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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Review

By Jeff Buckland, 1/6/2003

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Yes, yes, I know, movie and TV license games generally aren't worth even trying. But Buffy the Vampire Slayer is actually a good game - The Collective have managed to recreate the show's wit and atmosphere while maintaining some great vampire-killing action.

Buffy controls like most action beat-em-ups you've already played, with a few extra options thrown in. There are your usual punch, kick, and jump buttons, as well as a button to block and lock onto a specific opponent.

Buffy will have you fighting multiple opponents, and while the controls don't have any specific features to help these situations, the combat is easy enough anyway. The game also allows you to switch between several weapons, including bats, shovels, stakes, a circular weapon right out of the movie Blade, a Super Soaker filled with holy water or "hell fire", and a sniper-type crossbow. Switching weapons and taking out enemies works well, and control frustrations are pretty minimal even during the big fights.

This game looks pretty good overall, although the most work has gone into Buffy herself. The animations are well-done for all of the game's characters, and the fighting is fairly fluid to watch. The only thing I found wrong with the animations is with the mouth movements for the game's in-engine cutscenes, as they hardly match the speech at all. Still, it's a small gripe, and most game developers rarely seem to do these animations correctly anyway.

As you go through the game, you will traverse through many environments that are based on the show. Schools, mansions, churches, and ancient tunnels are all here, and they generally look pretty good. None of the level graphics are exactly awesome, but they do the job and are solid enough to keep the game going.

The main cast from the show is mostly here, including Giles, Willow, Cordelia, and Xander. Spike and Angel are here too, and they all look fairly decent, but nowhere near as good as Buffy herself. That's kind of expected, though, as Buffy spends far more time on-screen than any other character.

The meat of Buffy's gameplay is in the fighting, and you'll find plenty of it to keep you going. There are a bunch of combos at your disposal, and you can use the environment to your advantage. For example, if you see a chair lying around, you can throw a vampire into it and he'll crush it, dying on a wooden stake. If that doesn't work, there are several weapons to use, and they are all pretty fun to kill stuff with.

It's not 100% fighting, though, as you will have to solve a series of relatively simple puzzles to progress throughout the game. None of them are too difficult, and you won't have to backtrack very often to get through them.

While fighting, there are several types of special attacks you can perform, all of which drain your blue bar (rather than the red health bar). Certain button combinations trigger these attacks, which will wind up being pretty vital to your survival by the end of the game. As you kill enemies, they will leave behind globes which can fill up your power or health bars. There are also elixirs you can carry around to replenish health, and other potions to use as well.

For those who are looking for replayability, Buffy doesn't offer much. Then again, this is a beat-em-up in the classic sense, and those who love these games will go through them again just for the sake of the game's action. That's about the best type of lasting appeal you can hope for in a game like this - although a two-player option could have been pretty fun, even if it didn't match the game's theme very well.

Die-hard fans of the Buffy show may wind up scoffing at the bit of creative freedom used by The Collective in making this game. And while I'm no Buffy expert myself, the plot seems to follow that of one of the earlier seasons in the show. Either way, the plot is pretty decent on its own - far better than some of the more recent games of this type.

Buffy is also a fairly long game, lasting an hour or two longer than I expected it to. I didn't have much of an inclination to play through it again, but that is pretty standard for me; instead, I will likely pick it up in six months and play through most of it again.

Level design is pretty bland, usually only offering one way to progress through each level. Oh, you'll see plenty of doors in some levels, but most of them won't open. It would have been nice to be able to take multiple paths through the game, but there is pretty much none of that here.

While most of the show's supporting cast has done voice work for the game, Sarah Michelle Gellar (who plays Buffy herself) has not. The actor who does play her is pretty accurate, though, and I was fooled for quite a while until I went and actually looked it up to see. The voice acting overall is quite good - almost as good as what you might have heard in the TV show.

Buffy has lots of trash to talk as you go through the game - she makes her usual corny jokes regarding the game's situations and enemies, and she trades insults with the vampires she fights as well. The thing is, Buffy talks a lot; the developers could have turned down the frequency of her sayings somewhat and I would have probably found it a bit less annoying.

The music changes depending on the situation you're in, although none of it is all that great. Generally, you get no music or a bit of an atmospheric tune as you're exploring, and some fairly standard techno-rock will start when opponents pop up. It's not too blatant when you do hear it, so there's no immediate need to turn it off, but it could have been a bit better.

The fighting sounds are all pretty damn good, with Buffy giving off plenty of grunts and screams when she gets hit or scores a nice roundhouse kick. The rest of the enemies have plenty of their own sayings, and the thumps of your attacks connecting work pretty well. None of the sound effects are worth any awards, but they are decent enough.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a classic beat-em-up in the Final Fight style, with a few of its own twists thrown in. The fighting is genuinely fun and the action is well-paced, although as with most games of this type, the lasting appeal is a bit low. Still, if you think you'll enjoy some mindless vampire-killing, give Buffy a shot.

Overall: 84%



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