HANDS-ON BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Buffy began as a small-time movie that did moderately well in theatres. There was enough of a cult following to spawn a television series which has become immensley popular. Devoted fans have been dying to see their favourite slayer in her own video game. Thanks to the kind folks at EA, that wish becomes reality this July. Earlier versions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were, well, hideous. So when EA invited me to spend a few hours with the game at their headquarters, I was a little reluctant. fear not faithful Buffietes, the game’s seen a major overhaul and will be quite a delight for action fans.
- Actors from the seires do voices for all the characters except Buffy (sigh)
- Fight Spike, The Master, Drusilla, demons, zombies, and numerous other supernatural creatures
- Locations include Sunnydale High, the cemetary, The Bronze nightclub, and the library
- Intelligent combat system allows enemies to block and counter attacks and learn from character’s fighting techniques
- Utilize Buffy’s Slayer Powers to mess them baddies up!
Buffy isn’t going to knock your socks off with its graphics, but it does a good job. the face modeling is really nice with each character looking like their TV counterpart. Well, except for Willow. She’s so much cuter on TV. Buffy has full-on Sarah Michelle Gellar hotness with a variety of costumes. In fact, she changes costumes each level so you get plenty of different Buffy looks to admire. The animations, however, are a bit lacking. Especially on Buffy’s end. She does these floaty jump kicks that just don’t look natural. Along with this unnatural look is the skin tone of our favorite characters. The faces and bodies look great, but the skin coloring is terrible. At times, Buffy looks worse than the undead attacking her. Hopefully this gets cleaned up for the final version in July.
Most of the combat animations are fluid and the things that go bunp in the night are sufficiently malevolent. It’s pretty easy for designers to overlook the subtle stoop of evil and just have a bunch of stiff looking upright vampires chasing you around. But here The Collective have made certain that each creature looks natural. Or as natural as the undead can appear. And it all goes over pretty well. You won’t face just one type of teen vamp, but several different looking (and acting) vampires. While some of these vamps are pretty weak and can be staked easily, others will block your attakcs and counter with some force. The same strategy won’t work for every vamp, so use your might wisely.
I was able to skip around through the various levels and had a chance to see all of them. The school should look familar to fans of the show and it quickly becomes a maze of hallways and rooms. Buffy does a trick I really hate in games. They offer you plenty of doors, but all but one are always locked. It’s the ‘you can go anywhere, as long as it’s where we want you to go’ trick. Eventually you will unlock all the doors, but it won’t be for a while and it won’t stop the frustration of trying to open every door in sight just to find the one door that’s accesible. Other levels include The Bronze, a mausoleum, and the Dream Realm.
A good undead action tale must be able to create a suitable atmosphere. Buffy pulls this off. Currently some areas are a bit too dark, but the overall atmosphere is creepier than expected. the music is pseudo-orchestral and very efficient at raising the hairs on the back of your neck. best is when you are suddenly set upon by five baddies and the music switches to a heavy groove which really shoots the adrenaline through your veins. It’s one of those moments where you mutter to yourself, “Perfect,” and actually mean it.
Buffy features the voices of almost the entire Buffy cast. Only our heroine, Sarah Michelle Gellar is absent, though a good sound-a-like has been employed to deliver all of Buffy’s sarcastic remarks in Ms. Gellar’s stead. The actors translate perfectly into voice-over. Wishy-washy Willow, mentoring Giles, and cool Cordelia are all there to help Buffy in her quest to rid the world of a little thing calld evil. In a perfect world Gellar would be providing Buffy’s voice. It’s unfortunate that the one missing cast member happens to be the most significant. The sound-a-like does a good job, but there just aren’t enough sayings here. How many times will you hear Buffy repeat the same phrase when she finds a stake> A zillion. Even after just a few hoursof playing the game, I was sick of hearing the same phrases for the umpteenth time.
One of the problems with earlier builds of Buffy was that it just didn’t seem fun at all. All of that has changed. Despite a few minor (and far too easy) puzzles. Buffy is a straight action game. It’s all about kicking the stuffing out of vampires, demons, and other horrific creatures. With dozens of moves to perform, the combat remains fresh throughout. There a ton of hand-to-hand moves and once you pick up a melee weapon ( a rake, a stake, a baseball bat) you have a few more moves you can perform. There are also ranged weapons, like a crossbow and a water gun, which can be used to dispatch villains from further away. Just as your crossbow bolts will dwindle, so will the strength of your wooden weapons. The more you strike with a stake, the more its integrity depletes. Larger objects, like rakes, will break eventually, but their shards will be useable as a stake.
Along with a normal set of kicks, throws, puches and jabs, Buffy can use Slayer Powers. These are ultra cool attacks that slowly deplete your special moves bar. One of my favorites is a triple kick, which does a Matrix-like (no, wait, it’s exactly like the Matrix) kick in the air. Buffy goes slow-mo and does three powerful kicks in the air. All of the Slayer Power moves look awesome. I wasn’t expecting to like this game, but I have to admit it’s a solid action title.
Buffy isn’t without its problems, though. I can accept the fact that the skin tine is off and that there’s no Gellar voice overs, but if the camera isn’t fized in the final version, the fame will kill your smile. Cameras are often a problem in action titles and Buffy’s camera is particularly troubling. I found myself constantly haveing to adjust the camera. And in a corner, the camera would get stuck and I’d be fighting blind. And fighting blind is a good way to die fast.
The game seems to be in the 10-12 hour range. It’s unclear if there will be anything to unlock, but it doesn’t appear there will be much replay incentive. The fights were pretty tough, except for the final boss. He was a pushover. He was easier to kill than just about anyone else in the game. Bug the final months of development are all about game balancing, so I expect the final stage to be tougher when the game comes out.
If you asked me about Buffy a week ago, I would have gagged. The game appeared to be shaping up to be a big pile of Scooby Doo. Turns out, The Collective and EA have righted the Buffy ship. The game isn’t revolutionary in graphics or gameplay but it does appear like it will be a solid game. It will certainly please Buffy fans. As for those who’ve never gotten into the whole Buffy thing? It’ll still be a worthy action game. While the game is on the right track, it could easily be derailed. This one’s too close to call right now, but I’ve got my fingers crossed.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Releases August 19, 2002
Original article at IGN