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     " And while Vivendi does try hard to put some entertaining elements into the game...all of their efforts are just too incomplete and fall short of helping this title reach it's potential. "

      Title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds by Vivendi Universal

      Format: Xbox adventure game

      Reviewing Monkey: Our Ape Masters

      The Hype: The first Buffy Xbox game was lukewarmly received at best and was generally considered to be a yawn, even from hard core Buffy fans. With Chaos Bleeds, Vivendi tries to stake its territory as a viable fighting franchise and turn the competition to dust. And with that horrible, horrible joke we begin our review.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Obviously using the same engine as the last game, the graphics in Chaos Bleeds are very reminiscent of the previous Buffy title and, thus, feel a little dated 2 years later. While not unattractive by any stretch of the imagination, the somewhat blocky models and thick character movements are much less pleasing on the eyes than some of the other action games out there. There is a considerable improvements in face modeling which are much more emotional and empathetic, though they unfortunately look even less like their tv counterparts than before. 3 out of 5

      Playability: From the advertising and box description you'd be inclined to believe that Chaos Bleeds is a action/fighting game-and in part you'd be right. But really what Chaos Bleeds primarily offers is puzzle solving galore. Now, whether or not that's a good thing or a bad is, of course, a matter of personal opinion. What I found incredibly frustrating, however, was two key principals: 1) that most of the puzzles were incredibly illogical and frustrating. 2) That, while the Buffy show may have a certain element of research and item gathering, it in no way relates to scouring a level looking for the right sequence to depress pressure plates or gathering parts of hidden keys to unlock doors that the Slayer should be strong enough to just break down. It ends up being incredibly frustrating and utterly pointless, which really detracts from what should have been the point of the game: turning vamps to dust.
          But even that would be forgivable if the combat was good…though, as you might guess, it isn't. Sluggish, lifeless, and boring, combat is relegated to pre-tapping a move combination, waiting impatiently while the inexplicably laggy character catches up with the moves, and then cursing violently as the entire sequence is rendered moot since one of the other enemies in the area (you are always outnumbered) takes advantage of the fact that you can't change up a sequence or anticipate target movement and smacks you in the back of the head. What's worse is that the combat, in all it's slow methodical glory, does not even remotely resemble the fast paced and flashy kick boxing the tv show offers, so it's not even fun to watch.
          And while Vivendi does try hard to put some entertaining elements into the game (multiple playable characters, some entertaining environments, etc.), all of their efforts are just too incomplete and fall short of helping this title reach it's potential. For example, they bill the multiple playable characters as a huge selling factor but the character choices are all pre-determined in the game so you can't even employ a sense of "who would be best for this" strategy, and many are nigh unto worthless. Then there's the equipment and weapons menu, "streamlined" from the last game, that is now completely unusable…and the fact that they've taken "staking" and made it it's own button that is only occasionally usable, so you seamlessly integrating vamp dusting into your melee combat is a thing of the past…and so on. 2 out of 5

      Story and Drama: Actually written by the show's crew, Chaos Bleeds tells a very Buffy story that takes the Sunnydale gang up against a riff that's allowing slayed enemies to return. It's fairly clever, very appropriate to the franchise, and allows the game to throw classic Buffy enemies from seasons past at you with abandon. The down side, though, is the voice acting. Primarily comprised by the tv show cast themselves, save the two notable exception of Buffy and Willow, it is near baffling that actors who have played the same characters for 7 years can deliver such wooden and unbelievable performances. Especially stand out are Tara, still played by Amber Benson who is an effective actor on the show but becomes downright skullraking in Chaos Bleeds and the poor girl they hired to take on Willow, who spends so much time trying to sound like Alyson Hannigan (the show's actor) that she, evidently, forgets to act. 3.75 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: The good news is that Chaos Bleeds has a fairly strong multiplayer element. Up to four people, using a range of unlockable characters, in one of four game styles will add some much needed replayability. The bad news is that none of them are coop, which is a shame (the game would have been a lot more fun with a two person go through) and that they're all heavy combat…and since I'm obviously not a fan of the combat system it's kind of a downer. 3.5 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Man, I know that someday…blessed someday…they're going to actually make a good Buffy video game, but that day's not here yet. Overly puzzle driven, graphically aged, and down right lazy in combat, Chaos Bleeds is unquestionably a game that will only satisfy die-hard Buffy enthusiasts.

      The Good: Great Buffy story…

      The Bad: Crammed into a mediocre game.

      The Overall Ugly: I wanted to like it…I love Buffy…why couldn't they let me like it?

      What it's Worth: Rental if you're a fan.

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