Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 08/18/02 | Genre: Action
Fans of the hit TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer have been eagerly awaiting the Slayer's Xbox debut, and after several delays, Buffy has finally arrived. Usually, it's not a good sign when a game starts to see delay after delay after delay, but in the case of Buffy, everything has worked out wonderfully; the game features solid action, a fair number of secrets and manages to capture the feel of the television show almost perfectly.
The gameplay in Buffy is one of its greatest strengths. It's been a long while since the console world has had a nice brawler, but thanks to Buffy, Xbox owners will be having a blast as they beat the tar out of vampires, demons and even giant spiders. Players can punch, jump, kick, throw or even mix and match these moves to create awesome combos as they progress through the game. Also, when performing a combo, you can power up the last move using 'slayer power' by holding the last button for a bit longer than normal. These powered up blows will deal much more damage than regular attacks and usually send enemies sprawling through the air.
The combat system in Buffy rivals that of some of the fighting games on the market today. Buffy has a wide variety of moves available at the start of the game, and she learns several new ones from Giles in between missions. The game also allows players to lock onto enemies by holding the right trigger (called 'stalking' in the game) to take out the most dangerous foes first. While in lock on mode, players can dodge enemy attacks by pushing the left analog stick in the desired direction and hitting the jump button simultaneously. Also, Buffy will do her best to block standard attacks if you simply hold the right trigger and don't move.
Throughout the game, Buffy will come across several items that can be used as weapons. These include lawn rakes, brooms, shovels and of course, wooden stakes. You will also be given weapons by some of the other characters in the game, even a squirt gun that can be filled with holy water or hell fire (don't ask). These weapons all play an important role in defeating foes and can save some wear and tear on Buffy's fists.
The developers incorporated some really cool moves into the game that play wonderfully on the whole vampire theme. For instance, in one level, vampires will attack you in the shade of a huge building, but if you grab them and throw them out of the safety of the shadows, they'll fry in the sunlight. You can also make use of sharp environmental objects by throwing a foe onto a conveniently placed fence post or some other pointy obstruction.
Graphically, Buffy is a pretty nice package. The game probably won't blow anyone away with awesome visuals, but what's there gets the job done admirably. The textures have been done fairly well, and character animation is superb. Other effects, like the glowing orbs that surround Buffy before a slayer powered attack give the game a kind of visual flair all its own. You'll also notice other subtleties such as the incredibly realistic shadow that follows Buffy's movements perfectly. When fighting in front of a mirror, vampires won't have a reflection, but Buffy's reflection will follow her every move down to the most insignificant of details; props to the developers for taking such painstaking efforts to make the game as cool as possible.
Due in no small part to the fact that most of the real life actors and actresses portray their in-game personas; the sound is another aspect where Buffy shines. Hits sound solid, blades sound vicious and character voices are among the best yet seen in any game to date. In fact, the dialogue between characters is one of the game's main appeals. To be honest, I haven't watched the TV series all that much, but I've seen a few episodes here and there and know most of the characters; however, after playing this game, I plan on getting the DVD boxed sets, some parts are genuinely hilarious! The wit of the show has carried over flawlessly into the game, and Buffy has her fair share of one-liners as she vanquishes her foes, including a few of my favorites such as, "I've got better things to do than kick your ass right now, but nothing more fun," and the classic, "Let that be a lesson to you, or you know, those that pass by your mangled corpse."
The game is great, and it offers a hefty number of secrets to be discovered, but be warned: it's not very long at all. Most gamers will probably be able to finish this one in less than ten hours, no problem. If you're like me, then you don't mind a short game as long as it's fun to play, and believe me, you may play through the game several times just because it's such a blast, but if game length is a big factor for you, you may want to reconsider purchasing this one. Also, the camera can get a little funky during combat, and jumping can feel awkward at times, but other than that, the game is fantastic.
It's been a long time coming, but Buffy was definitely worth the wait. The single player game is great, and there's even a bonus arena mode for two players. The Collective have done a fabulous job on this one, and I urge all Xbox owners to, at the very least, give the game a shot. You may find that slaying vampires is far more fun than you ever thought possible.