on last minute, with a minimum of effort, for the sole purpose of adding one more selling point to the box cover.  Seriously, this is quite possibly the poorest excuse for a multiplayer mode ever.  Each game, with the exception of Bunny Catcher, consists almost exclusively of the following: beating up on your opponent (in most cases, while simultaneously trying to hold your position in one of the burning pentagrams).   Seriously.  That’s it.  Whoever stays in one longest racks up the most points; whoever gets beat up worst dies; and there’s a few cheap gimmicks thrown in like a “point switch” (which gives all your points over to your opponent) at random intervals.  The sole “exception” to the rule, Bunny Catcher, has you running around chasing multicolored ghost bunnies that disappear when you step on them (hence a point for you) or into a nearby pentagram (hence no point for you).  One color takes away all your points, another casts “confusion control” on you (reverse the words, and you’ll figure it out; this ain’t rocket science by any standards), and the third and last color is the “good” one that just gives points without problems.  Did I mention that there’s a time limit of some sort (or maybe it was a point spread, we honestly didn’t care enough to try it again to find out)?  Did I express the sentiment “who really gives a damn”?

Graphically, Chaos Bleeds doesn't quite hold up.  And I’m not just talking against the current standard, either.  Chaos Bleeds looks like crap compared to a lot of PS1-era games, as well.  More PC game than console in appearance (if not feel), its character models have a blocky, unfinished feel, with stiff movement the order of the day.  Some areas look nicer than others (with a few coming off reasonably similar to those of the first Buffy); but overall, the effort you expect to have been put into all this for your hard earned dollar just isn’t there to be had.  There are several points in the game where you'll encounter a slowdown in the framerate, particularly when there is a lot of action going down onscreen.   Even beyond all that, the game has several very noticeable glitches.  More often than not, vampires can be seen trying to attack you through walls.  On one occasion with their disembodied arms reaching at you through the wall of a locked room!

All in all, despite all its flaws (and there are many), Chaos Bleeds is not a bad investment for the hardcore Buffy fan.  Even a casual viewer of the series should find some entertainment value here (at least insofar as the unlockable cast interviews, if nothing else).  As far as the disinterested non-fanboy…eh.  It’s not a bad game, it’s certainly not a particularly good game; it just kind of is.   Personally, I’d recommend waiting for the price to drop into the $10-15 range, which would make a more palatable purchase of what amounts to little more than a so-so game.  Not quite lousy enough to be slapped with a “substandard” label, but definitely no better than average, Chaos Bleeds is one of those games you might toss in as a stocking stuffer for the survival horror/platform/action gamer who’s not too particular and has some time on their hands.   A snack at a rest stop on the road to something better, perhaps.  But by no means the main event.

Highs:

  • Plenty of extras to unlock
  • Offers the opportunity to play as half the cast, thus more variety
  • More of a Resident Evil feel to it, should you be so inclined

Lows:

  • Wayyyy too much running back and forth over nonsense for my taste (see above)
  • An obvious rush job, with very noticeable bugs and low quality graphics
  • No Buffy last time was one thing, but now Willow thinks she’s too good for this?  Please…
  • Atrocious, nausea inducing camera (once again, what a surprise).  Is this the first corner that gets cut when the budget shrinks to nothing?

Final Verdict:

A mediocre take on what was almost a genre classic, Chaos Bleeds is a comparatively bottom of the barrel entry in the survival horror/action platformer stakes.  The closest parallel that comes to mind would be following up the GameCube’s Resident Evil with Deathtrap Dungeon.  While it’s got enough curio value to keep the interest of the diehard and the forever faithful, it really doesn’t rate a recommendation of any sort.  Those in withdrawal since the show’s cancellation might be moved to pick this one up to assuage their delirium tremens (and we will discreetly avoid mention of Angelshudder).  The more levelheaded among us, however, should know to leave well enough alone.

Overall Score: 7.0

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