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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Satisfyingly solid. Chaos Bleeds plays like an updated 3D Double Dragon.
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.
Voice acting is mostly spot-on (except for Willow) and the music bleeds with
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.
Not a fan myself, but I see nothing wrong with a game about a hot vampire hunter
who carries a long wooden shaft.
well-executed. The ability to unlock new playable characters for this mode
through completing the main game is a nice incentive.
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.