Into every generation a review is born, one review in all the world, a chosen one...that will play Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the original Xbox. If you haven't already guessed I'm a huge fan of the original nineties TV show, so, was already quite excited to start playing this.
TV to game conversions, similar to film to game conversions, are rather common trend, especially if there is already a fan base behind the source material. However, again similar to film conversions, the outcomes of these games often have rather mixed results.
As you would expect you play as Buffy Summers, the chosen one, destined to take down all of the nasty's that go bump in the night. One of the main highlights for me, was that the game brings in the main characters from the show, including the big bad guy who, of course is up to no good and its up to Buffy, with the help of her friends to sort it out. Overall, the story feels like a several part episode of the show and for those who are interested, the story sits within series three of the Buffy anthology. Even though this was released in 2002 and series three aired in 1998 it still ties in really well. The writers of the games story did a great job to make this appeal to fans, with characters regularly brining up stories or incidents that happened in the TV show. But, if you are totally new to Buffy it's possible some of the dialogue will throw you a bit, it doesn't come across as particularly friendly for newbies. Saying that if you follow the basic story its pretty straight forward, there's a naughty bad guy that needs taking down and you're the good girl to save the day.
The game scores big right off the bat as the opening theme from the TV show is also in the game. Other than that the music wasn't particularly engaging or memorable but it fitted in well enough for the cut scenes and level design. The voice acting is just fantastic, pretty much every actor from the TV show lends there voice talent to the game except for Sarah Michelle Gellar for some reason, which is odd. Instead Geselle Loren provides the voice work for Buffy and does a fantastic job. The only problem with the voice work and this was a issue for a lot of games from this era, is Buffy and other enemies will spurt out with the same one liners constantly. Though its fun to hear Buffy say 'Come on kick my ass,' after hearing it several times in the same level it gets old really quick.
At its core this game is a 3D beat em up style game with some platforming thrown in. At a glance the fighting looks tedious, as your mostly taking down the same looking vampires or demons over and over again. Surprisingly though, I rarely found the combat boring at all. You implement a basic punch and kick system but also use a combination of inputs to perform special attacks. Doing special attacks drains your slayer power (which you increase by killing the bad guys) and sits just above your health. Once the enemy is worn down you need to stake them with a sharp object (I favoured the stake of course) but you can throw them into environmental hazards which will also take them out instantly. Buffy automatically focuses on the enemy closest to her which helps simplify things and Buffy can easily move from one enemy to another with attacks should you get surrounded.
You also have a couple of weapons at your disposal. Most of the time you will have a stake in hand with the press of the y button, Buffy will aim for the heart whether the enemy is standing up or on the floor. If the enemy hasn't been worn down enough they will block this attack. There's a handy enemy health bar in the top left of the screen that will indicate the right time to use it. You also have a crossbow which sound's cool but I found it next to useless. You have to use it in first person view and aim for the vampires heart, the process is incredibly slow and the beast has usually spotted you and begun pummelling you before you can get a good aim on it. A nice little feature is if you do aim the cross-hair at the heart you will hear a heart beat to indicate the shot will find its mark. Another weapon is the water pistol which can be filled with hellfire and holy water. This weapon is useful but I rarely used it because the game has these doors which can only be destroyed with hellfire or holy water and if you ran out of the correct solution you would have to backtrack through the level to refill it which was incredibly frustrating.
levels and environments are a mixed bag in this one. On one hand, fans of the show will appreciate familiar locations which have been brought to life in the game. On the other, there are a fair share of standard levels, like the docks and the train yard which just looked boring. One level I particularly admired was the one just before the last boss. A dreamer's realm which showed some excellent creativity but sadly (like all things awesome) it was over way too soon and it’s a shame the game didn't make better use of it.
The graphics are not bad for this game. It was released very close to the launch of the system and the character models in particular, look very impressive even today. Mouths move when characters talk and character models look very much like the actors from the show. The enemy characters are mostly vampires and demons with the odd spider thrown in (to keep you on your toes). There's not a huge variation in enemy character models, they still look good though and the overall design of the creatures looks similar to the show. On a side note, I did find the gothic or grunge clothing choices of the vampires, brought back some nineties memories of when I was younger.
Buffy the game is surprisingly long. There are various levels with a handful of boss fights thrown in which will keep you busy for several gaming sessions. The game automatically saves at the end of each level but can't save anywhere else in the game, which seems kind of silly. As, if you do need to suddenly shut the game off you will have to restart the level from the beginning. The games simple control system means you can easily come back to this game should you take a long break from it. Once you are done with the game you can re load any of the levels again to replay, but its unlikely you'll be running back to it once the adventure is over, and you receive nothing for completing the game, just the bragging rights.
This title unfortunately adds in platforming sections which really don't work with the game controls. Buffy has this over the top long jump what works well in combat but determining where she lands for platforming segments was tricky. The main issue for the game is that it has no checkpoints, if you die you start the level at the beginning and although most levels are not too long there were a couple of areas where you have to jump from ledge to ledge, and, should you fall, you die instantly and begin from the start. This lead to some pretty aggressive rage quits, the game would have been a lot more entertaining without these sections entirely. Its probably worth pointing out however, that I love the game over screen for this. When you die you hear evil laughter mocking your failure it reminds me of older games that used to do something similar.
Verdict:- Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the Xbox is a pretty solid game but its faults are quite significant. Fans of the TV show will love the use of characters from the show and how the story could believably fit in with the actual series.
The combat is very entertaining and by far the games strongest gameplay mechanic. Unfortunately the combination of awful platforming segments and a lack of a save system within the game levels, means a lots of gamers will unlikely see this game through to the end, due to utter frustration of cheap deaths. Though I praise the combat aspects, the additional weapons you receive in this game, specifically the crossbow and water gun, are not used in the best way and feel pretty pointless.
Those who are not fans of the TV show may enjoy the design and combat of the game, but there's no denying that this is a much more engaging experience if you are into the TV show as well. Grrr....Aaarrgg.
Second Opinion:- Considering Transbot hates Buffy the vampire slayer in all it's forms and see's the entire TV show saga and spin off's as little more than low brow Sci-Fi horror for teenage girls with girl power issues he was pleasantly surprised by this in the day.
Don't get me wrong it's not going to set the world on fire and there's tons of vastly superior games in the genre but it's way better than actually watching an episode of that filthy TV show, seriously Buffy was S**T.
It's on the positive side of Average so this robot hands out a whopping....
Transbot Scores:- 6 out of 10