Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Chaos Bleeds

Format: PS2
Vivendi Universal/Fox Entertainment
Age Restrictions: 16+

A dreaded enemy from Buffy's past has returned - Ethan Rayne, a college 'friend' of Giles' - to Sunnydale. Not surprisingly, he's run afoul of The First - an ancient evil that predates humankind. And now The First has made Ethan a deal he can't refuse: ultimate power. All he has to do is lure Buffy into battle. With their sanity on the line, the gang is going to need all the help they can get. Enter Spike and Faith...

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting this game to be up to much. Let's face it, games based on popular TV shows or movies are usually pretty naff (remember the nightmare that was the PSOne X-Files game?) The main reason for this is that the people working on the game are probably not as familiar with the series as the fans are, and if they are the chances are that everything needs to be cleared through so many official channels, that the gameplay seems to be the last thing on the list of priorities. Thankfully this game is based on a story conceived by the writers of the TV show, so at least you know that the plot is likely to stay true to Buffy-lore.

So, it is a welcome surprise to discovered that Chaos Bleeds is a well polished game that should appeal to fans of the television series. Like the show, there are plenty of witty one liners (although these can be a repetitive) and you also get the chance to battle the demons as Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike, Faith and even Sid the Dummy.

The first level lets you play as Buffy, Willow and Xander as you run around The Magic Shop looking for vamps to lay to rest. There is something extremely satisfying about "dusting" the undead. The graphics look good - for a change the characters do look and sound like who they are supposed to (the majority of characters are voiced by the actors in the TV series), and the effects for the "dusting" looks pretty authentic when compared to the TV show.

The gameplay, once you get used to it, is above average - although the control that allows you to pan around your character, so that you can see if anything is creeping up behind you, has a habit of not revolving 360 degrees as it should. Another annoying thing that it is sometimes difficult to engage your enemy in combat - instead you end up merrily punching the air in the opposite direction you want to. But once you get used to the controls this is not a problem.

Running around graveyards and smashing tombstones is great fun, as is finding the secret (or not so secret as the case may be) areas that hold additional weapons.

Each character has their own weaknesses and strengthens. Buffy, Xander, Spike and Faith can kick butt with the best of them, but you'll find playing as Willow really frustrating as she is not really built for fighting.

On the downside, the levels seem claustrophobic there is only really one path to follow to get to the end of each level and this gives the impression that the player is not really in control. Trying door after door, only to be told it is locked, is frustrating - as is the easy solutions to most of the puzzles. It's not like they are making it easier for the younger players, as this game has an age rating of 16+.

Once you get bored of playing against the computer you can play against three friends (there are four characters to choose from, with a further 20 that can be unlocked as you play through the story mode) in a battle to the death. One word or warning... don't choose the zombies. They are slow, stupid and you'll have your behind kicked before you know it.

Buffy fans will not be disappointed in this well presented slice of slayer action.

Pete Boomer

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