Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 02/08/05 | Genre: Accessory
When we visited Namco at E3 2004, they were excited about many of their titles. One of them being showcased at the front of their booth was Death by Degrees. We were told how this is a style of game that the fans wanted and it could mark the beginning of Tekken characters getting their own action title. Since we only had a few minutes to spend with it at E3, I left their booth thinking it would probably turn out to be a pretty fun title. However, now that I have had some time to play it, I realized that I already had all the fun with it that I was going to when I had my turn at E3.
When I review a title, I try to not be picky about every single small detail. Some titles are good enough to warrant looking past many of their inherent flaws. However, that is not the case here. The most perplexing flaw of Death by Degrees is seen before you even have had a chance to get into the game. The load times are horrible. For some reason, the developers make you sit through a loading screen, just to load up another loading screen after a pause that lasts more than a few seconds. I understand that with any CD/DVD game you will have a load time, and that time can vary. However, the load times found in Death by Degrees are much longer than any title I have played on the market today and that is just unacceptable from a big Developer and Publisher like Namco.
A few other areas stand out as needing improvement. These are the visuals and horrible voice acting and music. Lets start out with the graphics. Visually, Death By Degrees just looks dated. The game doesn't look as polished as current titles, the textures are poorly done, and the enemy characters do not move around in a realistic manner. Tekken is known for great cinemas but for some odd reason, the cinematic sequences in Death by Degrees are nowhere near the quality of those found in Tekken 5. Were the good cinema developers busy working on Tekken during development of Death by Degrees? The biggest saving grace of the graphics, though, is Nina Williams. The developers seemed to realize this all too obvious fact and ran with it. We get to see Nina in a variety of costumes, each of which, in a different and clever way, shows off her "assets." We will just leave it at that.
The days of giving characters horrible voices in games are over. Capcom beat that dead horse into the ground in their RE series. The voice actors here just seem to be lifeless beings speaking their lines without any care to how they sound. Maybe that is how Namco wanted them to sound. But surely they could listen to them and realize that dry dialogue with no passion in it makes for a bad experience once the player starts playing. Namco did try to spice up the game by giving us heavy metal guitar music. Why is it that developers think they can cover up their flaws by giving us heavy metal music?
Trying to get off the negative aspects of Death by Degrees, the game's coolest feature is called Critical Strike. Here you get to bring up an X-Ray vision view of your enemy and cripple him by attacking some soft spot on his body. Nina will then herself target that weakness and kick the opponent until that particular point is destroyed and the enemy will fall helplessly to the ground. That is, until you get past the first area. More challenging foes won't die by these blows. This leads me to wonder how a guy with a cracked skull or other crippling problem can continue to fight. Not such an easy one to answer. The other problem with Critical Strike is that it gets old really fast. At first it seems like a really cool idea but after you do it over and over and over?Ķ it wears a little thin.
To try and stay true to the Tekken style of fighting, Namco attempted to give us a lot of combos and the Critical Strike "finishing moves". The other elements to the gameplay involve using the right analog stick to perform all of the action maneuvers. This is similar to what Sony attempted to do in Rise to Honor. For the most part this way of performing the action is okay. However, evading moves are just a little bit difficult to carry out.
Overall, I don't really have a lot of good things to say about Death by Degrees. Normally a game like this would garner a score of around a C-. However, because I was so utterly disappointed by a title like this coming out of a great studio that normally produces such killer games, I hold them to a higher standard. This is not the type of game a company should highlight as the first in their E3 booth nor is it a title worthy of purchase. If you must play it, I suggest a rental but don't expect to have a fun weekend playing it.