The town of Sunnydale has seen its fair share of supernatural occurrences. Despite perilous situations arising every week for Buffy Summers and her friends, fans of the TV show ?Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, just cannot seem to get enough. Vivendi Universal and developer Eurocom have tried to create a ?lost episode’ for fans of the show and gamers alike to devour. Buffy devotees will be able to place this new story in season five, between episodes seventeen and eighteen. First impressions of Chaos Bleeds are favourable, and certainly compare well against last year’s game developed by The Collective. Many of the staple Buffy elements are present, including the Magic Box, Sunnydale High School, and the Initiative compound. The original Scooby gang members are visible as always, along with newer friends, such as Tara, Anya, and (in a move bound to please the devout) Sid the Dummy. The do-gooder side of the show is certainly well represented, but then so is the evil. Kakistos makes an appearance, as does Faith (although, for the purposes of this story, she is allied with the Scooby gang), and in another fan-pleasing move, Ethan Rayne will be meddling with the forces of darkness, (in the form of ?the first’) as he has a penchant to do. While character details such as these are sure to delight Buffy fans, the game’s technical deficiencies are readily apparent.
Gameplay will certainly be familiar to anybody who has played the original game, but this is also where some of the problems arise too. The game mainly consists of fighting, but also has an added adventuring aspect. The allure of six playable characters (Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike, Faith, and Sid) has certainly been an eagerly awaited feature by gamers, but in an understandable (if slightly disappointing move), the story will dictate how and when you control the various Scooby gang members. The fighting, though reminiscent of the original game, does not feel as smooth. The menu system is awkward and, in the heat of battle, (while the game is still moving) it is incredibly hard to hastily navigate through all your equipment and find an item or weapon that you may need. For example, if trying to use Hellfire it is advantageous to try to distance the current character from enemies, but while Buffy is feverishly busy selecting it, an enemy will have quickly caught up with her, and upon hurling the Hellfire, she will more than likely get burnt also. Thankfully the black button provides a much-needed shortcut to the wooden stake – assuming you have one, of course. At the beginning of every level, the game curiously removes all vampire slaying accessories from your person, and requires you to find something straight away while you are being attacked. The in-game puzzles are also somewhat patchy; they run from the typical ?find three pieces of a broken object, reassemble them, and carry to ?point A’ to replace them’ variety, to puzzles that can initially seem quite vague and obscure. The puzzles are never hard, but confusion often arises through the game’s help system. In some places, it will lead a player by the hand to exactly where they need to be, while in others, a puzzle will be present but the game will not make any mention of it, thus leaving the player wondering just exactly why they are unable to go anywhere.
Graphical execution is a slight improvement over last year’s game, but in terms of authenticity, it leaves much to be desired. Facial features for all the principal cast are improved from the original title, but the character models still animate rather jerkily, and the detail work is left largely to the textures, which simply cannot hide the fact that they are on low polygon models. There are also issues present within Chaos Bleeds that seem extremely odd considering the attention to detail which has been shown in other aspects of the game. For instance, enemy vampires can be killed by stabbing them through the heart with a metal sword – but any fan of vampire lore will immediately inform you that Bram Stoker would turn in his grave to hear such a claim. Buffy fans, however, may be even less forgiving. Stranger still, though, are the discrepancies in collision detection that allow vampires to be turned to dust by a wooden stake?after being stabbed in the toe! It is odd indeed that some of these elements passed through the developer’s quality control process without due notice and reaction, as they certainly fail to adhere to the franchise upon which they are based.
Sound is an area that can certainly help make or break a game based upon a famous TV show or movie, and developer Eurocom has done a reasonable job of making sure that Chaos Bleeds is aurally faithful to its source. The in-game voice acting is generally as good as can be expected, although Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alison Hannigan are both sadly absent this time around. The rest of the principal cast lend the credibility that you would expect, although attention has not been paid to the quality of the supporting voice artists. Most of them offer some very stiff and unbelievable phrases. Once you begin the game, the music largely tries to emulate the themes and motifs conveyed by the show’s soundtrack. Unsurprisingly the theme song from the show is played over the title screen. Some of the music is well written, and truly helps support the atmosphere expected from a Buffy game, while others musical pieces seem oddly ill fitting, and do nothing to try and make the player feel as though they are actually participating in a Buffy episode.
While there are several game types to indulge in, requiring from two to four players, replay value is also fairly sparse because the experience across all the games modes quickly feels somewhat familiar. The modes include Survival (a basic deathmatch), Bunny Catch (in which you have to collect various colors of rabbit to beat your opponents’ scores), Slayer Challenge (where the first player has to slay as many enemies as possible and any subsequent players control monsters in order to end player-one’s winning streak), and finally Domination (which is little more than a dressed up King of the Hill). The main replay value within Chaos Bleeds comes from its host of unlockable features, which include video segments of cast and crew talking about their Buffy experiences and what it is like working on the games. There are also unlockable items that relate purely to multiplayer mode, such as arenas and player characters. If you have ever wanted to see how Joss Whedon would fare against a host of his own slavering creations, you can find out here. Pretty cool.
Overall then, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds is a fun, yet flawed game. In many ways the developer has tried to increase awareness of the show within the game world, and fans will surely eat this up. However, the basic controls in this iteration do not feel as good as they did in the original game, which is strange indeed, and also detrimental to the overall experience. Additionally, some of the gameplay choices, such as being able to ?stake’ vampires will leave players wondering if the programmers ever actually watched the show. Fans of Buffy will most likely enjoy what is on offer here, if they can overlook the obvious problematic issues mentioned herein. Gamers in general will find an enjoyable action adventure title, which is heavy on the action and light on the adventure. Go on, be Buffy for a while.