reviews\ Sep 19, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds - GC - Review

Well, folks, it seems the light has dimmed on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, and after seven years perhaps it is best that it be put to rest, but the franchise is still alive and stabbing in various forms such as comic books, marketing knick-knacks, and of course videogames.  Last year’s interactive digital Slayer game came as a bit of a surprise to fans of the show and action gamers alike, its level of fun-ness was unprecedented for a licensed property.  Sadly, the original Buffy game was an Xbox exclusive, and we know how many people own Xbox’s, don’t we?  The answer is not many.  That’s why the sequel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds, is a full-on multi-platform release, though the Xbox version still takes the cake for being the prettiest of the bunch.


One of the great things about the Xbox original was that it featured a fully-realized plot with all the attention and care of an actual episode in the series.  You’ll be glad to know that Chaos Bleeds is no different.  The “lost episode” this time around takes place between season five’s episodes 17 and 18.  As Buffy buffs may recall, this is around the same time that the vampire’s vampire, Kekistos, was threatening to unleash a terrible evil on the world known as “The First.”  Of special mention, Sid the Dummy, who was first seen in season one of the show, makes a triumphant comeback in Chaos Bleeds (don’t worry, his presence is believably justified.  Well, if you believe in multi-dimensional time-warps, that is.) 


Aside from stickman Sid, you’ll also get to control Willow, Xander, Tara, Giles, Spike and, of course, Buffy through 12 long stages that involve lots of button mashing and puzzle solving.  While all of the above characters are playable, whether you’ll actually play as them in any given level is not up to you, rather the choice of character in each stage is pre-determined by the game’s linear storyline.  Occasionally, the character you are playing as will be accompanied by another character, allowing you and a computer-controlled hero to fight side by side.  Also, each character in the game has a distinct set of moves and handles noticeably differently.  Buffy is an all-around ass-kicker and features the buffest move-set of the bunch while Willow takes a more cerebral combat approach and relies mainly on spell-casting. 


Regardless of which personality you’re playing as you’ll find the gameplay to be reactionary and at times highly satisfying.  The control system hasn’t changed much from last year’s game and that’s mostly a good thing.  There are still buttons dedicated to punching, kicking, and jumping – you can perform combos by stringing these buttons together when timed correctly – but now you also have a stake button for when it is time to put the proverbial nail in the coffin.  While Chaos Bleeds’ combat system can be aptly described as simplistic, it still offers a surprising amount of depth given its seemingly limited headroom.  For example, by hitting punch and kick at the same time Buffy will grab and throw an opponent, which can easily result in knocking over a few other baddies or killing said thrown opponent by knocking it into a pit of fire or other environmental hazard. 


Using the old fists and feet to dispose of demonic lunk heads is all well and good, but as fans of last year’s game’ll tell you: it’s all about the weapons, Nancy.  Thankfully, Chaos Bleeds has plenty of’em.  Stakes abound in any given area, and if they’re not readily available you can make them by destroying a chair or bench.  You can also equip a battle axe, baseball bat, shovel, holy water gun, and bottles of hellfire, to name a few.  Each melee weapon, however, has its own life meter that gradually depletes as you use it.  For instance, once you’ve slammed a few homeruns with the baseball bat it will splinter and break, but in a cool twist you can actually pick up the tattered remains and use it as a blunt weapon or stake.  Pretty clever, eh?


You’ll also be charged with plenty of puzzle solving in Chaos Bleeds, but not the kind found in the last iteration.  This time puzzles will span an entire environment, much like Silent Hill or Resident Evil.  This means plenty of backtracking is necessary and, in truth, that is the single worst feature of the game.  You’ll often find yourself in the middle of a multi-tiered expansive environment that contain dozens of different rooms but only one of them harbors the key to progress to the next step in the puzzle.  It’s easy to overlook that tiny red button on a smashed up garbage truck, or miss that hidden-away safe in the wall.  Fetch quests aren’t my forte, and while most puzzles in Chaos Bleeds are logical and nicely orchestrated, it is also quite apparent that some of the chores you need to perform were thrown in just to prolong the game’s lifespan.


A nice multi-player component is included with Chaos Bleeds and features up to 24 different playable characters for up to four players simultaneously.  There is a survival mode, which is a last-man-standing game of combat; bunny catcher mode challenges you and up to three other players to chase after and catch different-colored bunnies that are each worth a different amount of points; a slayer challenge is also available and allows one player to control the “slayer” while the other players control a group of monsters; and domination is the token king-of-the-hill mode where the winner is the one who takes control of the most pentagrams for the longest time.


Visually, Chaos Bleeds looks marginally better than the original game, though the character models aren’t all that impressive.  Some of the playable heroes in Chaos Bleeds look nothing like their small-screen counterparts, especially the titular Buffy Summers.  Enemies though are impressively rendered and vast in assortment, sporting smooth animation and plenty of subtle graphical details.  Cut-scenes are all rendered in-game so those who are put off by the somewhat twisted-looking personality portrayals may find themselves cringing occasionally.  But the environments found throughout the game’s hefty 12 levels are great, each area contains something visually new and you’ll rarely if ever have a problem of knowing where you are due to repeating scenery.


The sound in Chaos Bleeds may be the game’s overall best feature.  The voice talents used for the many instances of dialogue found in the game are all spot-on, with the exception of Willow whose sporadic vocal modulation sounds only vaguely familiar to the Willow in the show.  Also, it should be mentioned, Sarah Michelle Gellar was not able to lend her bagpipes to the game, but the stand-in, who also provided Buffy’s voice in the original game, does an excellent, almost uncanny job of recreating the Slayer’s tonal inflections.  Every other featured actor from the show chipped in their respective voices, so expect an impressive aural performance all around.  The music feels ripped right out of the show and fits the on-screen proceedings perfectly, if you like that sort of moody rock music. 


All in all, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds is a worthy follow-up to a great game but ultimately falls victim to design clichés such as tedious fetch quests and repetitive combat.  Fans of the source-material will certainly disagree with me, and that’s fine, I’m admittedly not a fan so perhaps a lot of the concepts and content were lost on me.  In any case, Chaos Bleeds is a fun, somewhat lengthy (about 10 hours) romp that serves perfectly as a weekend rental.



Gameplay: 8.1
Satisfyingly solid.  Chaos Bleeds plays like an updated 3D Double Dragon.


Graphics: 7.6
Not much better looking than last year’s game but plenty enough to get the job done.  Buffy’s character model might tend to annoy but the crystal clean, well-detailed environments look great.


Sound: 8.4
Voice acting is mostly spot-on (except for Willow) and the music bleeds with Buffy-ness.


Difficulty: Easy
You’ll never fear the reaper in this game, dying is practically a foreign concept in Chaos Bleeds, but you will be occasionally stymied by the game’s sometimes obscure puzzles.


Concept: 7.5
Not a fan myself, but I see nothing wrong with a game about a hot vampire hunter who carries a long wooden shaft.



Surprisingly well-executed.  The ability to unlock new playable characters for this mode through completing the main game is a nice incentive.


Overall: 7.4

Chaos Bleeds is devilishly fun for the first couple hours.  Hours three through ten, however, tend to drag on.  Overall, this is an excellent game for fans of the show and only a good game for fans of the genre.




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