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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

Collective

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

August 2002

 

 

- Really feels like an episode of Buffy
- Tight fighting engine
- Interesting story (especially for fans of the show)

 

 

- A bit short
- A bit easy
- One-liners repeated ad nauseum

 

 

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

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As a television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has always been a bit of an odd duck. Unlike most genre series, Buffy has managed to acquire much critical acclaim, including a Golden Globe nomination for Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar. The problem with turning Buffy into a videogame is that most of the elements that raise it above the pack when compared to other genre shows do not translate well into the digital world – witty teleplays, teen angst, coming of age melodrama, etc. So, what The Collective was left with in the license was the show’s penchant for fast-paced action, light (though often Lovecraftian) horror, and catch-phrase friendly one liners. Luckily, the developers took these elements and used them to fashion a surprisingly enjoyable game.

The game’s story (no spoilers ahead) takes place early in the series’ life. The villain from Season 1 (The Master, an ancient vampire bent on world destruction) is again invading Buffy’s sleep, and she sets off to find out if he has once again risen from the grave. Along the way, Buffy interacts with all of the major characters from the show’s first few seasons with their original personalities. Spike is still a baddie. Willow still likes men. Between levels, Buffy talks to every member of the Scooby gang numerous times to learn as much about the upcoming challenges as possible. Each of the characters uses their special talents (mostly during cut-scenes) to help

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Buffy in her tasks. Giles does research, Xander makes weapons, and Willow casts spells. This part of the game was especially enjoyable for me, though it would probably seem a bit dry for players who are not fans of the show and who don’t already understand the idiosyncrasies of the characters.

If I were pitching this game in the way the writers at the beginning of Robert Altman’s The

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Player pitched movies, I’d say something like this: “It is Tomb Raider meets Final Fight!” Buffy is a fairly even mix of straight-forward beat’em up and adventure game. It does both genres proud, but (and maybe it’s just me) the adventure elements seem to be growing a bit long in the tooth. Particularly tiresome are the very Tomb Raiderish platformer elements. Though the jumping from platform to platform, across instant-death crevices, is not as annoying and out of place here as in, say, Half-Life, the process still detracts from the overall package. The worst examples occur early in the game (relatively) when Buffy is exploring the buried cathedral. The passages are so dark that it is way too difficult to determine whether a particular area is simply in shadow or if it is in actuality a bottomless pit. Many cheap deaths abound. To the developer’s credit, auto-save points are regular and Buffy always returns with all of the weapons and quest items she had before the fall.

Much more satisfying is the game’s fighting engine. It is one of the smoothest I have encountered among 3D beat’em ups. In fact, other than The Mark of Kri, Buffy’s system is the best I encountered this year. It is marvelously easy to engage multiple baddies at the same time. Best of all, if you keep an eye on the heath bars of the vamps, it is possible to stake two or three vamps on consecutive moves. This looks wonderful. The vamps explode into dust with a satisfying display of light and particle effects.

 

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Buffy’s camera is also among the best in the 3D beat’em up genre. It does an excellent job of adjusting for walls and obstacles and can be quickly adjusted using the right analog stick. I’ve always felt that the highest praise you could give a game’s camera was “I didn’t notice it” and that is my comment here. It is completely unobtrusive.

 

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The complaints are few here. Buffy certainly doesn’t provide much of a mental challenge. The puzzles are simple and obvious, power-ups abound, and the game never seems to throw much at you that Buffy can’t handle. Other than the cheap deaths caused by the platformer-like jumps, you won’t find yourself restarting much. On top of that, secrets are minimal and mostly amount to finding things that help you get through the levels, which won’t increase your desire to play again. The graphics won’t cause many people to drool, but they are at least slightly above average, especially when taking into consideration the excellent character models.

On the plus side, the game captures the feel of the television series wonderfully. In fact, for the Buffy fan, I’d elevate this game to a “must buy.” For everyone else, it is simply a solid buy. If you like beat’em ups, horror themed games, and witty (though oft-repeated) one-liners, Buffy is the only stop on the Xbox express. Going on tone alone, this game is unique—a funny-scary-silly-tragic-comic book of a game.

- Tolen Dante
(September 21, 2002)

 

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