Game Description: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the first third-person action-adventure game based on the international hit TV series. Players take on the role of Buffy Summers, a 17-year-old high-school student who must balance adolescent growing pains with the responsibility of being the Chosen One. As the slayer, Buffy eliminates vampires and other demonic creatures that threaten the world's existence. It's up to you to save the human race from being "drained" during this devilish time.
After the slasher film deluge of the 1980s, horror cinema went through a period of dormancy. Senseless sequels and cheap knockoffs of popular franchises had simply soured the publics taste for all things frightful, and the horror film wouldnt be a viable genre until 1996, when Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson collaborated on Scream.
Scream almost single-handedly revitalized the genre. The film was a postmodernist slasher flick, filled with great dialogue, characters that understood the conventions of the genre, and a series of gruesome funhouse-styled scares. A glut of self-referential slasher films would follow in Screams wake, and screenwriter Williamson would get a lot of credit for this new direction the genre was taking.
However, while Williamson was the first screenwriter to have a huge hit with a snarky and self-reflexive horror film, he wasnt the first guy to trot down the postmodernist path. Way back in 1992, Joss Whedon wrote a little film called Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Whedon's film featured a California valley girl who dispatched vampires while dishing out a series of sarcastic remarks. Unfortunately, Buffy was a film that was ahead of its time and barely managed to garner a cult following.
However, after the success of Scream, Whedon decided to bring Buffy backthis time to the small screen. In this new climate, the show took off and has been running for over seven seasons now with no signs of ending anytime soon.
Seeing that the show has become so popular, it wasnt a big surprise to learn that a Buffy The Vampire Slayer videogame was in the works. Would the likeable characters, witty humor, and gothic atmosphere transfer to gaming? Overall, the answer is yes.
After years upon years of bad games based off popular film and movie properties, gamers were right to be apprehensive about Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Often, games based on popular licenses are shoddy at best, trying to blend the source materials plot with some uninspired gameplay. The end result is more often than not a disappointment.
Buffy is something of an anomaly because its one of the rare instances where the licensed property actually makes the game better. Remove the Buffy cast from this game and youd wind up with a mediocre "beat-em-up" with a decent combat system and average graphics. However, by including the cast of the show, the game develops an extra dimensionone that covers for a lot of the flaws in the gameplay and execution.
As a game, Buffy The Vampire Slayer is incredibly faithful to the show it is based on. The sarcastic humor, tone, and atmosphere of the program are all faithfully recreated. The original castwith the exception of Sarah Michelle Gellar (who plays Buffy)has provided their voices for the game, giving the title the feel of the show.
The games plot is also tied in nicely to the Buffy mythology. The vampire lord, The Master, has returned from death once again with a new plot to destroy the Slayer and bring forth his demonic hordes. Buffy, along with her friends and watcher Giles, are the only ones who can stop the nefarious plan.
Doing so will require the player to guide Buffy through numerous locales in the fictitious Sunnydale, California. Exploring the local high school, the Bronze, a sunken church, and other locales is all part of a days work for The Slayer, as is dispatching the plethora of demons, vampires, and other monstrosities that confront her at every turn.
The majority of the game is spent with Buffy killing her enemies by utilizing her martial arts skills and a bevy of wooden stakes and other implements. Luckily, the titles combat engine is surprisingly good, because the majority of the game is spent fighting.
Buffy has an array of combos at her disposal for battling the forces of darkness, as well as some specialized slayer moves (that look to have been inspired by The Matrix) that are executed by performing a series of button presses on the controller. Combat is fast, fun, and generally entertaining, which is a good thing considering the player will spend the majority of the ten or so hours it takes to complete the game fighting.
What isnt good are the platforming elements that the developers included in the latter stages of the game. At its heart, Buffy is a beat-em-up, so the inclusion of platforming elements is not only out of place, its almost presented as a throw-in to keep the game from feeling too repetitive.
The problem with the platforming is that Buffys character isnt designed for the task. She has floaty jump physics that are fine for a combat-driven game, but are far too loose for a platforming title where precision is required. Because of this, the last few stages of the game can become very difficult because one missed jump leads to instant death.
This also highlights another of the games flaws, the save system. Buffy features a checkpoint save system (not unlike Halothe game autosaves to the hard drive whenever you reach a certain point), but the checkpoints are few and far between. Because of this, death leads to a lot of repetition as the player is forced to go back through entire levels after dying. Im not one of those guys who wants to save the game every two or three steps, but a few more save points along the way would have made the game more playable.
Despite the flaws, Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a fun game. Most of this is attributable to the writing and the licenseBuffys action and humor-oriented approach on the show translates to gaming quite nicely. The title never achieves the atmosphere of dread and fear that permeate survival horror games like the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series, but Buffys never been about real horror to begin with. Instead, Buffy The Vampire Slayer has always focused on likeable characters, sarcastic humor, and lots of action, and the game succeeds in capturing all of these elements quite nicely.
What I found most fascinating about Mike Bracken's review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is that we both enjoyed the game equally, but for very different reasons. He wrote that the game is 'incredibly faithful' to the source material. I can't agree with that. While all the surface trappings are present—the show's cast, the faithfully recreated locations—the game is missing something more integral. The heart and soul of the show has always been its excellent writing, character development and plotting.
All of the game's characters, especially the villains, talk and act like crude caricatures of their television personas, and the original villains have no personality at all, a far cry from Buffy's trademark complex and witty adversaries. The whole experience ends up feeling like a shadow of a reflection—it looks like Buffy, but a fan of the show would notice right away that it doesn't feel like it.
The game mechanics, though, do more than their part to pick up the slack. Mike called the fighting 'fast and fun'. I, on the other hand, would put it firmly in the 'great' column. In fact, I'd have to say the Buffy's fighting engine is one of the best I've ever used. The combat is both completely accessible and very deep, allowing a novice to jump in right away while challenging a more experienced player to search for the longest combos.
The biggest feature that Mike overlooked, though, is just how stunningly interactive the game's environments are—and how they work to create a truly entertaining gaming experience. Wherever Buffy finds herself besieged by demons, she's never too far piece of environmental weaponry. An especially nice touch is how the game assumes that you want to throw enemies into the various broken furniture and sharp logs that are strewn about the levels, and autocorrects the flight path of your foes. This kind of helping hand could easily becoming annoying, making you feel that the game was doing the fighting for you. The designers have found the right balance, though, letting you control the action while giving a little nudge in the right direction to make the occasional kill just that much more spectacular. It is in this feature, not the cast or script, that the game most resembles the TV show, allowing gamers to engage in truly fantastic fistfights.
The other point that Mike brought up was how annoyed he was with the game's platforming elements. I have to say I didn't find them anywhere near as infuriating as he did. Sure, sometimes it feels like you're trying to toss a piece of fluff onto a moving platform, but the jumping puzzles make up such a small portion of the overall game that they can't overshadow everything Buffy gets right. Buffy The Vampire Slayer does exactly what it sets out to do: provide the player with a very good third-person brawler. While it may not satisfy a die-hard fan of the series, I have to agree with Mike's overall assessment—that it succeeds first and foremost as a game—and how much more can we reasonably ask for?
According to ESRB, this game contains: Blood and Gore, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes
Parentswill want to take the Teen rating into consideration before picking up Buffy for the kids. While the games not super-graphic or overly gory, it can be a little gruesome with all the stakings and decapitations. Honestly, content-wise, the game is on par with the show—mild innuendo in some of the dialogue, some fantasy violence, and a swear word here and there. If you allow your child to watch the show, then playing the game shouldn't be a problem.
Fans of the show will want to run right out and grab this as soon as possible. The game plays a lot like a lost episode of the series (circa season three according to some of my friends who follow the show) and the game does a magnificent job of capturing the atmosphere and tone of the television program. In regards to being faithful to its source material, Buffy is a winner.
People who've never seen the show have nothing to fear, either. The game does a nice job of filling the player in on the Buffy mythology, and players who've never seen the show will no doubt be flailing away at the undead in no time. In fact, I'd imagine that some people who've never seen the show might check it out after playing the game.
Hearing impaired gamers are in for a treat—the game features the best subtitling I've ever encountered, with even incidental lines of dialogue uttered during combat subtitled.