games / Columns

Unlockable Content 12.20.06: Reimagining..Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Chaos Bleeds

December 20, 2006 | Posted by Will Scott

Welcome back once more to Unlockable Content. I’m still Will Scott, and I’m still bringing you my obviously skewed view on all things gaming related. We’re still in the midst of remaking a few licensed games. Last week, we took a look at Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, and picked apart a few of its more glaring problems. This week, we’re doing something a bit different – taking a look at a bad game, and remaking it twice. And as a bonus…I’m going to write a little bit to defend the property itself from my fellow writers here at 411mania.

So, let’s take a look at a title I tried very hard to like…

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds

The Offenses
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds was a third-person action game where players take on the role of the titular slayer and her friends Xander, Willow, Faith, Spike and Sid the Dummy. Situated as a lost episode of the fifth season, the gang fights against the First Evil (the Big Bad of Season 7) and a “dimensional bleed” that’s causing…wait for it…chaos. The game boasted a fair bit of environmental interaction (for slaying vampires, naturally) and a variety of different fighting styles (Buffy and Faith were best all-around, Spike and Xander were good with weapons, Willow used magic, and Sid…sucked).

In many ways, the logic behind releasing Chaos Bleeds was opposite of that of Bounty Hunter. Released the year after Buffy’s final season, Chaos Bleeds sought to capitalize on the fans’ desire for more Buffy (remember – the series wasn’t cancelled, it was ended voluntarily). It even took place within continuity, falling between the fifth season episodes The Body and Forever. For the curious, IGN gave Chaos Bleeds a respectable 7.7 – a little higher than what it deserved, and sadly a step down from the 8.2 of its predecessor game.

What the game does right is does, well…very right. The plot’s actually fairly tight – while it’s a good bit of fan service, it’s actually a bit better than many of the middling episodes of the series. The audio, to some extent, is also pretty good – the environmental noises, music, and combat are all fairly good, and the voice work from the show’s cast (James Marsters, Eliza Dushku, Anthony Stewart Head, Amber Benson, and Nicholas Brendan all reprise their roles from the series, as do Tom Ryner, Robin Sachs, and Jeremy Roberts as Sid, Ethan, and Kakistos) is superb. Combat, as Buffy and Faith is still pretty good, and the game’s actually fairly clever at some points.

But the stuff that’s bad is nearly unforgivable. The voice work of the actresses who pick up for Willow and Buffy just don’t fit, particularly the actress who plays Willow. Alyson Hannigan has a fairly unique voice, and the actress they have just can’t mimic it. The actress who portrays Buffy is better…but it’s very noticeable that the voices aren’t right when interacting with the rest of the cast. The graphics aren’t very pretty, either – the character models just don’t look right and you’ll find yourself staking a vampire in the leg far too often. Combat, for anyone other than the Slayers, is slow and clunky and a bit broken (throw + stake will kill any vampire in two shots). Just to round things out, you find yourself far too often thrown nonsensically between characters with drastic shifts in difficulty (Spike’s level in the Initiative is particularly difficult). Every characters’ levels may be particularly fitting for them, but it would’ve been nice to be able to pick and choose every once in a while. And, as with most games of this type…the camera is awful. Just…particularly bad for a game where you fight multiple enemies at the same time.

The Fix

Version 1: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (XBOX 360/PS3)

The Plot
Gamers control Buffy Summers in a number of adventures throughout her career, in adaptations of her most famous battles. Players would face Buffy’s toughest foes, including The Master, Angelus, Faith, Adam, Glory, Dark Willow, and The First.

The Game
The X-Box 360/PS3 version of Buffy would work best as a straight action game, just as its predecessors. Players would control Buffy, and only Buffy, in the single player mode – in co-op, relevant secondary characters could be used. Levels would be divided up by Season and Episode, with players going through brief recreations of the bigger battles. For example, Season One, Episode One would likely be Buffy’s fight against the vampires in the Bronze during The Harvest. As an RPG element, Buffy would gain experience and proficiency with weaponry and combat as more vampires are slayed, eventually unlocking more moves and strong combat abilities (mirroring the character’s growth in the show).

Combat itself should be streamlined and natural, with a sense of energy close to that in Ninja Gaiden. The environment needs to play a huge role in this game – not only breaking chairs for stakes, but perhaps going so far as a limited-use lighter to set objects on fire, or being able to open up windows to let the sun shine in. The standard weapons (stakes, swords, holy water) should make a re-appearance, but we can probably drop the Holy Water Supersoaker, yeah?

Regardless, the cast needs to come back to redo the voices. Most of them (Alyson Hannigan and Seth Green notably excluded) aren’t doing anything – so bring ‘em back.

Version 2: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Lost Tales of the Slayer (Wii)

The Plot
Players control Buffy Summers through a lost adventure set in the second season, fighting against Angelus and his minions before he brings about the Apocalypse.

The Game
Why the Wii? And why season two? Because this is a chance to put the promise of Red Steel to work. I can envision this version of Buffy as a “first person staker”. Think about it…the Wiimote is just the right shape and size to work, and Season Two featured a fairly nice sword fight at the end. This game would not be quite as impressive as its 360/PS3 counterpart, but it’d be unique – players would actually have to stake the vampires personally, and sword fight against other demonic foes. As a straight forward first person game, there’d still be room for the show’s signature humor.

So, there’s two ways the game could’ve been better, with just a little more time and money…

But, we’re not done!

In Defense of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In his column ,Scotty Flamingo took Buffy the Vampire Slayer to task over a few points. Now, I’m a fan of the show – a DVD owning fan, true, but not a rabid one. And I was going to e-mail him my response to his article…but…come on, I’ve got a column! It’s more fun this way!

The show was a solid show. It’s not the greatest thing ever on television, but it’s in the top fifty (if not much higher). I’ve actually been re-watching the series as I’ve been studying (come on, 411 Movies/TV…you know you want me to review it!), and it’s hit me that it’s good some pretty darn powerful moments in it (watch season two’s “Passions”, season five’s “The Body” and season six’s “Grave” if you don’t believe me), as well as some comedy. As a matter of fact, if you watch the show simply for the “mythology” episodes rather than the “monster of the week” episodes (cutting out about 1/4 of the episodes), you’ll find it’s one of the most consistent in televsion – Season Five excluded. There WERE many points where the show should’ve been Emmy nominated, but it wasn’t because it was a genre show. Television’s got little tolerance for it, even as shows like Heroes and Battlestar Galactica start to reap in the critical acclaim. If Buffy’d come out a few years later, it probably would’ve been more of a main stream hit – with fairly serialized story telling, a fantastic plot, and witty writing, it was simply ahead of the curve.

And just to argue…Willow’s “magical lesbian” turn was more or less drawn out over the course of half a season, and actually hinted at the season before, where she refers to her vampire self as “kinda gay”. And the vampire-sleeping-with thing was…lame, yeah, but the sleeping with Spike thing made sense in context – Buffy was punishing herself. It was the epitome of the unhealthy relationship, and the show always liked to paint things with broad strokes.

So, basically…if you’re willing to sit down and watch the whole series, without preconceived notions of whether it’s good or bad, you’ll find it’s a very good show. It’s certainly the sort of thing that is, and should be, a cult hit…but that in no way detracts from its fun. And for bonus points, check out Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale, a part of the Pop Culture & Philosophy series (which also uses Lord of the Rings, Comic Books, the Simpsons, Star Wars, the Sopranos, and Seinfield as start points). Whether you’re a fun or not, it’ll change the way you look at the show.

At least I didn’t try to defend Smallville. God, that show sucks.

Next week…we take a shot at an awful game that was recently reviewed here in our very own Games section!

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Will Scott

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