reviews\ Aug 28, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - XB - Review

After having been held back for a long time, myself--along with a number of Xbox gamers--have been wondering if the game based on the very popular television series would ever see the light of day at all.  Thankfully the game didn’t dissolve into oblivion and I can say that after playing Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s a game that was definitely worth the wait.


Without getting too far into the show’s background, the game revolves around a seemingly normal high school student in Sunnydale, California named Buffy Summers.  However, nothing about Buffy or Sunnydale is what they seem.  You see Buffy is a vampire slayer in a long line of vampire slayers and Sunnydale just happens to be a place that draws the forces of evil toward it like a magnet.  With the aid of her Watcher (Giles, her mentor), her friends (known as the Scooby Gang) with super-human strength, Buffy takes on the army of darkness.


The game takes place somewhere in the show’s third season, pitting Buffy against her old adversary known as the Master (one of the oldest vampires) along with such recognizable foes as Spike.  The first mission takes place in an abandoned Spanish mission where gamers basically get to learn the controls.


And Buffy’s controls are easy to get into and vampire slaying couldn’t be more fun . . . or addictive. Buffy can punch and kick her way out of a situation, and thanks to her strength, her punches and kicks are powerful enough to knock an enemy down.  But everyone knows a vampire can never die from a simple beating and this is where weapons are implemented.  Buffy relies on handy weapons such as stakes, crossbows or a child‘s squirt gun (filled with Holy water, of course).  And if, say, a baseball bat should break over a demon’s head, you can use the sharp broken end as a stake.


There are a number of ways to dispatch your enemy and the game allows you to find that out on your own.  You can choose to throw a vampire into a jagged end of a coat hanger or throw him out a window for the daylight to burn him to cinders.  The possibilities are numerous and with each killing you raise your Slayer Power (in order to learn new spectacular feats such as flying spin kicks or handy slayer tricks such as throwing a stake at a vampire).


And speaking of spectacular feats, much praise should go to the artists because the graphics in this game truly are admirable.  You’ll be amazed by the depth of detail found in each environment if it’s outside the local high school or inside the local hangout called the Bronze.  The best part is that almost everything in the surrounding can be interacted with like chairs, tombstones and windows.  And the characters--such as Buffy herself--look amazingly like the actors that portray them on the show that it’s almost eerie, in a way.  Who would have thought we would be moving around a game character that looks exactly like Sarah Michelle Gellar?


The level of detail found in the game’s sound effects will amaze game players.  The deserted woods, for instance, are alive with the sounds of hooting owls and a breeze the sways the leaves off trees as the branches brush up against other branches.  Meanwhile the interior of an abandoned Spanish-style mission have become a den for vampires and you can hear them hiss somewhere in the dank darkness.  Listen carefully and you can even pinpoint their exact location.  And all of this is accompanied by a masterful score that adds tension to moments in the game that require you to go into a dark areas.


Still, the game has its share of problems.  There are a small number of skips and bumps during battle that can become somewhat annoying at times.  The camera angles can also play a hand in getting Buffy killed especially when she's fighting in certain corners where the camera doesn’t completely follow Buffy.  And the save points are far apart so sometimes you have to go through a difficult part of the level all over again . . . although thankfully gamers are given unlimited continues.


Even with it’s minor glitches, Buffy the Vampire Slayer does not fail in capturing all the great things fans love about the show and action gamers will have a real blast fighting the forces of evil with a charming and likeable hero.  So what are you waiting for?  Go out and buy it already . . . you won’t regret it.


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 9.0
The controls in Buffy the Vampire Slayer are so easy to get into that gamers will master the basic mechanics of it pretty quickly.  Combat, on the other hand, takes a little practice in order to unleash Buffy’s true fighting style or Slayer Power moves.  And Buffy’s fighting style changes constantly and that keeps the action from becoming repetitive and ultimately boring.


Gamers will also come to rely on the help of her friends and people you just happen to save.  Rescue a woman from a vampire and she’ll give you a health elixir or gather enough white power crystals for Wiccan-in-training Willow and she’ll give you power weapons such as vials of holy water.


Graphics: 9.2
The visuals are simply jaw dropping and seldom does a game’s graphics reduce me to a wide-eyed wonder as this game does.  You won’t believe how gorgeous the backgrounds and surroundings are until you see the first mission or the levels that involve Sunnydale High.  The details are numerous and you can see it in everything from the shadows cast by the moonlight to the crackling and dancing flames of a bonfire.  And it’s almost eerily beautiful watching a vampire get dusted--the staked corpse rising a little as it disintegrates into dry brown ash.


And, of course, there are the characters.  Buffy is amazingly like her real counterpart while other recognizable characters such as Cordelia and Angel aren’t exact matches but they’re close enough that you’ll recognize them right away before they are properly introduced.


Sound: 9.1
Another amazing quality is the game’s sound that compliments the game’s rich visuals.  Fans of the show will instantly recognize the show’s opening theme song at the beginning of the game and you can find that excellent score played throughout the game.  You’ll swear you’re watching an episode from the show thanks to the fluidity of the score.


And while Sarah Michelle Gellar does not bring life to Buffy (an impersonator does it and does it excellently), the other key cast members were all at hand to voice their perspective characters (Giles, Willow, Xander, Angel, Cordelia and even Spike).  And kudos should go to the writer whose dialogue is scripted so all the characters sound the way they do on television . . . although Buffy’s signature crack wising can become repetitive.


Difficulty: Medium
Since the controls are smooth and easy to handle, gamers can concentrate on perfecting their combat skills.  Buffy isn’t all about punches and kicks, she can mix and match moves and unleash several different combos and fighting styles seen on the show.  And the game also leaves gamers enough room for creativity . . . leaving it up to you to decide how to dispatch an enemy.


The game’s puzzles are mostly put-this-stone-into-that-slot but that’s okay because the real challenge is the enemy itself.  Various vampires fight differently and many of them actually pose a real threat to Buffy while demons can be a lot trickier to dispatch.  Each level also throws in a boss that becomes more difficult to more you advance.


Concept: 9.0
Those gamers who are familiar with the show and its supernatural theme will be thrilled to be surrounded by familiar surroundings and interacting with familiar faces (and voices) such as the various characters that show up in the show.  You’ll be amazed how close to the show this game really is and how sometimes it seems as if you’re truly playing a lost episode.


And if you find the action aspect of the show appealing, the game is big on action.  Not only are you able to use your arsenal of weapons, parts of the environment can be broken and its pieces used as weapons themselves. 


Overall: 8.8
You don’t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy this action-packed game that, aside from looking really good, is both fun and highly addictive.  And despite the game’s little blemishes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still a great game action fans can really sink their teeth into (no pun intended).


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